Posted by: calloftheandes | August 23, 2016

Helping Volunteers to “Listen to and Encourage” Quake Survivors (Interview Part 1)

After a devastating earthquake rocked Ecuador on April 16, 2016, Reach Beyond sent a few teams of physicians and other medical staff to the quake zone. They traveled from the ministry’s Hospital Vozandes in Quito to handle trauma cases and urgent needs, helping meet the immediate physical needs of the victims.

 However, the care went far beyond the physical, addressing people’s mental, psychological and spiritual needs. Many volunteers provided counseling for the survivors, putting to use the training they had received from Dr. Carlos Pinto, a Christian psychologist with Reach Beyond.

 “It’s very important for us not just to deliver physical help or just healing for the body,” noted Reach Beyond’s Hermann Schirmacher. “We also take pastoral services with us. We cooperate with the church to have them involved in the effort as much as we can, and then reach out in the community.”

 Within 10 weeks after the temblor, the Ecuador’s Ministry of Health reported that nearly 21,000 quake survivors had received psychological care. Evaluations found most of them suffering from acute stress and sleep issues.

 The Quito daily newspaper El Comercio described the job of those working to help quake survivors as to “calm and diminish fear, anguish, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders and prevent mental problems”—a task the writer termed as “psychological reconstruction.”

 Below is an interview that Ralph Kurtenbach conducted with Dr. Pinto. He then transcribed, translated and edited/condensed it for clarity.

Dr. Carlos Pinto

Carlos Pinto

 You gave training sessions in April for those who wanted to offer counsel and comfort to earthquake victims. Besides the workshop in Quito, how many other workshops did you hold?

The workshops were given in Quito (the capital of the country) and then in Guayaquil because it’s also the second-most important city in the country and also due to its proximity to the epicenter. Also in the north, there was [training] in Ibarra because despite the distance, there was church interest in training. People there had great empathy and great desire to travel to the area and give hope via the message of God’s love to the earthquake survivors.

How many workshop participants on average? For example in Quito, I think saw about 150. How many attendees and what—more or less—was the audience profile? Professional? Lay persons?

Well, I think that would have been the average on number of attendees. It is worth mentioning that these workshops were arranged and conducted quickly, so there wasn’t much time to inform those who would be interested.

Archive photo from April 2016 shows crowd participation in a Quito training session for volunteer counselors to quake victims.

Archive photo from April 2016 shows crowd participation in a Quito training session for volunteer counselors to quake victims.

Regarding the profile of the participants, it really was a heterogeneous group, being the sense that all involved had a common factor, and that was that most of them were believers, were part of a congregation or leaders of a congregation, or sometimes professionals in the field of medicine in the area of psychology. They shared in common a desire to travel to the area in aid caravans formed by different churches, denominations, etc. to carry, as I said earlier, this message of hope, of relief, of having the opportunity to listen and encourage people who had survived the earthquake.

And the answersanswers that come from faith, from the belief that there is a God in an outlook that is respected here in Ecuador—have some roots in Christian faith, right?

Well, what we would say is that Ecuador—and throughout Latin America—we have a historical, religious Christian heritage in a sense, but with certain nuances of syncretism, and so forth. So yes, I think it is accepted, depending on whose metric is used. But for example, we are now seeing a result that had not been planned for. For the churches and Christian volunteers who came to this area, it was not their intent to plant churches but rather to comfort, to listen, to encourage and to give words of hope. And that of course, based on the Word of God. Nevertheless, what we have noticed is that groups of new believers in different have emerged—pockets of people of new faith where the earthquake happened.

This demonstrates on the one hand, the matter of the Christian message being accepted, and on the other hand, an unexpected evidence of how God has been moving in the middle of [the tragedy]. And new lives have begun, facing this post-earthquake stage as people in Christ. And on the other hand, we have seen that there has been a tremendous unity within the churches that really was not expected.

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Responses

  1. […] according to Dr. Carlos Pinto, a missionary psychologist working in Quito, Ecuador, with Reach Beyond. A maturing church in Latin America is sending its own missionaries overseas to […]

  2. […] and spiritual needs. Many volunteers provided counseling for the survivors, putting to use the training they had received from Dr. Carlos Pinto, a Christian psychologist with Reach Beyond. A segment of interview with […]


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