From the Worldwide Faith News archives

LWF FEATURE: Chile - Footprints Leading to the Cross

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Thu, 20 Jun 2002 13:35:01 -0500

Chilean Lutherans Encourage Community Members to Assert Their

SANTIAGO DE CHILE, Chile,/GENEVA, 20 June 2002 (LWI)  - Ten-year
old Enrique lives in a wooden hut, sharing two rooms with his
grandmother, an uncle and two cousins. He does not know who his
mother and father are.

All the houses look alike in Emergencia, part of Talcahuano, a
port some 600 km south of the Chilean capital, Santiago.

Enrique attends school in the afternoon. He spends the morning in
the childcare center a few houses away, where he meets other

It is Monday, the day pastor Oscar Sanhueza visits. The Lutheran
parish has been running the children's center for 18 months now.
He plays the guitar while the 20 children gathered today sing

The day's focus is on Jn 14:6 "I am the way, and the truth, and
the life." Sanhueza passes around paper and pencils. Each child is
required to place one foot on the paper, draw the shape and write
his/her name on it. For some, the exercise is not easy. Edison for
example, is already eight but cannot write his name. "We can
communicate values to the children in an environment in which they
only know anti-values, drugs and violence," says Sanhueza.

In addition, two teachers help the children with homework and give
tutorials. The center also provides breakfast and lunch, donated
by workers representatives from a nearby oil refinery. The city of
Talcahuano contributes EUR 80 (USD 76) every month, half the
national minimum wage, for one teacher and kitchen assistant. The
second teacher works on a voluntary basis.

The Lutheran congregation also works with Emergencia adults.
Sanhueza tries to make them realize that poverty does not mean
having no rights. "In Chile individual rights are considered
mysterious, hidden from people. Most of them believe that to
assert their rights, they absolutely need an attorney, whom they
cannot afford," says the pastor.

In order to better inform Emergencia residents, the Lutheran
congregation works with law students from the university in the
nearby city of Concepcion. On their regular visits the students
advise residents on many issues. Single mothers, for example, are
enlightened about how to claim child support from a child's
father. Or how an imprisoned family member could be released on

Sanhueza's visit with the children is coming to a close. A small
wooden cross is propped against the window. One after the other,
the children lay the sheets with their footprints on the carpet
leading to the cross. Step by step they become a path, the way
that the Bible speaks of. Perhaps it will lead to a better life.

Sanhueza is one of the 11 pastors, two of them women, serving the
12 congregations and communities of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in Chile (IELCH). There are about 25,000 Lutherans in Chile
today, 3,000 of whom belong to the IELCH. The church, which joined
the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in 1955, is engaged in
solidarity work, and considers itself called to minister among
society's poor and oppressed. Another LWF member church, the
Lutheran Church in Chile, has 11,800 members.

(Contributed by LWI correspondent Alexandra Jaenicke, currently
assisting with the public relations work of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Chile.)

(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the
Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now
has 133 member churches in 73 countries representing over 60.5
million of the 64.3 million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on
behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as
ecumenical relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human
rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and
development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva,

[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is the information service of
the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). Unless specifically noted,
material presented does not represent positions or opinions of the
LWF or of its various units. Where the dateline of an article
contains the notation (LWI), the material may be freely reproduced
with acknowledgment.]

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