Christ on the Street, in Santiago, Chile
Mrs. Elizabeth Grünholz, President of La Trinidad Congregation wrote this relevant and meaningful letter bout “Christ on the Street”
The Iglesia Evangélica Luterana Congregación “La Trinidad” from Ñuñoa, Santiago is a friendly open minded LGTBIQ congregation downtown Ñuñoa District, una “comuna”, a section of the Great Santiago City in Chile, South America. We have a great story of working with VIH-SIDA people back in the eigthies and today we can proudly say that we are an open congregation to everyone. It is so because our desire is not being a ghetto but a living sign of the reign of God. With that in mind, we started working with people who live in the streets, “gente en situación de calle”, in Spanish. When this work started, we were few volunteers and we mostly made sandwiches and brought tea and coffee. The people we served were living around the Posta Central Hospital, the biggest ER Hospital in Santiago. Our desire has always been to establish relationships and deepen our understanding of the people in such a situation. We do not want to do just charity but get to know them as people, as human beings.
In all these years since we started in 2013, we have learned much about their situation. We have come to know many of them personally and we have become somehow involved in their lives. We don´t want to ride them to church. Not necessarily, but they know we come from a church. Sometimes the pastor with his clerical shirt and a cross, so they know us because of our faith also. Sometimes we have prayed, sometimes we have sung together, sometimes we have just shared our lives´ stories. The pastor has provided pastoral care and encouragement, and other times we have just accompanied, and we have listened to them. We are always blest by them with a word, an applausse or a compliment.
Because of all of the above, we could not leave our brothers and sisters to their own luck. They are part of us, so we continue to support them, first in the midst of the “Estallido Social” or the social upheaval. The center of this social explosion was half a mile away and sometimes got very close to us while we were serving them. We were one of the few groups that continued going to share food and humanity with them. We once were almost attacked by a “guanaco”, a water cannon. We were in real danger with the water cannon pointing directly to our group. We are of all span of ages in the group, included some ladies in their late eighties. Thanks to God nothing happened but it was a very frightening moment for all of us.
Now we continue to support our brothers and sisters during this pandemic. We cannot leave them alone. There are bonds that push us to serve them there. We have seen the Lord in them in so many ways. We must look for ways to be present even in the midst of pain, death and sorrow. Several of them have died in the street. Just a week or so ago, Sonia died. She was the rejected daughter of a rich family. She was rejected because of her addiction and died of pneumonia (probably COVID) on one of the corners where we served. Life is taught in the Street. We cried her death, bought a coffin, and hired the funeral home to take her to her final rest with her neighbors´ help.
Our “Cristo en la Calle”, “Christ on the Street” ministry has also taken us to the Embassy these days. Many people are seeking a ticket to go back home, to their countries. Thus, the embassies are surrounded by improvised camps of people trying to pressure their governments to react. They cannot continue renting the places they had. There is not enough money to survive. Many of them are young ones with kids. So, we decided to do something about it. Using our experience with people in the street, we organized the Venezuelan people who participate in church and their friends in an “Arepas Solidarias” event. We gave a kit to families with some corn flour, eggs, vegetables and wrapping paper to make "arepas". A Venezuelan member of our church, Johan, rode that evening in his car, retrieving the arepas made by the people and stopped in at least five homes. A team was formed and went to the Venezuelan Embassy and delivered there some of this precious cargo. The food grew so much because the people had the desire to help. So, we could share arepas and bread with the ones camping nearby the Venezuelan, Colombian and Bolivian embassies. We have been there at least three times already, delivering warm soup, hard boiled eggs, bananas, etc. And all this work is a work of love. God provides the good-hearted people. God provides the ones who donate, volunteer and makes this ministry of mercy, one of the biggest gifts God has given to our congregation.
Thanks be to God!
Iglesia Evangélica Luterana Congregación La Trinidad.
Pictures from Mrs. Elizabeth Grünholz, and from Pastor Marcelo Huenulef Ortega