By Michelle Maldonado and Joey Butler
April 18, 2016 | UMNS
In the wake of a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck coastal Ecuador on April 16, Bishop Silvio Cevallos of the Evangelical United Methodist Church of Ecuador asks that people “continue to hold our country in prayer.”
The quake, Ecuador’s most powerful since a 1987 earthquake that killed 1,000 people, has so far claimed the lives of 350. Officials say that number is expected to rise. At least 2,500 are injured and others are missing.
More than 130 aftershocks have followed, rattling cities hundreds of miles away and knocking out electricity, water and communications to scores of communities.
“The aftershocks have continued, and anxiety is constant in the population. Relief agencies are working in the disaster areas, but it is very difficult to get there because roads have collapsed in several sections,” Cevallos wrote in an email distributed to Hispanic leaders in The United Methodist Church.
The Evangelical United Methodist Church has a small but vital presence in Ecuador, with 20 congregations and seven new mission initiatives in both rural and urban areas. It was formed in 2001 when the Evangelical United Church of Ecuador decided to officially identify as part of the Methodist denomination. The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries currently has two missionaries appointed to the country — the Rev. Daniel Godwin and Sara Flores.
Godwin, stationed in Manta, posted to his Facebook page that he was OK, but power was out in his area so he was conserving his cell phone battery and was unlikely to post further until it was restored. Flores and her husband, Dakin Cook, are safe but did have to vacate their Quito apartment during the quake.
A state of emergency has been declared as some 10,000 troops and 4,600 police have been deployed in the affected areas.
“The situation is horrible. There’s no electricity, no water, no food. The roads are destroyed. Even the airport control tower fell.” (in Manta),” Fernanda Santamaría Martínez, a resident of Quito, told UM News Service. “They keep finding bodies, and there’s a lot of people missing. People are asking for coffins because they are having to see the bodies in the streets. The more remote locations have not received any help yet.”
The bishop said the church would respond. “We are currently seeking help, both nationally and internationally, to stand in solidarity with those most in need and with those places where help has not been able to reach,” Cevallos added.
Cevallos reported that the pastors, leadership and missionaries in the six churches and four new mission initiatives in the affected region are safe, but an 8-year-old girl who attends the Methodist Church in Santa Domingo was killed when a wall fell on her during the earthquake.
The local authorities have advised that large events such as worship services are currently suspended, but many Methodists are actively looking for friends and neighbors and helping in their communities.
Flores told UMNS that a warehouse used for United Methodist worship services in the rural area of Calceta is now a temporary shelter for families to shelter from the rain. Flores attended a service April 17 at Rios de Agua Viva Methodist Church in Romerillos where members pledged to donate their onion and potato crops to send to the affected areas.
“Already some of our local Methodist churches are traveling to the coast to take donations and check on families and churches,” Flores said. “Many partner churches and friends from all over the world have been in contact, and yesterday the people called Methodist around the world were praying with us.”
Donations may be made through Ecuador Undesignated (Advance #00433A) or the International Disaster Response fund (Advance #982450).
Maldonado is associate director of Hispanic/Latino Communication at United Methodist Communications. Butler is a multimedia editor at United Methodist Communications. Contact them at (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo from United Nations News.