Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I walk into my heart.

There is the nest of chicks
with mouths peeled wide-
they feed on praise and they are
never satisfied.

There is the stumbling priest
who walks in small steps
hindered by thick ropes of fear
round about his ankles.

There is the young girl
spinning in her pink polka dot dress
twirling and asking
"Am I pretty?"

There is the box of masks
They used to be for
playing pretend,
now they are for hiding.

There is the weary woman,
Scrubbing at the dirty floor
and whispering
"I'll never make a difference"

There are the boxes of stories,
now and then some characters
escape and run
across paper
to make themselves real.

Shouldn't I see Jesus?
Others say they see Him here.

A tap on my leg and I see
identical twins
so very small
not even up to my knee.
I know them.

One trembles all over,
and on her dress
the Words of Life are written.
Upon her head
sits a crown precariously tipping
and written upon it: Obedience.

Her sister
so difficult to look at-
she was alight from

I said,
"You are fear of the Lord,
and you are love for the Lord.
You are
than I thought you'd be."

"We grow and shrink as
we are fed and
starved", said they.

"Have you seen Jesus?
Does He come here?"

"This would all be dark
if He hadn't come.
Sometimes, the persons here
grow so large that He
doesn't fit.
Too He makes Himself
time to time".


"Of course that's to
your benefit"

"How so?
I don't like the
state of things
around here."

"Who would?"
they laughed
"He desires that you
know yourself-
that you feel the terrible

"Will He come then...
or appear then?
Will He fix things
around here?"

It seemed to me they'd grown a bit taller.
And smiling and watching
Someone else.

Walking to the nest of birds
He fed them
humility, which was bitter
then security, which was

He went to the priest and
cut the rope that was
keeping him
The priest jumped and
and exclaimed "God is!"

He went to the girl
spinning spinning
and stopped her
spinning with an embrace
He shouted with joy
"Daughter! You are mine and dearly loved!"

His eyes took in
the box of masks and
he tore them in half
telling each
"You are not Sarah".

He bent over the weary woman-
scrubbing scrubbing
working working
He whispered
and as her face
lit up
she exclaimed
"The joy of the Lord is my strength!"

He opened a box of stories
a wide smile in place
and plucked out some characters
set them upon paper
and blowing upon them, said
Off they shot over reams
of paper-
flying from their feet.

He did not seem to see me-
then of course
all this was me.

I asked Fear and Love
who now towered over me
"Can it stay this way?"

But they heard me not
because they were
dancing with Him
with light.

My heart pounded
as their giant feet
hammered over the floor.
My heart pounded
I awoke
heart pounding.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Relief Effort Phase Two

We are planning another trip to the earthquake and tsunami-affected areas the first week in April. The initial $5000 that EMM made available for relief has been used up providing tents, food, sleeping bags, and other items. We are in urgent need for more funds so we can prepare for phase 2 in our relief plan: equipping shelters with stove tops, silverware, folding tables, plates, pots. Please give today!!

Donations can be given online at emm.org, tagged Chile Relief.

More information on our team's efforts can be found at this link: http://emm.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=597:emm-team-contributes-to-physical-and-spiritual-rebuilding-in-chile&catid=106&Itemid=122

Journey to the Epicenter, Day Two

Saltos del Mar and Constitucion
Saltos del Mar
The last trip, the guys had talked to a woman named Mercedez, so Bekii and I went up to her partially damaged home to visit her. Her husband was busy working at repairing their porch and she was handing him tools and boards as needed. When we asked if she's like to share her story, she got a weary look on her face and told us that she'd said it so many times. “Don't ask me about the wave”. We asked if she'd like us to pray for her, and that too was waved away. What she did need, she said, is a mattress; they'd been sleeping on the floor since the tsunami drenched their bed.
Along the road to Constitucion
Stopping for some snacks at a small store, we got to talking with the clerk/owner Aydee Ermilia Espinosa Salazar. We asked her about that night and she said, “We didn't hear the ocean, so we knew something was wrong; it was pulling out and building up”. She apologized for the scarcity of goods in her store saying, “No trucks have arrived since the catastrophe”. She recounted an amazing story of how God provided transportation for her to travel to her son in Concepcion after the quake, to make sure that he was okay. “God is always with me”, she said through tears, and we prayed together she gripped our hands tight. She blessed us on our journey and thanked us, and with big hugs we left, thankful to have met such a wonderful lady.

House after house, business after business, if not flattened into a pile of rubble, was spliced with ominous cracks through the adobe and stucco. Piles on either side of the street spoke of the plowing which opened up the way for traffic, the only improvement since the earthquake and tsunami two weeks earlier. As we picked our way through the streets, a woman greeted us. She looked to be in her sixties and bore the cap of a chemotherapy patient. Her name was Yasmine Najle and she gestured to the collapsed building in front of us and said, “And that's my home”.
“I was visiting down the street when it happened. My mom, eighty-two years of age, had stayed with my three year-old grandaughter. Everyone knows my mother on this street, but no one recognized her that night as she fled her home, hunched over my grandaughter. But they were saved, because God is mighty”.
She wept freely as she spoke to us; showing us her mother's home to the back of the property and where they escaped. She told us of a baby girl down the block who died. “I've had four cancers. Why didn't God take me instead? I'm strong. And this has made me stronger yet”. We prayed together, affirming God's purpose for her life, his love and caring for her. It struck us as indicative of her character when she walked to a trash can to dispose of her tissue (there was garbage and wreckage all around us!). We asked if we could take her photo in front of her ruined home. Smiling bravely she whipped off her cap and stood proudly bald for her photo, as if to say I survived cancer, I can survive this!
-We walked further down the road to where a young woman was working at organizing the remains of her family's store. María Jesús told us that her family had lost their home by the river when the waves came through. She was working to organize the notebooks and paper items that survived the quake's violence. Eyeing the broken walls (adobe construction) and the half-drooping roof, I asked if she was afraid to be working in the store; “No! I'm very relaxed. I think the worst has passed”. Quite a brave girl! We prayed for her, asking the Lord's blessing and protection over her and her family's business. “Yeah,” she said, “what next to nothing remained was stolen”.
-Juan Emilio Arraya called to us from his ruined home. Swallowing our fear at entering the structure which was partially collapsed and entirely unstable, we followed him in to hear his story.
With a flat voice he waved towards various rubble-filled rooms, "That was our kitchen, our bathroom, my daughter's room.." The adobe walls were cracked with entire sections missing. Framed walls bulged at impossible angles and we both mentally planned an escape route if an aftershock hit while talking to Juan.
Living in this home for thirty-three years, Juan raised three children here, taking pride in improvements he had made over time. When the quake hit he said, "I believed I was going to die". Just next door to him three people had perished; the father embracing his wife, who was embracing their baby girl as they died. Juan had tried to get to them, but could not. We asked if he was afraid to work in there, and he said “Yes...this whole thing could fall any minute”.
Crying openly he spoke of his frustration with neighbors who are taking advantage of relief efforts; re-selling tents intended for homeless families. As for him, he said, "I will build my house, with my own hands, I will build my house, thanks to God. Unless my wife is too afraid, if she's afraid to live here we'll leave".
Climbing the wall in his patio is a lovely plant called Copihue, which he had brought from the Cordillera (Andes Mountains) and nurtured for years. To him it is "a sign of life here, of hope".
We prayed for him and with eyes full of tears he thanked us; "This is what people need right now." We left his precarious home with flowers in our hands; he shared his hope with us.
There really are no words to describe the horror of all we saw that day, so I leave it to the pictures to speak of these things. One bright spot was coming across a long-lost classmate from Bible college who was volunteering in a medical triage unit with actor Paul Walker. We thanked God for the encouragement of seeing our friend after so many years, even in such circumstances.

Journey to the Epicenter, Day One


Distribution Center, outside of Pelluhue

I did not anticipate that my first time in a nightclub that it would be full not of dancers and lights, but mountains of diapers, water, sugar, and other relief items. Workers and military worked busily sorting and piling donations, while we caught up with Gerarda Contreras Guzman, the Secretary of the Municipality in Pelluhue. Evidently we had just missed the U.S. Ambassador's visit in which he brought many much-needed portable generators for hospitals. Guzman was delighted with the tents we brought, an item frequently requested by the now homeless families registered there. She informed us that in the surrounding countryside one hundred families are without homes and that only one out of the fifteen schools is operable. Amazingly she said all this with a smile and a potent sense of optimism; a trait we would come to recognize in many of the hardest-hit.

Camp #1, Pelluhue

We drove up a dusty road to a barren field dotted by roughly made rectanglular homes. Our estimates are that they are 3x6 meters, and could more accurately be described as shelters, or in the States, as glorified sheds. But to these families, whose homes were either destroyed by the earthquake or the resultant tsunami, they are home. They are basically boxes with a door and two window flaps.

Arming ourselves with cameras, notebooks, stuffed animals and other goodies, we set off to hear their stories, capture their images, and bring a spark of hope and caring to them.

-Katherine Andrea Contreras and Paula Contreras Becena

Katherine and Paula were hacking away at a foam cushion with a meat knife when we walked up, stacking the rough squares into a cloth bag to form a chair. Bekii and I asked if we could hear their story.

Here's their back and forth exclamations:

We were thankful for the full moon that might, otherwise we would not have been able to see anything”.

There was a tremendous sound.”

People aren't going to be permitted to build down below anymore”

They're still finding bodies in the sand, every day.”

A whole bus of elderly people traveling over a bridge was washed away; all died”.

We asked if we could pray for them, and they permitted that. I asked if they were still afraid and they said, “No, there is much encouragement”. -said, “Hay mucho animo” (not sure if my translation is the best word). After giving the little boy in their home a stuffed animal and a treat bag, we moved along to the next home, where the family stood around in the hot sun.

-Eduendo Villegas Caceres, Lucila Sanhueza Cornou

Eduendo was ready to share. I caught myself wondering how many times he's repeated his story since that night. They lived 50 meters from the beach. “I lost my home, my daughter's home, seventy birds, and all my tools. I make wood handcrafts; model boats, planes...all gone”. There was a keen sense of frustration at this; you need money to buy tools to do your trade so you can earn money. He doesn't know what to do with himself without the means to procure tools. But he says that he is a man of faith, that God is with him. I was struck by, on the one hand his heart-breaking loss, and the other his warmth and smile. I could do nothing at present to aid him, but he was content to share his story. Playing nearby was his two year-old granddaughter Sofia, and in the arms of his son-in-law his four month-old granddaughter Yanina. Then I realized it; he lost much, but he did not lose his children, nor his precious grandchildren. He was living in a tiny shelter with all of them plus his other children and his wife, but they were safe; he was surrounded by loved ones.

-Ana Maria González Casanova

The first thing we were struck by as we approached Ana's home was that she already had a fence up around it and bushes planted! She too was willing to share with us and as her family stood around her and offered me a seat, she told me about the night of the earthquake.

I would have died, but God got me up. My house was fifty meters from the shore. As the house moved I ran outside. Then I realized I was barefoot, so I ran in for shoes. I realized I needed clothes and a blanket, so I ran back in for that. Then I remembered my purse was in my bedstand, so I ran back in for that! (laughs) By that point my neighbor made me run with her to the hills. There were people shouting “Se salio el mar!” (the sea is going out!). We ran up the hill, I did not see the wave. I found my husband at the top and asked him if our house was okay. He said 'it's fine, it's fine”; he didn't want me to worry. When we went back down our house was gone. (Points at the dirt) Quedo asi. (It was like that). It resisted the earthquake, but not the tsunami.”

They sat on the ground where their home had been and just stared. “What can we do?”, they asked each other. Eventually she went back up the hill, but he stayed, not wanting to leave, just wanted to sit there. “Twenty years ago we started from nothing, we are starting from nothing again”she said, “I had everything before the tsunami...years of sacrifice”.

I never rejected God. I would have died. These are the moments that the families come together. Time always tells.” She then showed us her dog, which was curled up near some cartons. “He used to be so playful. Somehow he survived the waves and found us, but he doesn't eat or play”. So even the animals were traumatized!

We were glad to see that her family was taking care of her; while we were there they were busy building an addition to the shelter.


The first thing you notice driving into Pelluhue is that water is stranded in places that it shouldn't be. Even one mile from the shore water is stagnating since the tsunami brought it inland. The next thing you notice is the smell, then the chaotic destruction. As we got out to walk around, stepping over rotting fish, broken glass, and large and small details of people's lives and homes, we were completely overwhelmed. I realized I had no reference on how to frame a shot of chaos. So I focused my lens on the small details, hoping that those would connect me to the people, to the lives that have been fractured. Twisted pots, a baby sweater embedded with sand. Playing cards and tv's. Then I stepped into the houses. I saw the grimy water line nearly up to the roof. Furniture and fish lying in heaps together. Curtains still hanging in blown-out windows. Walls twisted and snapped apart. There was unnerving silence.

There are still bodies being dug out of the sand each day. Mostly those who were camping on the beach to celebrate the last days of summer. Each sleeping bag or camping item I saw amidst the rubble caused particular pain. Residents said that there was so much confusion after the quake, that many of the tourists accidently ran toward the beach instead of away from it as the waves came. Unbelievable destruction and loss of life.

Camp #2, outside of Pelluhue

From the outset this camp had an entirely different feel. Through discerning together as a team afterwards we agreed that there was something spiritually off about the place. As soon as we were out of the vehicles it seemed as though we were surrounded. As I tried to distribute toys to the children, teenage girls came up asking for stuffed animals as well. I explained that they were for little kids, and they started a sort of sing-song begging. Even an adult woman joined in, though asked for a candy bag. I had no conversations worth recording; there was always an indefinable hindrance. There was an atmosphere of greed and false need, manipulation. We even overheard them as another vehicle pulled up “Here comes another one”. No wonder they were acting the way they were; they were standing around for whatever hand-outs drove up! There was a strong victim mentality, that was not present at the other camp and some spiritual yuckiness that I cannot define, but reacted to. Our children were also acting strangely and I was relieved when we headed out.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Quake Update

Cars wait to receive $10 worth of gas here in Puerto Montt
Though gas trucks have tried to come, many have been robbed.
Somedays there is no gas at all.

To My Most Amiable Readers...

The last few days have been unreal. We have had no further aftershocks in Puerto Montt, but are definitely continually in shock at the reports coming in around the country of the magnitude of the devastation caused by the earthquake and resultant tsunami.

We have also experienced profound joy as our neighbors, who were traveling through the worst hit areas on vacation, arrived home exhausted but safe. They had to off-road it around debris and went on $10 gas rations and long waiting lines at each station, but finally got home. How can I describe the relief and joy that flooded us as we embraced them?

We have, though, many reasons for sorrow as well. Among our rowing Bible study group, we have many who cannot contact loved ones who live in hard-hit Curico and Talcahuano. Angelo's mother's home was destroyed and his extended family unaccounted for. The tsunami waves reached so far inland that it carried fishing boats into the middle of town. He wept as we prayed together as a group last night, Lord have mercy.

Until now and yet continuing, relief efforts have been impeded by the sheer devastation which cut off electric, water, and roadways. Local efforts are now organizing; we're now able to donate diapers, blood, water, and powdered milk which will be flown to Concepcion. As an EMM team we are making our first relief convoy plans. This Friday the men will be heading up to Talcahuano (where Angelo's family is, just north of Concepcion) in our neighbor's diesel truck and possibly another vehicle, equipped with flour, rice, tents, and other relief items. This will also be an exploratory trip to see what further convoys should contain. I will likely head up in the second convoy next week to capture stories and pictures.

Specific prayer requests would be:

-safety for the convoy (gangs have been raiding them before they can get to where help is needed)
-discernment as to how best we can respond to the multitude of needs when we arrive
-help in locating and aiding Angelo's mother and family (she needs specific medicines for her lungs and there is a newborn as well that may need clothing and such)
-that in and through everything we do, that God's name would be glorified; that people would see and feel that He cares for them and has not forgotten them in their pain and trial
-funds to stream in to aid not only in immediate relief, but in long-term reconstruction

Beyond the logistics, I implore you to pray against violence and hopelessness, which can and have contributed to greater suffering here. Please fast if you are physically able.

May God have mercy and come and heal our land...
Your Most Devoted,

Gathering to pray for Chile.

Chileans helping Chileans is the motto during this disaster.
Here is a local collection point for items headed to Concepcion.