Two Weeks after the Quake


Ecuador is really three countries in one: the Coastal Region, the Mountains, and the Jungle. The 7.8 Earthquake devastated entire towns on the Coast. We felt it shake the Mountains, but it didn't do any damage. In the Jungle, most people didn't even feel the effects. For me, the Earthquake could have been in another country. We had to watch the news to see what had happened.

Two weeks later, I have heard the testimony of several people who have gone to visit and help. Entire towns have been leveled. Many lost family and friends. The stench is overwhelming. Thousands are living in makeshift shelters. Max lives in our front house and went last week to Pedernales with a group in coordination with the Social State Department. They went only to offer counseling and spiritual help. They had hoped to do group therapy, but the only practical way was to visit tent by tent. The earthquake is not the only problem. Previous problems came to surface: family feuds, resentments, pregnant girls. All these add to the after effects of the earthquake.

The government has not allowed people to return to what's left of their properties. Daily aftershocks between 3 and 5 on the Richter Scale continue, and leaning buildings and walls could still fall. Police and soldiers patrol the towns. Many not only lost lives and structures, but afterwards thievery and ransacking abounded. People would return to salvage their belongings only to find that others had gotten there first. During the first week, trucks carrying aid to the earthquake victims were attacked on the highway.

The only practical way for us to help is to work with the local churches on the Coast. They live there. They know the people. They can tell us who really needs help, and who is just taking advantage of the situation. Yes, there are folks who are appearing to be poor and needy, just to receive all the aid they can, when there are others who really don't have anything. Sad, but true.

National and international aid abounds. The difficultly is the distribution. Does all the aid really reach the victims? Good question. I'm realizing more and more the effects of the new communication law here in Ecuador. The news is partial, because if any channel gives information that's in any way negative of the government, they could be processed and jailed unless they can "prove" the information is "correct." So you'll never see the full picture on the news. Sad, but true.

What can we do? One, pray that the government will be able to honestly and effective distribute aid and coordinate all the efforts. Two, when God places you in contact with a needy person, give them the help you can. Many will relocate to the cities. Others will stay and slowly rebuild their lives. The process will take a year or two. Everyone, sooner or later, will meet someone who needs help.

Yesterday after church, God sent us a family. They are NOT earthquake victims, but they need help. She's a divorced mom with no steady job and three daughters. She struggles to earn enough to pay a monthly rent. They spent the whole afternoon at our home. They have suffered physical and mental abuse from the father/husband. They also are going to need a year or two to rebuild their lives. They live near us. We can help them.