International Mission Board: Venezuela and Columbia
Venezuela has historically been a very rich country, driven by one of the world’s largest oil reserves. This well wealth contributed to good educations, a high standard of living (although very government dependent), and a welcoming environment for neighboring countries (including Columbia). The socialist government and disputed presidency of Nicolas Madura have contributed to significant financial and social issues throughout the country. Hyperinflation is forcing thousands of people to flee the country with just what they can carry. This ongoing migration of people has created a significant refugee problem for neighboring countries, especially Columbia.
Spiritual Backdrop: There is a smorgasbord of religious beliefs in Venezuela and therefore held by the people crossing the border. They include idolatry (Virgin of the Valley), Catholicism, cults (nature fertility gods, African Buddhism via Haiti, witch doctors, animal sacrifices, and even Chavismo – worshipping former, now deceased, dictator Hugo Chavez).
The IMB team in Columbia has built shower facilities, areas for washing clothes, a medical tent, bakery for supplying food, and specific areas for sharing the gospel with the thousands of refugees crossing the border. As you can imagine this people have experienced and are experiencing extreme trauma. The team has focused on trauma healing and bringing your hurts to Jesus. Also due to the continuously moving population this is largely a one-touch ministry opportunity.
- The team is trying to get more time with people by provide skills training for the refugees who are largely farm workers. Providing training for sewing, baking, leather good making are all areas of focus.
- Our opportunity: We can provide funding to help support this work. We could also provide $100 per month to help fund micro-business (purchase sewing materials).
Stepping Forward Project
- This is a project being partially funded by Send Relief. The people traveling are coming from very hot areas and are tasked with traveling over the Andes mountains. This ministry is providing 330 pairs of shoes per month to help in a small way.
- Our opportunity: They would like to be able to provide socks with the shoes. The cost would be $1,000 per month for all 330 pairs.
- The project is designed to get food to pastors and their families in Venezuela. It helps the pastors stay in place and provide community services, including food. Send Relief has donated $150,000 to this effort and Venezuela Crisis Relief, via Lottie Moon, has contributed another $75,000. There is a monthly stipend being provided for all Baptist pastors, missionary students, etc. It currently takes about $120 monthly to feed a family and the stipend provided works out to about $0.57 due to hyperinflation. The money raised has allowed incremental dollars to be provided at $18.00 per month, but that is still extremely short of the $120 needed to feed a family.
- Our opportunity: Families, individuals, or Bible study groups could sponsor a pastoral family or student family for $100 per month to make up the shortfall. There is a group called the Barnabas Project that is structured to manage our support.
Beneath His Wings Project
- This project is designed to provide chickens to families in Venezuela. The families then use some for eating, some for selling, and some for sustaining the brood. The chickens are $0.65 a piece and I believe they recommended buying 100 per family.
- Our opportunity: Families, individuals, or Bible study groups can contribute to this.
Medicine and Clothing Project
- There is a layman in Tulsa that has had a 25-year love of Venezuela. He is married to a Venezuelan woman and is providing much needed relief. He is receiving money from Send Relief and provides 100 lb. boxes of medicine directly to Venezuelans. It is typically over-the-counter medicine such as Ibuprofen, vitamins, etc.
- Our opportunity: We can help sponsor shipments to reach more people or we could use his shipping contacts to send our own items. We could send medicines, clothing, etc.