Former Sleepy Eye pastor of New Hope Church, Doug Clevenger, along with eight members from three churches in two states spent time in Arauco, Chile recently as a short-term work team.
The team assisted a congregation in rebuilding the parsonage after the church and residence was devastated by a 2010 earthquake.
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the 2010 Chile earthquake occurred off the coast of central Chile on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010, having a magnitude of 8.8 on the richter scale. The intense shaking lasted for about three minutes. This quake ranked sixth in the largest earthquake ever to be recorded by a seismograph. It was felt strongly in six Chilean regions, according to the USGS.
What’s remarkable about this story is that the earthquake triggered a chain of events that would eventually bring the Clevengers full circle with Sleepy Eye, Clarkfield and Arauco, Chile.
Doug was still living in Sleepy Eye and pastoring the New Hope Church at the time of the quake. He was at a men’s retreat with people from the Clarkfield congregation when news came of the quake and requests for prayers for the people in Chile.
“I had no idea that this would lead to a partnership and my own personal involvement,” Doug said.
The pastor at New Life in Clarkfield had recently set up a partnership with Arauco working with the national offices in the US and Chile at the invitation of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination. At the time of the quake, there was no partnership with a particular church. The partnership, according to Doug, was with the country and missionaries from Clarkfield who were in the country at the time of the disaster.
After the quake, Doug explained, news began to trickle down that there was widespread devastation in a town with a population smaller than New Ulm.
The pastor at New Life became ill with cancer and passed away and that’s when Doug was called to serve the church of New Life.
“When I became the pastor at New Life, the partnership was in its infancy,” Doug said. “It was only on paper and representation was by missionaries. We asked how we could help and the missionaries recommended that we partner with a small church since we are a small church.”
In June 2011, New Life Church sent an exploratory team to Arauco to see what they could do. By January 2012, the first work team was sent to Arauco to build tresses for the church that had been completely devastated by the quake.
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This past November/December, Arauco Team 2 framed the new parsonage, which is attached to the church, with stud walls and wired most of the entire building.
“Our construction workers said all the bracing makes this the strongest house they have ever seen,” said Doug.
The team used three cross blocks between each of the studs for horizontal fastening as well as 1x4s-- diagonally at each corner for added strength in case of earthquakes. The team accomplished their goal of getting the house closed in and livable before they left.
While there is still work left to be done to both the church and the parsonage, both are now usable and Doug said the church has all the physical help they need to build, so their laborers will finish the tasks.
Doug and his wife, Carol have been invited to back to Arauco to the dedication when the church and parsonage are complete, which they have targeting for Oct. 2013.
“This is a very ambitious goal, but these people are very ambitious,” Doug said. “If they have the funds they will finish on target. They are not a wealthy nation as they are relatively remote for a first-world nation. We will continue to provide financial support as we are able. The pastor in Arauco reported that God is working through the power of the gospel in the congregation and has thanked us for our help and for partnering with them.”
Doug said his congregation of around 35 people was able to raise $24,000 in 2012 to support the efforts in Arauco. He added that some of that financial support also came from residents in the Sleepy Eye area.
“We miss Sleepy Eye,” Doug added. “We appreciated the over 11 years we spent there and we think highly of the town and the church. We really have some good friends there.”