Amid ruins of Ecuador earthquake, pastors preach, show JESUS film

Santiago Bereche
Monday, April 25, 2016
After the April 16 earthquake shook parts of Ecuador, killing more than 600 and injuring thousands, Nazarenes searched for missing church members, suffered the destruction of many of their homes and mourned loss of life. But, that didn’t stop them from jumping into action to help others – and tell them about hope in Jesus.
 
District Superintendent Santiago Bereche, of the Ecuador North Coast District, went to investigate what was happening and wrote this report.
 
It has been so difficult to make any kind of an assessment due to the collapse of the road system. On Sunday, April 17, the morning following the 7.8 earthquake we attempted to make it to the most affected cities and towns where we have Nazarene congregations. Jama was on the list but the roads were impassable.
 
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On Monday, April 18, after hours of work we decided to try again to make it to Jama.  We were told that the only way to get there was with four-wheel drive and that was not within our possibilities.
 
On Tuesday, April 19, and remember there has been no telephone contact within that entire area since the earthquake, we decided that one way or another we were going to make it to Jama.  The road was to take us through Pedernales, but when we arrived within 20 kilometers of that town, we found that the traffic was backed up bumper to bumper all the way into town and the road would not be opened until midnight.
 
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We began to investigate for an alternate route and discovered that if we backtracked about an hour, we could take a torturous country road.  It was raining furiously the whole way but we finally pulled into Jama.
 
We went from shelter to shelter questioning if anyone knew where Pastor Servio Macías might be. Someone finally told us he was in a shelter with a big group of people at the top of a very difficult hill to climb.
 
It was 10:30 p.m. when we dragged ourselves over the top to find a number of temporary shelters made from plastic stretched across rough poles.  Under a black plastic covering we found Pastor Servio with his wife and five children.  It was an emotional reunion!  When he saw us, his face broke into a smile and we all embraced one another.  We were impacted by his unbreakable spirit and his firm faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
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We were all reduced to tears as the pastor told us how the rented three-story church building had collapsed.  The evening of the earthquake, a bit before 7 p.m., 10 people had already arrived to pray for the service. When the shaking began, six were able to race out the door and into the street.  Four were buried under the building.  The pastor, who had not arrived yet, turned around and rushed home first to check on his family and then came to the church to find, to his utter despair, that the church had collapsed and four were trapped inside.
 
They found flashlights and peered inside as best they could with the hope of rescuing their brothers and sisters.  There was a small opening of 12 to 16 inches wide and a passerby offered to try to fit inside to see how he could help.  He was able to clear the debris off the two children and they pulled 12-year-old Diego and his 13-year-old sister out alive.
 
It was too late for brother Colofito Avila Intriago and his wife Lidia Paredes. Apparently Lidia had died instantly. Colofito could be heard screaming for help for a few minutes. The next day both bodies were recovered from under the church.
 
Brother Israel Vélez was riding his motorcycle taxi from the beach towards the town when the earthquake occurred and he lost control and suffered a fatal crash. In total, six Nazarene members in Costa Norte were killed, and 12 additional family members.
 
The town people had naturally set up the shelters on high ground because of the fear of a tsunami. The night of the earthquake, at 2 a.m., Pastor Servio Macías preached a powerful sermon to all in the shelter, with several city authorities present.  The Word has been planted in the hearts of all those who were lucky enough to be in that highest refuge. We made it back home to Santo Domingo at 5 a.m.
 
A decision was made to return the next evening, April 20, to show the JESUS film at 7 p.m. on top of the highest hill of Jama.  In moments like these, as difficult as they are, there is great hope in our Jesus of the Gospel message.
 
On April 20, the JESUS Film team of the Ecuador North Coast District made the 3+ hour trip to the demolished town of Jama.  They passed small groups of shelters on each hill until they reached the highest hill where the pastor and his family had constructed their rustic, temporary dwelling place.
 
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The JESUS Film team set up the equipment, passed out water, non-perishable food items, and invitations to the JESUS film.  At 7 p.m., with the little Yamaha generator purring gently in the background, 120 people settled in to watch the two-hour story of Jesus from the book of Luke.  As always, at the conclusion an invitation was given and 20 people prayed to accept Jesus as their personal Savior.
 
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Pastor Servio Macías and the Jama congregation will now begin the work of discipling these new believers into the family of God.
 
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Local churches have already begun to come together to respond to the needs in their communities with the resources they have on hand, according to Nazarene Communications Network. They are requesting support to provide for urgent needs, including bottled water, food, mosquito nets, blankets, and medicine.
 
Watch this video to see them in action.