CALAMA, CHILE (October 28, 2010) – The City Council realized that its own social service agencies have been unable to provide for the emotional and spiritual needs of its residents, who have the highest suicide rate in the country, so they turned to Calama Covenant Church for assistance.
The council has provided the church with downtown property at no cost and has granted permission for the church to build a combination counseling and worship center in a strategic location – the same block where the social service agencies are located, says David Mark, who with wife, Wendy, serve as regional coordinators for Latin America and the Caribbean for the Evangelical Covenant Church Department of World Mission.
Calama is located in the desert (lower photo), and most members of the community are employed by the largest open-pit copper mine in the world. “It’s a hard life in the desert for miners and their families,” Mark says.
There is “not a blade of grass in sight,” Mark says. Just sand and extreme heat.
Calama is located near the area of the mine that drew international attention when 33 miners were trapped underground for more than two months before being rescued. The Marks shared in the excitement with the rest of the community as each miner was brought to the surface.
“Many independent miners who seek their fortunes in the area are not so fortunate, and we heard many stories of collapsed mines, tunnels and personal tragedy,” Mark says. “The financial rewards in copper, gold and silver are often great, but the risks are very high.”
On Sunday, The Marks completed a two-week trip to the Southern Cone of Latin America – Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile – that are now in spring and moving toward summer.
Much of the trip was spent reviewing discipleship and leadership training. “We were able to provide important resources for them from materials in use in other Latin American countries, our own sources and connections to others,” Mark says.
The Marks also prayed with church members and leaders, including Isaac and Gabriela Coronel (top photo) in Uruguay. “They provide tireless and effective leadership to a new Covenant movement that has produced two congregations and a third in formation,” Mark says.
“Isaac, as are all the leaders in Uruguay, is self-supporting and his parent company has just closed and is bankrupt,” Mark says. Gabriela is expecting a child in December.