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In Chile, relief assessment underway

SANTIAGO, Chile (BP)–Despite logistical difficulties, Southern Baptist workers are responding to help those suffering from an 8.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked central Chile early Feb. 27.

With highways cracked, bridges collapsed and the international airport closed, travel to and through Chile is greatly limited. But missionaries from the International Mission Board’s Mapuche indigenous team, which ministers to the Mapuche people in South America, began moving out March 2 from Temuco to assess needs in the worst-hit areas. Temuco is about 130 miles south of quake-ravaged Concepción, Chile’s second largest city.

The missionaries — Trent Tomlinson of Alabama, David Hinds of Oklahoma and Anders Snyder of Colorado — are carrying water and first-aid supplies for distribution. Besides providing some initial relief, they also will assess damages and share their findings with Southern Baptist leaders.

Meanwhile, a second assessment team is struggling to travel into Chile from the United States. This group — Scott Brawner of the IMB, Jim Howard from Texas and Mike Sanders from South Carolina — will be doing assessment as part of joint Southern Baptist relief efforts in Chile.

After they couldn’t access the international airport in Chile’s capital of Santiago, the team has arrived in Argentina and will make the trip by bus over the Andes Mountains, reaching Santiago the afternoon of March 3. They will be joining IMB missionaries in Chile to make the trip south to the hardest-hit areas, including Concepción. There, they will assess the situation and determine how Southern Baptists can best help. After they arrive in the south, they will join Chilean Baptist partners already surveying the most devastated areas.

In Santiago, IMB leaders are defining strategy and supply needs for teams that will be traveling south to the most severely affected parts of the quake zone. IMB missionary strategist Charles Clark of North Carolina met with Chilean Baptist Convention leaders and surveyed some of the most heavily damaged areas of Santiago. Clark serves as strategy leader for the part of South America that includes Chile.

The Chilean convention, which already has personnel traveling south on a “scouting report,” welcomed assistance from Southern Baptists and will join forces with the IMB and Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist partner in the relief efforts. IMB missionaries in Santiago will work in partnership with local churches to meet needs of some of the people living in tents in the capital city, while two leaders of the Chilean convention will join the assessment teams as they travel south.

In other developments, IMB missionary Alfredo Valencia, who lives in Santiago, already has left for the coastal town of Llolleo, which was hard hit by the tsunami following the Feb. 27 earthquake. Valencia, who is from Washington, is leading a team of Chilean Baptists assessing damages and is taking food and water to help meet immediate needs.

Donations for Chile may be directed to the Disaster Response Fund at imb.org. One hundred percent of each donation goes to meet human needs. Updated prayer requests can be viewed at imb.org/pray. Information also will be updated through Twitter at #QuakeResponse.
Tristan Taylor is an International Mission Board writer in the Americas.

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