Italy: Being the hands and feet of Christ in a crisis

By August 30, 2016

Italy (MNN) — More than 500 aftershocks have added to the pressure of an already stressful situation in post-quake Italy.

(Image courtesy Wikipedia)

(Image courtesy Wikipedia)

Last week, a 6.2 magnitude, shallow earthquake struck a wide region of Central Italy, collapsing whole towns, killing more than 290, injuring 400, and leaving thousands without shelter.

The towns of Amatrice, Accumoli, Arquata del Tronto and Pescara del Tronto, (about 95-145 km north-east of Rome) were hardest hit.  Some 2,100 people have been sleeping in tent camps, nearly 1,000 more than the first night after Wednesday’s quake.

On Saturday, Italy declared a national day of mourning as well as a state of emergency in the region, as rescuers shift from the first phase of emergency to the next.

Operation Moblization’s Italy Director, Christian Pilz explains, “They are at the phase now with actually cleaning up the dirt, cleaning away the stones, cleaning away everything, and then checking out how the buildings are, what needs to be repaired, where are the buildings people can move back into…”

Faced with the challenge of getting survivors into safe, warm accommodation before the winter, the government plans to offer wooden chalet-styled huts, similar to those built in 2009 after a major temblor.  It’s a better alternative to tents, given the temperature drops in the mountainous areas.

wiuki2016_Central_Italy_earthquake_aftershock_distribution

(Quake zone/ aftershock image courtesy Wikipedia)

Already, aid, manpower, and supplies have been pouring in.  At this point, Pilz says they have what they need for quake survivors.

“The emergency teams of the government actually asked ‘do not send more people into the area. Do not send more food or clothes or any kind of physical things there to help, because the response has been so overwhelming, that there is more than enough there.’ They actually don’t know how to handle [it] and there is no more need.”

The OM-Italy team has been watching the disaster response unfold on television, says Pilz.  Sending in an assessment team or more volunteers right now would be counterproductive.  “Volunteers, they say at the moment, in the current situation, if more people are coming in to help, they’re actually getting in the way and it’s more dangerous than with the people they have there already.”

omhqitInstead, on Monday night the Evangelical Alliance led a meeting to figure out how to plan their response, which will come in a couple more months.  “In the first two or three months, everything is organized pretty well. The teams are there, the military is there, the fire brigade is there. Even refugees came.”

They’re looking down the line, “…when the TV stations lose interest, when it’s not on the news, not in the newspapers anymore, and the people have to deal with the situation there. This is where we want to come in.”

In the third phase of recovery, the emotional and spiritual trauma shows up.  OM will be also be looking for people who can “help with debriefing, pastoral care for the people who have lost not just relatives or families, but also houses, basically, living in constant fear.”

Some have suggested this is akin to taking advantage of a tragedy to look for converts. Pilz says, “I think we, as Christian organizations, have another message of a risen Christ, a living God, who (yes) can bring healing back to these families.”

Funds can help get the ball rolling for what response measures are to come.  Prayer will be needed for all those who are going to be helping with the clearing away and rebuilding.

It’s an emotionally tough job, says Pilz, because it is more than physical labor. It becomes a labor of love.

“You may think you’re only going there to clean away stones and dirt from the street, but then, under the stones, you discover different things. You’re constantly confronted with the people who live there and come to you and want to share their heart.”

In a country rich with world history, where ancient and modern worlds intersect, the love of Christ transforms completely. Are you up for the challenge?  Click here to check out what OM-Italy is doing and keep on top of their quake response.

One Comment

  • Roberta says:

    Praise God for an abundance of help! May there be an abundance of prayer for the comfort and healing of victims and for the safety of every one involved, as well as long term help.

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