'Suffering makes us equal': Spiritual and disaster relief in Chile

By Joy Forney
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

“Suffering makes us equal,” said Alessandro Polonio, Holistic Ministry Coordinator for JESUS Film Harvest Partners in Chile. 

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ImageChile faces frequent natural disasters because of seismic and volcanic activity. These include earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and mega fires. For example, a violent 2010 earthquake triggered several tsunamis, and in 2014, the country experienced a string of over 300 earthquakes in one week. In the past 30 days alone, the country has experienced 45 earthquakes of varying magnitude.https://allweednews.com

“It is during those times the church has to manifest and express the love of God towards our brothers and sisters in the faith, but all people in general,” Polonio said.

But retaining people’s attention after a disaster is a challenge.

Polonio explained, “Many times a society will respond to a catastrophe, but two days later something bigger may come up and they will forget about the disaster. One of the responsibilities of the church is to help at all times, not just when the news is big and when it first comes up. We need to be there during all of their suffering.”

The Chilean church is working hard with Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM) in collaboration with other ministries to provide relief during difficult times and “more than just giving temporary relief, we have a transformation message,” said Polonio.

After a disaster, there’s often no way to communicate via telephone or e-mail, travel to the disaster location is necessary. JESUS Film teams are often already in place across the country, and are able to provide support through their equipment and access to the location where the disaster occurred, often via JFHP funded motorbikes.

“JESUS Film teams’ motorcycles are able to help us reach those places in a fast way. Even though the terrain of roads will be difficult to access due to earthquakes, motorcycles are able to get to where vehicles may not. That allows us to have firsthand information from people and also quickly coordinate help,” Polonio said.

Professionals in risk prevention and medical and communications personnel collaborated alongside the Church of the Nazarene to develop disaster relief kits as a way to manifest the love of God in a time of disaster to Chileans.

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The kits include items such as first aid supplies, a radio, a flashlight, and a blanket. Polonio said they also try and include a Bible in every kit in order to make spiritual aid available to people. This project is a topic of national interest and is part of a greater network of humanitarian aid in Chile.

Most recently, the kits were used in the early winter wildfire that decimated more than 300,000 acres of forest across the country.

Polonio said one of the strengths of the kits is their adaptability. During the wildfire, they were able to load the kits with burn treatment ointments and creams at the government’s request.

The church is able to connect care and resources with the people and area in need.

“We have a district coordinator; many times all churches in the country gather resources and send it to where the disaster is happening. We always do it through the nearest local church because the vision is there would be follow-up,” Polonio said.

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The Chilean church has been living out what it means to bear one another’s burden. Polonio said the church can pray for Chile in several ways: receptivity to the message of Christ, wisdom in how to share the Good News during a disaster, more workers, empathy, and protection for leaders.

His final request is “for more doors to open for the gospel.”