Monday, 21 September 2009

From the Pacific to Pichihue

On Sunday morning we were taken to see the beautiful and awesome Pacific coast. We travelled to Puerto Saavendra, a fishing town that was completely devastated in 1960 by the biggest earthquake ever recorded. The tsunami that followed created havoc over 10,000km away. The small town has now been rebuilt but still lives with the fear that it could happen again. This is after all a land where volcanoes remain active. On the way back we were able to visit and offer greetings to the small congregation worshipping in the Methodist Church in Carahue.

We then returned to the rural areas around Nueva Imperial to worship in the small church at Pichihue. It was built on farm land next to the home of Margarita Ovalle and she and her husband Juan welcomed us in to their home for lunch which we shared with other members of the church.

Margarita told us of how she had been seriously ill and had alcohol problems. She had a dream in which she felt God called her to leave her old life behind in order for her to be healed. She did, and has since made a full recovery. She enabled the church to be built as a way of giving thanks to God for his healing. She had faced some opposition at the time from other members of the Mapuche community who felt she was working against their traditional religion, but she was convinced that there was only one God and she believed that worshipping in a Methodist tradition was not in conflict with her Mapuche heritage. The church was built and now worship is held within it every week.

Women from the church are supported by the Rural Work office by supplying wool for weaving and knitting and helping them to sell products they make. Wool is dyed using local natural traditional techniques. As with everywhere we had travelled over the last 4 days, we were overwhelmed by people’s generosity and here was no exception as we were given gifts of a scarf and poncho made by the women's group. They certainly came in handy as Chile has lived up to it's name and is a little colder than we were expecting.

We shared in a lively service in which many of the congregation offered prayers, many using the Mapuche language. One member asked for prayers for him in his new role as a representative of the community in talks with the Government about finding a resolution to longstanding concerns about land ownership. As elsewhere in the world, the land farmed and lived on by the indigenous Mapuche population had been lost to big land-owners and attempts are being made to reverse this.

Before leaving to fly back to Santiago we shared a meal with Pastor Grandon and his wife Sylvia, together with Omar Sepulveda, our translator and his wife Ester,Christian who had driven us around the projects and Sandra Garcia from the Rural Work office. We were very grateful for the wonderful way they had looked after us during our brief visit and the opportunity they gave us to see the work of the Methodist Church in this part of Chile.

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