By Jason and Abby Torgeson
One of the countries of our region that has been making the news lately is Venezuela, and it’s a country that is particularly close to our family’s heart. Abby’s sister Emily studied in Caracas for a year and a half in 2003–04, and Abby had the opportunity to spend a month there in her first real overseas Spanish-immersion experience. Both were struck by the country’s tremendous beauty and rich culture. While the rumblings of discontent were evident even then, it’s been impossible to wrap our minds around the crisis that has exploded there over the past few years.
The economic collapse has brought the country to its knees. We have met countless immigrants and refugees who tell stories of food shortages, inaccessible medical care, and a lack of basic necessities, including electricity and water, at even large and prestigious institutions. We read recently that 79 percent of health care facilities in Venezuela currently have no running water.
Food shortages and hyperinflation have made basic staples nearly impossible to find, for those who can even afford them. The average Venezuelan lost twenty-four pounds in the year 2017 as a direct result of the food crisis.
The problems aren’t just affecting the poorest of the poor. Even full-time working professionals are facing starvation because wages have not been able to keep up with inflation. In early January 2019, one of our pastor’s wives reported spending 6,000 bolívares soberanos on 10 rolls, 15 eggs, and a liter of milk. The monthly salary for a full-time minimum-wage worker was at the time fixed at 4,500 bolívares soberanos. To put that in terms our North American minds can understand, that would be the equivalent of spending $1,814.22 on 10 rolls, 15 eggs, and a liter of milk.
Despite the incomprehensible crisis, our churches continue to preach the message of hope found in Jesus Christ. Several of them run weekly feeding programs with what they are able to find, with the hope that those who come seeking bread to satisfy their stomachs for a day will find the Bread of Life, who will satisfy their souls for all eternity.
Thanks to the Church of God hunger relief fund and those who generously support it, we were able to get some funds into Venezuela to support these incredible ministries. Sending money is not easy, as rampant corruption has made the banking system impossible to use. The only option is for brave church members to carry funds on their person from another country back home. The journey is dangerous and the threat of robbery and extortion high, so we thank the Lord for their willingness to serve at great personal risk and for his protection as they travel.
Please keep Venezuela in your prayers, especially as the political portion of the crisis appears to be reaching a boiling point. Pray that the Lord’s will would be done, and pray especially for our churches, that they would remain strong and fix their eyes on the only One who can save them and sustain them.
If you are interested in supporting the Church of God hunger relief fund, which offers help to countries like Venezuela, click here. To learn more about this imminent need, and for a report on what the Church of God Hunger and Relief ministry has already accomplished in Venezuela, click here.
Learn more about Jason and Abby Torgeson, Global Strategy regional consultants for Latin America, visit https://www.chogglobal.org/team/jatorgeson/.