From: Shana Peachey Boshart, Conference Minister for Christian Formation, Central Plains Mennonite Church
Since 2014, a growing movement of Anabaptist churches in Venezuela have become part of the partnership in which Central Plains Mennonite Conference, the Mennonite Church of Columbia and Mennonite Mission Network collaborate.
During the past two years, political instability has brought severe hardship to our Venezuelan sisters and brothers. In a recent letter, Erwin Mirabel reported that people have to queue for regulated food two days in advance. Nutritious meals for a month cost over half of the monthly minimum wage. He writes: "Distribution of government programs do not reach all people, so many people only get one meal a day. Vegetables, fruits and meats are plentiful, but the prices are very high. Protests occur daily and are repressed by the police and national guard. There is hunger. It is now common to see adults and children eating garbage; some even kill for it. There is much violence because of frustration, hunger, stress, and rage. Robberies, murders, and kidnappings go unpunished."
Erwin also reports on medical care:
"Many patients have died in hospitals due to lack of medicines and medical equipment. This entire situation has generated a terrible insecurity for which we ask the Lord to help us out of this unfortunate situation."
In the midst of this crisis, the Anabaptist churches continue a variety of ministries:
"On Fridays from 8:00-10:00 p.m. we are all in the Plaza Bolivar of Caracas, sharing with people who are living on the street. We take arepas and coffee (when we can get it). We make the arepas from cassava, potato or banana (the usual ingredient, corn meal, is scarce or expensive). It is only with God's mercy that we are able to sustain this program. Sunday's we have our service from 10:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. with a regular attendance of about 26 people. After worship we have lunch together, sharing grains, plantain arepas, or yucca or crackers. On Thursday we allow people to take showers and to wash clothes. It surprised us to find people who are not addicted to drugs or alcohol sleeping in the square because they have no money to pay for a lease. Several of them are participating in our seminars and many enthusiastically tell us their stories. We also collect used clothing in good condition, which we give to them. Every afternoon from Monday to Friday, we have a program to strengthen reading and writing, mathematics and crafts. July 29-31, we will have a Sister Care workshop in the city of San Felipe in Yaracuy State. We estimate that around 35 women will participate. My wife, Haydee, and I, along with other brothers and sisters, are preparing this workshop. We expect this to be a very good encounter and we ask the Lord that this will be a great blessing to all of the participants. We hope to repeat this in Caracas and in Margarita. The seminary in Caracas has 15 students and continues to grow. We meet Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 7:00-9:00 p.m., when we have our meetings for reflection and study of the modules. We have 10 students in Yaracuy and the meetings are every 15 days. On Margarita Island, the seminary has eight tables of reflection with an average of 55 people participating in the modules offered by the Mennonite Seminary of Venezuela. Euclides Bauza, Carlos Celasquez, Odalys of Bauza and Juan Farias are facilitators there. In August the peace community in Margarita will hold a two-week Vacation Bible School for the community of Bolivarian Bay where there is a 'Community of peace.'
We are deeply grateful for your fraternal, spiritual and financial support. This strengthens us to continue the task of proclaiming the Good News of love, reconciliation and fraternity in the midst of this Venezuelan society despite the circumstances."
Please lift our Venezuelan sisters and brothers to God in prayer.