by Elizabeth M. Truong
In the midst of earthquake recovery, God used His people to plant two new Chilean Lutheran congregations.
When an 8.8-magnitude earthquake shook Chile on Feb. 27, 2010, killing 700 people and leaving another 2 million homeless, members of the Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile (IELCHI) were compelled to go to people in need. Mindful of their limitations as a small church body, IELCHI leaders never imagined that over the next 18 months God would use His people to plant two new Lutheran congregations in that area.
“When the earthquake came, God put us in those places,” said the Rev. Cristian Rautenberg, president of the IELCHI. “Some people who were hurting the most were very, very far from us. But we knew we had to try and put Christ at the [quake’s] epicenter.”
Within days of the disasters, LCMS representatives arrived to talk with the victims and survey the damage. With grants from LCMS World Relief and Human Care (WR-HC), teams of IELCHI pastors and lay volunteers were able to make weekly trips to care for those in need. Significantly, the decision was made to supply every team with a pastor who provided spiritual care, comfort and counseling for victims and relief workers. The pastors shared God’s Word through devotions and Lutheran Hour Ministries materials with people in search of answers.
“As Lutherans, it’s clear to us that Christ is the real source of power. It was important for us to tell people that He is a real presence in our lives. He does not abandon us but accompanies us in times of suffering,” said Rautenberg. “This was a different message than that shared by other groups after the earthquake. Our response focuses on salvation in the Gospel of Christ.”
The IELCHI received encouragement and support from the LCMS, including LCMS WR-HC representatives who travelled to Chile twice to help the IELCHI pastors craft an action plan as they visited ministry sites together. Thanks to financial support from the LCMS, the Rev. Glenn Merritt and the Rev. Carlos Hernandez also provided disaster training to pastors and members of the IELCHI.
Today, because of the faithful witness and acts of mercy shared by the Lutheran teams, the IELCHI is planting a congregation in Constitucin and one in Talca. In both cities, the IELCHI is holding Bible studies, children’s activities and confirmation classes. With the aid of an LCMS grant, the Rev. Omar Kinas of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina serves both congregations as project manager and missionary.
“We never thought about going south as a church,” said Rautenberg. “But we had to go that way. We are there because the Gospel needs to be shared continuouslynot just once. If we don’t bring them the words of the Gospel, we fail to fulfill our job as the church.”
About the author: Elizabeth M. Truong is a staff writer for LCMS Communications.