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Desert flood a shower of blessing for new work

COPIAPO, Chile (BP)–It’s a big deal when it rains in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth. Average yearly rainfall is only one-eighth of an inch.
Copiapo, like most of Chile, was experiencing extensive drought earlier this year. There hadn’t been enough water for irrigation. Crops and livestock were dying.
Christians in Chile and around the world prayed for rain. They were delighted when rains started all over the country.
Copiapo, where Southern Baptist missionaries Ken and Cathy Yinger live with their children, Shannon, 9, and Joel, 7, got a little more than the average yearly rainfall in one gentle three-hour rain.
Then, a few days later, torrential rain began.
Copiapo sits in a valley, surrounded by barren mountains. The water swept down the hillsides, carrying mud and rocks down the streets and through houses lying in the path of the muddy rivers. A total of 3 inches fell, more than Copiapo usually gets in decades.
One hard-hit area of the city was Villa Arauco, where the Yingers are planting a new church. It is a very poor neighborhood of tiny, flimsy houses, not built to withstand any rain. At first, the streets were impassable.
“I cried for those poor people. I ached to be with them, to help and comfort them,” recalls Yinger, who was away in Santiago, the capital city, when the flood came.
After the water cleared out some, the Yingers quickly assessed needs at Villa Arauco. Then they visited friends and neighbors asking for donations of bedding and clothes for the people there.
The Southern Baptist International Mission Board made available $5,000 in disaster relief funds. Cathy’s home church, Scarborough Baptist Church of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada, sent $2,000.
The Yingers passed the next few days in a blur, receiving donations and sorting, buying and distributing to those in need. People were open and receptive to hear of God’s love as they received help.
That Sunday, the mission had its highest adult attendance since they started it last March.
For several months, a group of Baptist women from Temuco, 24 hours south by bus, had planned to come to help the Yingers. They arrived and pitched right in.
“God’s timing is always perfect,” Cathy says.
Because schools were being used as shelters for the homeless, classes were dismissed, so Baptists held Vacation Bible School in the morning, with an average of 51 children attending. In the afternoons Baptists held classes for the women in nutrition, cooking, hair styling and crafts, with a short Bible lesson as part of each class. The volunteers from Temuco helped distribute food to needy families.
As Baptists followed up with people they met, five women accepted Christ.
Ken had been praying for some time about an open door with men in the neighborhood. Now he began a men’s Bible study group. Three men who had received flood relief — but had never participated before — attended. They expressed a desire to keep attending and to take turns hosting the group and invite others. The next week, one accepted Christ.
That Sunday, the last day of the volunteers’ visit, 71 people attended worship and Sunday school.
“We were so thrilled. It is so wonderful to be right in the middle of what God is doing,” says Cathy. “We don’t have a lot or a building, just a makeshift shelter of mesh netting in a dirt backyard, with Sunday school classes meeting in another dirt backyard, a kitchen and a bedroom.
“But nobody cares! The Spirit of the Lord is moving.”