Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Hard Winter

We arrived in Icalma, just a few kilometers from the boarder with Argentina at 11 a.m. It was sunny and warming up. As we left Temuco that morning around 6 a.m. it had been raining and as we climbed into the Andes it began to snow. The road was quite slippery last 20 kilometers before we reached the tunnel. On the other side of the sierra it had already stopped snowing and the road was clear. This was a good sign as we would soon leave the highway for dirt road winding along the side of the Bio-Bio river valley.

In Icalma the pastor and others from the community quickly gathered after our arrival. Visitors were a welcome site after a very difficult winter. The pastor told us, "In my 63 or 64 years I have never experienced a winter like this." Meteorological records indicate this was the most severe winter in over 80 years. The first snowfall came in February, which would compare to our month of August in the northern hemisphere. In some ways this was helpful because it sent a very clear message that a long hard winter was coming. The people were able to collect extra firewood and buy additional forage for their animals. But it often was not enough. In Quienquen, one of the few communites where there is no church, Ricrado told us, "We stored up double the normal amount of forage and concentrate. It was not enough." There is still several feet of snow covering the grazing areas in this narow valley.

The motive for this trip was to provide some basic provisions in the way of food and clothing to the people, and to continue to develop a partnership with local pastors. We were able to pass out bags of food containing, flour, rice, sugar, oil, yeast and mate to 60 families. We left clothing with the pastors to distribute to those in need. They were glad to hear that we would be back in the summer, helping with children's ministry and evangelism training. In all we visited 7 communities in the region.