Venezuelans seek refuge in prayer
The bus trip took five days. If anyone expected a group of tired and maybe even irritable travellers, they had a pleasant surprise coming: the men who entered the seminar hall were joyful and enthusiastic. And this in spite of a devastating crisis at home.
The invitation had been extended by District Apostle Leonard R. Kolb. Because of the strained relations between the USA and Venezuela, neither the District Apostle nor his assistant, Apostle John W. Fendt Jr., have been able to visit Venezuela for the past two years.
Considering the situation in the country, the brothers and sisters in Venezuela can definitely do with some comfort. Since 2015, Venezuela has been experiencing an economic and political crisis marked by severe food and medicine shortages. Venezuela’s inflation rate, the highest in the world, is making food ever more expensive and access to medical care almost impossible.
“Food shortages and increasing prices have caused outbreaks of looting and violence,” Vision, the magazine of the New Apostolic Church USA, reports in its summer issue 2018. “More infants, children, and adults are suffering and dying from preventable diseases.” The report states that it is difficult to donate supplies or funds: “Often, the Venezuelan government does not accept humanitarian aid.”
Too dangerous to go to church
The brothers and sisters in the country are not only affected by the economic hardship but also by the violence, District Apostle Kolb says on the website of the NAC USA. “For example, a 42-year-old Deacon from one of our congregations was murdered outside of his place of work, leaving his wife and their six children. Sadly, these types of occurrences happen on a regular basis.”
For many families, going to church has become impossible because of dire conditions. Often, the ministers visit the families at home in order to celebrate divine services with them, taking great risks.
Welcome help from a neighbour
With the passing of Apostle Félix Manuel Díaz Salazar last year, and the early retirement of Apostle José Rafael Lara-Tovar for health reasons at the beginning of 2018, the full weight of caring for the members lies with recently ordained Apostle César Benito Barrera Baez. He was ordained only in June 2017.
In this desperate situation, a neighbour came to the aid of the New Apostolic Christians in the country. District Apostle Raúl Eduardo Montes de Oca from Brazil, who is able to travel into Venezuela, visited the country at the beginning of 2018 and conducted seven divine services, serving over three thousand members. Despite the difficulties, the members were hopeful and enduring with God’s help, District Apostle Montes de Oca reported.
United in a daily evening prayer
In order to encourage and strengthen the ministers of Venezuela during this crisis, District Apostle Kolb had invited them for a meeting to Cucuta, a city in Colombia near the border with Venezuela. On the programme were meetings and of course a divine service.
The evening before, Apostle Fendt and Bishop Rodriguez had visited the San José congregation in Bogotá, Colombia for a divine service. This was a special service because quite a number of the members who were there were brothers and sisters from Venezuela.
During the conversations throughout the weekend, the District Apostle learned that the Venezuelan ministers and members had revived an old New Apostolic tradition: praying together every night at 10 p.m.—regardless of where they are—for each other and for the people of their country. “I was deeply moved when I heard this, and I invite anyone who can, to join our brothers and sisters in this evening prayer at 10 p.m.”
Venezuela, Divine service, Congregational life