Chilean Fires

The country of Chile has never faced a state of emergency like the one raging through it right now. More than 90 blazes have scorched well over 1 million acres, torched thousands of homes, turned village schools to ashes, and destroyed cattle herds and vineyards through much of the region.

It’s expected to get worse, as the dry season is on and temperatures can reach above 100 degrees F. Strong winds this time of year also create the perfect conditions for fires to spread.

Brother Jefte Quian, VGR office manager in Penco, Chile, traveled to witness the damage first hand. There are about 8,000 believers in Chile. The believers found shelter for a few days from a local restaurant owner, and there the little flock found the encouragement in the Book of Acts to keep pressing on. What does a shipwreck in the first century and a fire on the other side of the world in 2017 relate to each other? For a group of believers in Chile, A LOT! Here is Brother Jefte's report of his initial trip into the fire-ravaged areas of Chile. 

This is my report on the trip to San Ramon to visit the affected believers in the largest fire we have had in Chile during the month of January, 2017.

After talking to Brother Elias Gonzalez, the pastor of the San Ramón Tabernacle and coordinating a visit to see him and his church, we prepared many boxes and parcels with food, water, bathroom supplies, flour sacks, and fresh baked bread for the believers.

We really thought that the fires were pretty much controlled in the Santa Olga, San Ramón and Empedrados region. We estimated to get there in three or four hours at the most.

On Monday morning, after three hours driving north from Penco through Highway 5, we arrived to Villa Alegre and turned west to get to Santa Olga. There was a long line of vehicles waiting on the road and there were policemen asking the drivers for their destination. We told them we were going to see friends and brothers in the faith in Santa Olga and San Ramón. They told us the road was closed because the fires had started again and it was dangerous to continue. We were really disappointed and asked him about another possible route to get there. He told us we could go south again to Cauquenes, turn west, and then drive north by the coast to Constitución, and get to Santa Olga. We did this and it took us another four hours to get there. When we started getting closer to Santa Olga by the west, some soldiers told us that it was impossible to get there as the fires were raging and we could only go to San Ramón. We called Brother Elias and he told us he would meet us there.

It was a real blessing to see him and some of the believers that were with him. To shake their hands and hug them, it was a balm for their tired spirits and a privilege for us to do it. We could see the fatigue and exhaustion in their eyes and faces as they had been fighting and running from the fire for the past 7 days. The smell of charred trees and ashes was strong together with the smoke still present in all the area.

They explained to us how some of the believers lived in Santa Olga and it was there that the 12 houses of the brothers were burned by the fire. The tabernacle and the houses of other believers were in San Ramón and these were kept by the mighty hand of the Lord. It was incredible to see the burned trees all around the houses of the believers and to notice how the flames stopped right where they were.

We unloaded our cargo in the church and they invited us to an unexpected and unsolicited expression of the southern hospitality. They had lunch prepared for us. Even in the most difficult of situations and in need of food for themselves, they were ready to share and entertain us. These are things that we can only find among the members of the Bride of Christ.

They told us how they fought the fire during days and nights with buckets with water, using shovels to throw dirt to the flames until the last moment when they saw that the fire would devour their houses and tabernacle. They prayed to the Lord, and ran for their lives leaving their possessions to the fire.

The believers ran to the city of Constitución and stayed by the beach, trying to rest and encourage each other and finding that even speaking was a great effort at that moment.

One of the brothers told the pastor that he had found a restaurant owner that was willing to shelter them during the night and to give them something to eat.

While they were sitting at the restaurant, Brother Elias felt in his heart to read a Scripture to encourage the weary and battered congregation. He opened the Bible in Acts 27 and read about Paul in the shipwreck. He read how Paul exhorted them to be of good cheer as there would be no loss of any man's life but of the ship. Brother Elias told them that maybe the houses would be consumed by the fire but the lives of all of them had been spared by the Lord. He continued reading the chapter until verse 26 where it says, "Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island."

Brother Elias noticed how the owner of the restaurant, who was an unbeliever, was smiling when he read this verse. Later, she came and told Brother Elias she really enjoyed the story he read to his church. She told him that she particularly liked the part where it said that all of them would be spared and they would be cast upon a certain island. She pointed up and said, "Have you noticed the name of my restaurant?" Brother Elias looked up and the sign said "The Island Restaurant." The brothers and sisters greatly rejoiced when they saw this. It was a sign that the Lord was mindful of them in this terrible situation, writing again the Book of Acts.

They confirmed to us the information we had received from them that 12 houses of believers had been completely burned and they had lost absolutely everything they had. Some believers had brought clothes for them but it was food that they were in need now and it was exactly what the Lord had provided at exactly the right time.

Even 7 days after the fires started, they were still closely watching the fire and smoke rising to the West of their houses since big fires could start at any moment.

After a few hours of fellowship and even singing some praises to the Lord, we said goodbye to them leaving a love offering with them and our vow to continue praying for them and their precious souls in this difficult time of danger.

They were particularly touched to learn that last Wednesday at the worst moment of these fires, the believers at the Branham Tabernacle and those who read branham.org around the world were praying for them. They consider the prayers of the saints as well as the grace of God to be effective and sufficient for them at the most terrible moment of this fiery test.

Our brothers and sisters continue fighting the fire as you read this report.

Please continue holding them before the Lord in your prayers.

God bless you!

Jefte Quian

VGR Chile