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Elena Huegel


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How would you describe the mission of our partner in Chile?

The Pentecostal Church of Chile (Spanish) was organized in 1945 – 1946 in Curicó, a city 200 kilometers south of Santiago, the capital of Chile. The founder and first bishop of the church, the late Enrique Chávez Campos, was originally a member and pastor of the Methodist Pentecostal Church.  Most of the Pentecostal churches in Chile trace their roots to a revival in the Methodist Church of Valparaíso in the early 1900s. 

The Pentecostal Church of Chile has traditionally been a rural church as the peasants who migrated to the fruit orchards around Curicó became Christians and returned to their small farms or villages with the Gospel.  In recent years, as more and more people have migrated to the cities, especially Santiago, Valparaíso, and Concepción, the church has begun to have a stronger presence especially the marginal or poorer outlying “poblaciones” or shanty towns. The church has nearly 200 pastors and approximately 400 congregations in ten of the twelve regions (states) of Chile.

One of the fundamental characteristics of this church is that it started as and continues to be a movement that springs forth from the work of the Holy Spirit in the Chilean people. Its leaders and pastors are trained in the local faith communities not in seminaries or special schools. The central traditions of the church, such as street preaching, personal testimonies, orders of worship, and music, also evolve from this popular or local foundation. 

As one of the few Pentecostal churches participating in ecumenical organizations, it is a founding member of the Latin American Council of churches and an active member in the World Council of Churches. Many local pastors also participate in the ministerial associations and other local or regional ecclesiastic organizations.

Different from most Pentecostal churches, the Pentecostal Church of Chile recognizes the pastoral ministry of women. All pastors, both men and women, must be married before they can be appointed to the ministry.

How do you fit into their mission?

I am currently the chaplain of the Shalom Center, a peace education, environmental education and spiritual development project of the Pentecostal Church of Chile. The Shalom Center organizes and coordinates programs, camps, and retreats in trauma healing and resilience development, conflict transformation, environmental education, leadership training, creative Bible study and other activities in support of the needs of local congregations as well as the national church (including, for example, liturgical dance gatherings, peace building camps, spiritual retreats for the children of pastors, youth , women’s and men’s groups, etc.)  

As chaplain, I participate with the staff in the design of programs and writing of educational materials, provide spiritual accompaniment for staff and participants, and provide practical training in the philosophical and theological foundations of shalom: healing of relationship with God, with others, with ourselves and with all of creation. I am helping the Shalom Center to develop a low elements challenge course with initiative games. As chaplain, I facilitate the exchange of educational materials, ideas, human resources, and spiritual gifts between other projects and churches in Latin America, connected to Global Ministries, and the Shalom Center.

What led you to engage in this calling?

I wrote in my journal in 1995, when I first went to Paraguay as a volunteer with Global Ministries (long before the Shalom Center was born!):  My vision is to be God’s instrument in the healing of relationships.  To listen to individuals in their confusion and anger, to mediate and counsel groups into emotional growth and spiritual maturity, to bring people into the holy relationship with the Creation of God, and most importantly to introduce all to the loving companionship of Christ, our Lord, Guide, Savior and Friend.  This is the vision that moves my calling.   In the same journal entry, I was reading The Doorway to Christian Growth  by Jackeline McMaken and Rhoda Nary.  My notes say:  My calling is to: a)grieve over the existing situation, oppression or suffering; b) voice an alternative consciousness; c) embody this alternative in a different structure through which people can live out the new way.

To be a part of the holistic ministry of the Shalom Center has been God’s amazing gift to reaffirm that vision from the beginning of my ministry and expand my calling into new challenges and relationships.

Is there a passage of scripture that carries special meaning in your daily work?

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
 Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

 Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
 He will make your vindication shine like the light,
    and the justice of your cause like the noonday.

-Psalm 37:3-6

What are some of the challenges facing the people of Chile?

Though many in Chile want to believe that the scars left by the horrific human rights abuses of the dictatorship are healed, I continue to see how the individual and collective trauma taints Chilean society: high levels of child abuse, domestic violence, violence against women.   

Just in the past couple of months, I have heard more stories: 

“My father never told us he was beaten by the police.  When he said something today, for the very first time, he locked himself in his room and wept.  Finally, as his adult child, I begin to understand why my gentle and loving father would completely lose control of himself and beat me with a hose.” (A young woman studying to be a family counselor) 

“My father was taken and disappeared when I was nine years old.  I never saw him again.  I have never told anyone this. This is the first time I have told my congregation.” (A pastor)

The pain of the dictatorship years is compounded by the trauma of the 2010 Earthquake.  As we still feel the aftershocks and watch the excruciatingly slow recovery process, please pray for the Pentecostal Church of Chile and the Shalom Center as we continue to lead trauma healing and resilience development workshops and train facilitators.

What is a common phrase used in the local churches?

Que el Señor le bendiga. May the Lord bless you.

Are there books that have shaped your understanding of your work in Chile?

Which movies have shaped your understanding of your work in Chile?

Are there any other resources you'd like to share?

I have a Sunday School lesson (PDF) that I use with groups here at the Shalom Center, that I hope will be used.

Also I have a favorite recipe for Cafe Helado, which is Iced Coffee with icecream. It's a great summer treat that is found all over Chile.

Give a gift for Elena Huegel's Appointment

Learn more through Elena's blog From the ends of the Earth.

Find out more about our mission work in:

 Prayers and Mission Stories