CHICAGO, IL (April 17, 2016) — Evangelical Covenant Church missionaries in Ecuador and Japan report they are safe following deadly earthquakes in the two countries over the weekend. But the full effect of the tragedies is still being determined.
Ecuador was in a state of emergency Sunday after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated Ecuador’s northwestern coast. More than 240 people were killed and hundreds injured. According to a blog post by Covenant missionaries Joel and Kim Delp, it is the worst earthquake felt in Ecuador since 1979.
In the southern region of Japan, an earthquake early Saturday morning measuring 7.3 in magnitude struck an area located near Kumamoto City on the island of Kyushu, which had already sustained a 6.2 magnitude quake on April 14. More than 40 people are reported dead and hundreds injured, with dozens more believed to be trapped beneath rubble. On Sunday, reports say rescuers were racing against time to reach survivors before heavy rain storms and cold weather hindered their efforts.
Missionary couples Gary and Pauline Carlson and Fabio and Johnna Muniz are both based in Fujisawa, Kanagwa, which is about 500 miles northeast of Kumamoto City. They are believed to be the Covenant missionaries closest to the epicenter of the Japan earthquake. Johnna wrote on Facebook: “I don’t think there are any Cov ministries in Kyushu but trying to verify that. The damage has been substantial and as you’ve probably seen, more deaths occurred in the earthquake on Saturday than the one on Thursday. The aftershocks have been scary to see on TV but none of us have felt anything.”
The death toll in Ecuador, initially believed to be 77 soared to more than 240 by Sunday afternoon, and is expected to rise even more. Joel and Kim Delp, based in Quito, were on their way home from a date when the earthquake struck Saturday night.
“As we were leaving the vehicle, the quake hit and at first we didn’t know what was going on,” said Joel in an email to Covenant News Service. “But then after we realized it was an earthquake, we quickly hurried to our second-floor apartment to find our children and our friends [who were babysitting] all safe and sound. It lasted what seemed like forever which reports say now was over 50 seconds.”
The Delps, who are also founders of the Santiago Partnership, a nonprofit ministry serving Ecuador’s at-risk children and underprivileged communities, say prayers are still needed for families suffering in the wake of the tragedy.
The extent of the devastation is still unknown, said Joel. “The reports from our Covenant sisters and brothers here in Ecuador are that there doesn’t seem to be any churches or any Covenanters, individuals or families, affected by the quake. However, I want to stress that this may change as we learn more.”
In a message to the broader Covenant community, Pastor Henry Burbano, president of the Covenant Church of Ecuador, said: “We are united as a national church to face this natural disaster. We would like to ask for your help as family with your prayers and also with any kind of your support you could provide to us.”
He added that the church leaders are having meeting to determine how they can best serve the most ravaged areas of the country.
Al Tizon, executive minister of Serve Globally says, “I’m relieved to hear that our missionaries and partners in Japan and Ecuador respectively are alright, but I also know the challenges ahead for them as they come alongside those who have lost loved ones and who have sustained tremendous damage. Please pray for them as they take on whatever role they should play in the rebuilding of lives and communities.”
Those who would like to make a donation toward relief efforts in Ecuador can go to the Covenant World Relief giving link. Also, checks designated for Ecuador earthquake relief can be mailed to: Covenant World Relief, 8303 W. Higgins Rd., Chicago, IL 60631.
More information about Japan’s relief efforts will be posted when it becomes available. Covenant News Service will share ongoing updates through Facebook, Twitter, and our own Newswire.