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2010 quake in Chile: ‘I could see it coming’

SANTIAGO, Chile (BP)–From his 14th-floor apartment, Elliott Baze* gazed out the window at what normally is a breathtaking view of Santiago, Chile, and the surrounding Andes Mountains. But the skyline looked vastly different that night. The power had just gone out — a rarity in Santiago at the time — so the only light was the nearly-full moon.

“Then, after about a four-second delay, I could see it coming,” recalled Baze, an International Mission Board missionary in Santiago, Chile’s capital city.

“There was a glow from explosions that just kept getting closer and closer at a high rate of speed … and I could see the movement of the buildings in the distance. I knew then what was about to happen. I said, ‘Oh, no!’ Then it hit with a fury.”

As one of the most powerful earthquakes on record rocked their high-rise, Baze and his wife Michelle* feared for their lives. “I thought the building was nearing its structural limits…. For about 30 seconds we thought it was going to collapse World Trade Center-style or just fall over. We really thought we were going to die,” Baze recounted. “[The quake] lasted for about 90 seconds.”

Then, as they tried to evacuate, they found themselves trapped. The front door to their apartment was jammed, thwarting the only way out. The couple ended up taking the door off its hinges and pushing it into the hallway with the help of neighbors.

“We would never have made it out without their help,” Baze said.

For some of the 61 IMB missionaries and 29 missionary kids (MKs) who were in Chile on Feb. 27, 2010, memories of the 8.8-magnitude quake stir strong emotions even a year later. Many of the IMB missionary force then in Chile had been in the country less than a year, some only about a month. But, aided by the prayers and financial support of Southern Baptists, IMB missionaries in Chile — partnering with Chilean Baptists — quickly began meeting the needs of other quake survivors.

The Baptist relief effort lasted seven months involving more than 15 teams of Southern Baptist volunteers working primarily in construction and food distribution across the quake zone. Volunteers from Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, South Carolina and Texas served alongside missionaries and Chilean Baptists in the effort.

In addition, psychologist Dick Price, IMB missionary to Chile who earlier served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, trained 3,000 Chileans in crisis counseling techniques to help earthquake survivors cope with post-disaster trauma. Among Price’s trainees were about 40 medical professionals and nearly 500 Chilean Air Force, Army, police and investigations personnel. He also coordinated post-traumatic stress debriefing sessions for 1,000 Chileans affected by the disaster.

Reflecting on how God has used Baptists in the year since the quake, IMB missionaries remind Southern Baptists to continue praying for Chileans still suffering from the disaster.

“Many Chileans are still living in temporary shelters. Many lost their homes and businesses. Many still don’t have work. Pray for families who are still traumatized, people whose lives are not back to normal yet,” said IMB missionary Karen Clark, whose husband Charles coordinated Southern Baptists’ quake relief in Chile. “Pray God will provide the resources they need to rebuild their lives.”

The Clarks also asked Southern Baptists to pray for some Chilean Baptist congregations who lost their church buildings in the quake. “Pray God will help them find the means to rebuild while they continue to minister in their communities,” Charles Clark said.
*Names changed. This story follows an initial report in Baptist Press (http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=34736) marking the one-year point since Chile’s Feb. 27, 2010, earthquake. Maria Elena Baseler is an International Mission Board writer living in the Americas. Tristan Taylor, also an IMB writer in the Americas, contributed to this story. Churches interested in partnering in Chile may contact Jerry and Paula Bowling, IMB catalytic connectors for Chile, at [email protected].

    About the Author

  • Maria Elena Baseler