A powerful earthquake in Ecuador destroyed a local Seventh-day Adventist church where believers were worshipping on Sabbath evening, but no one was injured, church leaders said.
The South American country has declared a state of emergency after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck at 6:58 p.m. Saturday, killing at least 443 people and causing widespread destruction. Four local Adventist churches were destroyed.
Church members were meeting in one of the churches, the Palmitas Seventh-day Adventist Church in the coastal city of Pedernales, when the earthquake rocked the region, said Giovanny Izquierdo, president of Adventist Church in Ecuador.
“Church members were in the church at the exact moment when the earthquake occurred and they immediately fled outside,” Izquierdo said in a WhatsApp text message.
The church building collapsed shortly afterward. The church has 80 members.
“Many buildings have fallen and the Palmitas church is completely destroyed,” the church’s pastor, Washington Guaranga, said in a separate WhatsApp message.
The WhatsApp messages were sent to Samuel Saito, director of the Adventist Church-operated Nuevo Tiempo (Hope) radio network in Ecuador, and viewed by the Adventist Review.
Ecuador’s authorities said more than 4,000 people were injured in the earthquake, the country’s largest since 1979.
A local church official said Sunday that three Adventist members were among the dead. But he and other church leaders said Monday that no Adventists died in the tragedy.
“We haven’t experience the loss of any church members in the middle of this tragedy, only material damages,” Izquierdo said earlier on Twitter. “Thank you for praying for us.”
Two of the other three churches destroyed in the earthquake were the Central Adventist Church, also in Pedernales, and the church in the town of Maria Luiza.
Pedernales, a city of about 46,000 people located 165 miles (270 kilometers) west of the capital, Quito, was flattened by the earthquake, its mayor said. The 600 local church members set up donation centers to collect food and clothing for those affected by the earthquake. The church members were working closely with ADRA, said Felipe Lemos, director of the press office for the Adventist Church’s South American Division, whose territory includes Ecuador.
“Adventist members in Pedernales are establishing centers to collect food and clothing in every district for distribution to places in need,” Lemos said. “Let’s remember the people of Ecuador in prayer.”
Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, also called for prayers for the relief and assistance efforts of the people of Ecuador.
“Remember the Ecuador Union and our local fields as they help with the recovery process during the aftermath of the traumatic and deadly event,” he said on his Facebook page.
Wilson also asked church members to pray for the people of Japan and Myanmar, two countries that also suffered earthquakes recently. No church members were injured in Japan, while the impact of the quake on the Adventist Church in Myanmar was unclear.
“Please also keep the people of Japan and Myanmar in your prayers as they have suffered earthquakes with tragic loss of life,” Wilson said. “As we come to the end of time, Jesus wants to use us as a positive influence in all types of difficult situations so Christ’s love can be seen through us.”
Updated on Tuesday, April 19:
ADRA has distributed food to 239 people in temporary camps and 87 people in other shelters, ANN reported Tuesday.
ADRA volunteers were even able to assist a woman who gave birth in the street, as well as assisting her injured relatives.
All of these activities were carried out in coordination with Ecuador’s Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion.
ADRA volunteers in the area of Pedernales and 30 volunteers from Santo Domingo and Quito are working on an initial rapid-needs assessment to better understand the situation on the ground and continue to provide the most relevant humanitarian aid.
ADRA is also working to set up a water purification unit in Pedernales to better serve the affected population with the supply of drinking water.
Additional emergency response team members from the global ADRA network were traveling to support the team in Ecuador.