Luis Palau leader on Chile earthquake experience

Palau Team Members Survive Chile Earthquake
From Luis Palau Ministries, Beaverton

Ruben Proietti is a 32-year member of the Palau team and one of the most respected Christian leaders in Latin America. He was in Santiago working on the upcoming Chile Festival when the February 27 earthquake hit. This is a condensed account of his report to Luis as he finally made his way out of the country:

March 3, 2010: On the evening of Friday, February 26, we returned to our apartment on the sixth floor in Santiago, Chile. At 3:30 in the morning we were thrown from our bed. The floor was heaving. We didn’t know what was happening. It was accompanied by a deafening noise. My wife says it is impossible to describe what we went through. You had to experience it. And we can tell about it because the powerful hand of the Lord protected us.  The noise was like ten locomotives racing down the rails at full speed, said one survivor. It was horrific. The movement in the apartment was not just of things, but a total displacement of the building. Earthquakes usually last about 30 seconds. This one went on for more than two minutes. It seemed to be endless!

We could do nothing but cry out to God, and the movement gradually ceased. We didn’t know what to do. Walk down six flights of stairs in a building that had moved? There was no light. We could see people congregating below in the parking lot amid cries, shouts and sirens. We decided to go down. We waited throughout the rest of the night, alarmed by the aftershocks and unsure of the stability of the building.

On Saturday evening we went out with the festival coordinator, his wife and two children. The cityscape was ghostly. Everything was closed. There were no people in the streets. We could not get money out of the ATM and there were no gas stations operating.

It is important to note that the Chileans are in denial. They understand nothing. They cannot believe it. The last great earthquake was 25 years ago, so many had never experienced an earthquake.

We finally found a restaurant in the city center where the owner said he had nothing but four steaks left. So we shared them among the six of us.

I spoke with several members of the executive committee of the festival and later with the executive director. There was a general feeling that we could not continue with the meeting on March 2, as all the attention was centered on how many members of the churches in the southern cities were still standing.

The executive director took an offering for provisions in his church and it was sent to the south on Monday. On Tuesday, each bishop left for his churches in the south.

On Sunday we decided to return home, by car, through the shaky mountains. On the way, we had to make some detours because of broken roads, and we crossed bridges that had been tossed about by the earthquake, as well as get through landslides. Santiago was not the epicenter, but there were dramatic consequences in the capital. We safely reached home, by God’s grace, having gone through Mendoza, where many Chileans had fled to escape the consequences of the earthquake.

I have encouraged the leaders of the evangelical church to have a presence in this crisis. They were already dealing with some difficult problems, so it is hard for them to now take the initiative. I encouraged our executive director, Bishop Rivas, to assume the leadership role, and he has done that.

The action of the Salvation Army is noteworthy, as they moved rapidly to help the victims. But, as in Haiti, there are different stages of action. There is the first, crucial moment but later the evangelical churches need to have mid- and long-range goals. Anything the Church can do will be little, but we need to organize and work strategically.

The Luis Palau festival is going to depend very much on how we can obtain the resources needed. It will be possible because all the Body of Christ is united for the preparations for the great battle for souls against the power of Satan.

# # # Give now to bring immediate support and relief to Chile.

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