Churches respond to earthquakes' devastation
April 2001


(Top right) Omar Vasquez, 11, amid the wreckage of his family's earthquake-damaged home in El Salvador. (Above and right) Families struggle amidst the earthquake-related damage in India. United Methodist News Service / Paul Jeffrey photo. India photos: Rick Augsburger and Johnny Wray.

UCC and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) members and congregations have been quick to respond with both prayers and dollars to the devastating earthquakes in El Salvador and India.

As of Feb. 25, $65,000 has been sent for relief efforts in each country. $50,000 of that has gone through Church World Service to ACT (Action by Churches Together) and $15,000 has gone directly to our ecumenical partners in each country.

This money has come from One Great Hour of Sharing funds. A similar amount has come from Disciples' Week of Compassion funds.

The Jan. 26 earthquake in western India reached 7.9 on the Richter Scale, killing an estimated 30,000 and leveling whole villages. The earthquake's waves of motion snapped telephone lines, bent railroad tracks and cracked roads into jumbles of asphalt.

"It took many rural areas a long time to get relief," says James Vija-yakumar, Common Global Ministries Board area executive for Southern Asia. "Since the rural areas are the most neglected, that's where our ecumenical partners are focusing their energy."

"In one remote village, 25 percent of the earthquake survivors suffered amputations of one or more limbs," he says. These people will need special training to be able to work, he says, and our partners will help out there.

El Salvador is still being rocked by aftershocks. In a few months, when relief efforts move into a "recovery stage," we can expect to be invited to send volunteer work teams to El Salvador to help rebuild, says the Rev. David A. Vargas. Vargas, Common Global Ministries Board area executive for Latin America/Caribbean, says the UCC's and Disciples' People-to-People Pilgrimage Office is already set up to handle such work teams.

This summer, by using a new resource called "Praise God and Raise the Roof!," church members can participate in a faith/fundraising effort to learn about both countries and provide money for rebuilding efforts. The resource can be used by camps, Vacation Bible Schools, women's and youth groups, etc., says Susan Sanders, minister and team leader for Global Sharing of Resources Ministry.

How you can help

Pray for the people of India and El Salvador who have lost loved ones and homes and for the rescue and relief workers from around the world.

Send donations, made payable to your local church or Conference, to the Conference office and request they be forwarded quickly to Wider Church Ministries, 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland OH 44115-1100. Earmark your check "Earthquake Relief." Or make your check payable to Wider Church Ministries and mail it directly to the address above.

For more information, contact Susan Sanders at the same address; phone: 216-736-3210; e-mail: sanderss@ucc.org.

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