Did you know there is an enormous crisis affecting every man, woman and child in Venezuela?
It may feel far away to you and me, because we feel certain that nothing like their country’s present catastrophe will ever happen in the USA.
Have you been following current events there? People are rioting because, after waiting many hours in line to buy food in government stores, there is nothing on the shelves to buy. Children are fainting from hunger in school. Some reports say that 87% of the people are hungry every day. They either cannot find or cannot afford the food that they need.
I might say, “This could never happen in the USA because we are a rich, stable country.”
Remember, Venezuela is a major oil exporting country. Some estimates say it may have the largest petroleum reserves in the world. However a combination of factors, from selfishness and corruption to reckless government borrowing to the falling prices of the oil they export, all have led to economic collapse. Government policies make outside aid difficult. The effect on the average family is devastating.
Let me ask another question. If you had close family members living in Venezuela today, what would you do?
This was not a hypothetical question for Dr. Bibiana Mac Leod, Medical Ambassadors International’s (MAI’s) Regional Coordinator in South America. She has supervised José Luis and Tania Villegas, MAI’s Area Coordinators in Venezuela, for many years. Now José Luis has called to say that he and Tania are spending whole days, starting in the middle of the night, standing in line to buy food. Recently, after hours of waiting, the only thing they could find was toothpaste! What the family needed was food, but there was none to be had.
Bibiana asked José Luis what he and Tania wanted to do. At first he said they could not leave the country because they had nowhere to go, and they couldn’t leave the people among whom they have been working. (In general, Medical Ambassadors does not flee suffering. We suffer along with the people we serve, because most of our missionaries are citizens of the country where they serve.)
However, this seemed different. It had been impossible for José Luis and Tania to do much community development work because travel was difficult and local people were spending all their time see
king food to eat.
Dr. Mac Leod wisely did not tell the Villegases what to do. She asked them to pray about their situation. When she emailed b
ack, what she heard was amazing. José Luis said, “God always has a plan that can take advantage of chaos. We just need to see what it is. We will even be willing to leave Venezuela for a time, if that is God’s will.”
Then Bibiana remembered what José Luis had said earlier at a regional meeting. “I wish we could work alongside other experienced team members so we could learn from each other, and sharpen what we do.”
The CHE leaders that immediately came to Dr. Mac Leod’s mind were Marco and Vilma Quispe. Marco is sought out by other organizations to teach them Community Health Evangelism, the strategy that so seamlessly integrates physical and spiritual change. And he is skilled in the telling and discussion/application of Bible stories for evangelism and discipleship among adults as well as children. The problem is: Marco and Vilma live in an apartment in Trujillo, Peru, that is too small for guests. However, they are willing to move to a simple unfinished (or unfurnished?) slum dwelling, so that the Villegas could use their apartment and have access to schooling for their boys. (Quite a sacrifice!)
When Dr. Mac Leod proposed José Luis and Tania join their co-workers in Peru, the Villegases had much to process. The family’s adjustment to a new place—a scary, slum place—was one concern. José Luis reported,
“At first we worried that our boys would be afraid to leave home. However, one of our sons recently had a dream. He said, ‘I dreamed I was living in a place I did not know, and there were poor children all around me. However, what I remember most was that I was very happy.’”
Financial concerns were another issue. Bibiana shared with MAI team members in other South American countries the need the Villegases are facing. They were all acutely aware of the crisis situation in Venezuela, because it is front-page news all over South America. Several of them made sacrificial donations out of their small salaries to help fund this temporary transition for their colleagues.
One by one, as their concerns and questions gradually gave way to answered prayer, José Luis and Tania sensed God’s confirmation to join Marco and Vilma in their ministry in Peru. Both couples are excited to work together as a team, and to have the opportunity for mutual encouragement and learning. When conditions improve in Venezuela, José Luis and Tania desire to return to serve the people and country they love.
Help is needed because the Villegases will have limited resources with the move and Tania’s loss of her job as a computer teacher. MAI will continue the stipend we provide for them. However, we estimate their need to be an additional $10,000 due to extra travel and work expenses, including possible visits back to Venezuela to encourage those there. This is much more than their Latin American MAI teammates have been able to raise.
Please pray for Venezuela. Pray the government there will increase its concern for its citizens, lowering its priority on serving its own interests. Pray God will bring good out of this chaos and suffering. Pray God will supplement the sacrificial gifts fellow CHE workers have already made for the Villegases’ transition.
In addition, more leaders need to be trained in Venezuela because when life is hard, more people need to share leadership roles. Dr. Mac Leod hopes to give scholarships to two rising high-potential leaders from Venezuela, so they can attend a CHE internship this fall. Might God be calling you to help with this as well? Perhaps you can think of the Villegases as if they were your family in a time of great need.
Thank you for listening carefully to what God has to say to you. Jesus said learning to listen and obey is the way we should show our love for him.
P.S. An article from The New York Times talks about the roots of the problems now pressing Venezuela. Please check it out on the internet, if you want more information about why this chaos is happening. Thank you for caring!
We appreciate your prayer and financial support. Without you as a member of the team, this ministry would not be possible.