IN-KY Conference Travel to Chile Before the Earthquake
Forging a New Relationship – Revs Diane and Walter Snowa, Louisville, KY
The golden gleam of “The Sentinel”, evidencing a majestic Presence of Protection, towered above us as we stood in awe beneath its glow. What a beautiful and comforting sight on our first evening at the Shalom Center in Chile. We looked up into the Andes, and we gave thanks to God while hoping to later savor that moment through clicking cameras. We are a ten member delegation from the Indiana-Kentucky Conference of the United Church of Christ.
We and our partners, The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), work together in Chile with The Pentecostal Church of Chile. Probably most UCC members will be surprised that our denomination has a relationship with a Pentecostal church. What do we have in common?
Our delegation set out to explore that question. For two years the Conference has sought to determine common threads that might sustain a more personal relationship between us, the Chilean church and our missionary, Elena Heugal. The delegation arrived in Chile to, in St. Paul’s words, “be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith”. (Romans 1:12)
Let us share with you a few ways the people of the Pentecostal Church of Chile encouraged our faith:
- They encouraged us to delight in the power of music to overcome the barrier of language. Although we had no fluent Spanish speakers in our group, music lifted the spirit and carried the singers beyond the level of mortal words. Sometimes we understood what we sang. Mostly we sang in order to capture the sense of faith.
- They encouraged us to put aside our preconceived notions of Pentecostal faith and practice. On a Sunday evening, we all participated in what was labeled “street evangelism”. About forty persons began worship some eight blocks from the church building. We walked the streets together singing and inviting others to join us. The event was more like our Palm Sunday processionals. However, what really blew misconceptions was an infant baptism at the close of worship. It’s a common practice in the Pentecostal Church of Chile. What did we know?
- They encouraged us to receive their extravagant welcome. I could not help remembering our UCC words—”Whoever you are. Wherever you are on Life’s journey. You are welcome here.” Chilean church members shared more than food and shelter. The people shared themselves. We were renewed by the warmth and love of God flowing through their veins.
Days after our return, the areas that so welcomed us were hit by a devastating earthquake. We do not know all details. First reports indicate that no one working with us has died. For this miracle, we are grateful. Everyone, however, has experienced tremendous trauma, homes lost, families disrupted.
The Sentinel that greeted our first evening at the Shalom Center reminds us that prayer is our strength in times of trouble. May we keep our Chilean friends in the glow of our prayers as they grieve and rebuild from the rubble.