By Zane Perkins / Special to the Santiago Times
SANTIAGO — Chile saw the worst forest fires in the history of country in January this year. Hundreds of thousands of acres were burned in a matter of days. Many people suffered the loss of everything in the fires. Suffering and loss was felt throughout Chile but among the cries of pain there were small blessings.
Patricio Parra, a member of the Iglesia de Cristo Providencia, responded to his family’s need by going down to the community of Sauzal and fighting off the fires, trying to save his family’s homestead. The battle for the houses was won buttheir farmlands were devastated and crops destroyed. The first response of Patricio’s church was to send hay for the animals that were saved from the fires and being kept in pens because pastures burned. This won’t be the only help for the families.
The Iglesia de Cristo Providencia was determined to help these families so they created a collaborative effort to aid five families related to Patricio. This collaborative effort brought together Iglesia de Cristo Los Nogales, Iglesia de Cristo Nueva de Valdez and the Lipscomb University Study Abroad Santiago. All these entities banded together to provide for the needs of the community of Sauzal.
The joint effort between Santiago area churches of Christ and Lipscomb Study Abroad put together a team of 48 people to help the families rebuild the fire stricken zone of Sauzal, Chile. The team built a kilometer of fence closing off the back section of their property so that the farm animals could be let out of small pens. This was the primary and most urgent need the families had expressed.
They gave away food, clothing and water to the Medel-Parra families and, because of the generosity of the people behind the effort, the team also took food, clothing, water, and school supplies to another couple of families who lost everything. All the while encouraging them in their difficult times through spending time with them, devotionals and the sharing of God’s Word.
The poverty of the families in Sauzal was overshadowed by the reception they gave the group and their hospitality. There were no showers, meals were cooked on an open fire, and bathroom facilities were outhouses. What an adventure to see another side of the Chilean culture especially for the students of Lipscomb University, Santiago.
The joint task effort plans to continue throughout the year because each season will have its challenges as the families continue the long road to getting back on their feet. If you are interested in participating in future efforts contact Zane Perkins, the site director for Lipscomb University Study Abroad Santiago or Cristian Rodriguez, leader at the Iglesia de Cristo Providencia.
It was a great experience but the most blessed people were those who went to serve. The group went to bless and were blessed even more.
— Zane joined the Lipscomb study abroad program in the spring of 2014 as the on-sight coordinator in Santiago, Chile. He coordinates students’ living arrangements, travel, and language study at the university while teaching a cross culture and history course. He and his wife, Tae, and their four children (Naomi, Isaac, Simeon and Enoch) are working on developing Chilean leadership for the church they helped plant in 2002 in Santiago.