Way back in 2009/10 we (Andrew and Shaye) spent almost 6 months in Chile working for a New Zealand company. During that time we experienced first-hand the isolation of the few brothers and sisters here. Though our Spanish was extremely limited (well actually, Andrew’s was totally non-existent), simply turning up to the meetings giving an extra 30% to the numbers was helpful to them.
In July 2016 we were able to leave house, home, extended family and ecclesia in New Zealand to return to our brothers and sisters in Chile. In those six years there have been plenty of changes; we have been blessed with three children (Zipporah, Arwyn & Hoshea). Changes in the ecclesia include some members that have unfortunately ‘moved on’, but it has been wonderful to reunite with Bro. Richard Castillo and Sis. Gisella Pintado. Likewise it has been great to meet and to work alongside with Bro. Cristián who was baptised a number of years ago, and also to meet some really positive and interested contacts.
Chile is almost like an island – bordered by desert to the north, alps to the east, ice to the south and sea to the west – skinny, but exceptionally long. Thus, there’s huge variation in geography from north to south and also large distances that separate the key centres. For example, there are four brethren in Santiago and the only other brethren (a couple in Temuco) are a 9 hour drive to the south. A further 6 hours drive would be required to take you to another keen contact in Llanquihue.
A massive proportion of the population (7+ of 18 million), live in the capital city of Santiago. The predominant religion hands-down is Roman Catholicism, though we have noticed that in the past few years the Evangelicals have ‘hands-up’ become a very visible part of the landscape. From discussions held whilst swinging the children in the park it also seems there is a large underbelly that are very disillusioned with the state of the Catholic church and are open to discussions around their faith – they have a belief in God, but don’t see this displayed in any way with their status quo. God willing, these are signs of fertile ground. As an aside, one of the greatest perks of being a missionary is that you have an immediate and un-forced segues into discussing the Bible when people ask you what you’re doing in the country! Living next-door to a Roman Catholic church (that serves Peruvians in the locale), we’ve had a glimpse into how ritualised their ‘faith’ is – every 2 to 3 weeks our weekends are dominated by the sound of their brass brand whilst they slowly stagger past with some saint upon their shoulder.
In the past few months our work has been principally focussed on pastoral work, strengthening and supporting the ecclesia here in Santiago. To be honest, arriving in a place as missionaries our mindset was naturally “we’re here to help”. However, as per usual God has lessons to teach us, especially the language. In our case, we have gained much from meeting with the brethren here that have steadfastly maintained their faith through many ups and downs in life, though only having one or two others in their locale to share their faith with. This same lesson was reinforced to us as we met with Bro. Rubén and his wife Roxana and family in Cordoba (Argentina) – another bastion of faith.
God willing in the coming year we will be able to shift our focus slightly in preaching to new contacts, scattering the seed further afield as the long-awaited time of harvest is surely at hand.
Written by Bro. Andrew & Sis. Shaye Yearsley, Missionaries in Chile