By Caleb Mynatt
For citizens of most of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has been the crisis that has encompassed our lives over the past year. But for citizens of Venezuela, the pandemic is just one crisis of many that Venezuelans have had to navigate and survive.
One group hit particularly hard in Venezuela are faith leaders, especially Baptist pastors and their families. In partnership with the National Baptist Convention of Venezuela (NBCV), the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has worked to get pastors and their families needed relief.
“We have been able to get the Baptist pastors and their families around $40 each for the crises they face,” said Rubén Ortiz, the Latino field ministries coordinator for CBF. “That may not seem like a lot, but because of the currency crisis in Venezuela, that money can actually go a long way.”
Through FAMILIA, CBF’s Latino Network, the Fellowship has been able to cultivate deep relationships with various pastors and faith leaders in Valencia, Venezuela. Because of those relationships, Ortiz and CBF have been able to become aware of more specific relief needed for pastors and their families. In the case of these cash payments, that money, according to Ortiz, will primarily be used to pay for the cost of healthcare.
“We’ve heard many stories of pastors in Venezuela who have died because they did not have the money to get healthcare in emergencies,” Ortiz said. “They are dying of illness and heart attacks because they cannot afford to go to the emergency room. This is what this money is intended to prevent.”
Along with funds to pay for healthcare, the pastors were also provided with food and supplies. From canned goods and rice to razors and diapers, the pastors’ families were able to receive enough provisions to last a few weeks, if not longer. These donations also include new clothing for the families, as well as personal first-aid supplies. Again, this is where relationships with the pastors and the NBCV allow Ortiz and FAMILIA to send supplies that will directly meet the needs of these families.
“We know these families and their needs; so, these gifts are more love offerings than charity,” said Ortiz. “We are trying to reach out and serve them in this crisis, not only to show them that we can send resources but also that we want to know their needs; we want to know them personally so we can support them in the best way possible.”
Assisting pastors in Venezuela isn’t only the right thing to do; it’s a way to continue to strengthen relationships within the Latin American community abroad and in the United States, according to Ortiz. By doing this kind of outreach, it’s likely that Latin American churches in the United States that have ties to those countries will want to join in the relief effort. This allows FAMILIA to grow as a network and, in turn, it enables them to continue to help the people struggling in the best way possible.
“We found that many Latino pastors in America are moved when we work with their countries of origin,” Ortiz said. “It’s a way to link to and help people here as well. They are committed to missions in their home countries. We can form a relationship out of that common goal.”
Before the pandemic, Venezuela already faced unbelievably hard circumstances. From extreme poverty, to a refugee crisis, to ongoing political turmoil and violence, all of which occurred in 2019 and earlier, the citizens of Venezuela are enduring one of the worst humanitarian crises since the turn of the century. With two governments locked in a power struggle, the only relief that most of the people in Venezuela can hope for comes from missions and humanitarian outreach.
Thanks to Ortiz and FAMILIA, CBF is able to make some positive impact for people struggling in Venezuela.
For more information about how you and your congregation can support the efforts of FAMILIA serving pastors in Venezuela, contact Ruben Ortiz at email@example.com.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of fellowship! magazine. Read online and subscribe at www.cbf.net/fellowship.