• Gustavo Driau

The southernmost Lutheran church in the world responding to the pandemic

IELCH started in February 2020, a program to support Haitian and Venezuelan migrants in the city of Osorno. The emergence of the COVID-10 pandemic forced the program to be adapted to assist migrants and others in extreme need with food and hygiene kits, and to expand the coverage area, taking it to Punta Arenas. This post is one of the expressions of the adaptation of the migrant support program to the pandemic.

The city of Punta Arenas is in the extreme south of South America. It is in two oceans, a geographical location that makes it a strategic point. Before the Panama Canal opened in 1914, it was the main port for navigation between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans due to its location in the Strait of Magellan, which made it a great cosmopolitan and commercial center, one of the southernmost cities in the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting churches tremendously also in the Lutheran Church in Magallanes-IELMA, and the vulnerable people in Punta Arenas. In this context, the IELMA is distributing food and hygiene kits for people in great need in the community who are affected by lack of food.

The IELCH Treasurer, Pablo Ríos, has sent this text sharing his experience.

Today I have come to my home after a hard day of work in the execution of the project. IELCH and ELCA support us, jointly, to reach out with help to the families that are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. I have different feelings because the harshness of reality exceeds any projection one can make.

We created a volunteer working group, with members of the congregation and the Lutheran School of Punta Arenas. We were five people, distributed in three private cars, we delivered the food boxes in the families' homes, to avoid their transportation costs and exposition to contagion.

First, we look for the best prices in various places for the purchase of supplies. Then we contacted a local company that offered us better prices, so we bought 52 boxes instead of the 40 budgeted.

The delivery of boxes with food and hygiene kits also became the opportunity, taking care of bio security guidelines, to talk for a few minutes with families who live in camps,

They are people living in conditions of extreme scarcity: people who lost their jobs, migrants without subsistence, older adults who live alone, single mothers with several children, all appreciate the gesture. Food is their mayor need, hunger their great threat.

They were surprised that help from a Lutheran church could reach them. I was surprised and excited by the words of the blessing that they gave us. They said with great joy, "God bless you," which, although it is a phrase widely used in our country, made a lot of sense when heard from people who, beyond their particular realities, deliver words full of hope.

The work was not fully completed; we have some pending visits for the coming days.

I thank ELCA the trust and accompaniment that, once again, you do as companions church. As well we thank you for continuously supporting and guiding us.

Yours in Christ

Pablo Ríos

IELCH Treasurer

Punta Arenas

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