Bibles for New Christians - August 2018 Update

A Revolution that Continues

These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also.   Acts 17:6

The year was 1986. The economy was thriving in the country with the largest oil reserves in the world. Still, most people in Venezuela lacked access to good education and health services. A group of teenagers had recently become exposed to the Scriptures. Somehow, what Jesus had initiated and instructed his followers to carry on sounded to them like real rebellion. Not just one seeking to replace a social elite with another but a real movement that calls people to repentance and a new life of faith and love for God and fellow human beings. The revolution was to move forward as people became aware of the unsettling ways in which the purposes of God have been carried out in history. If they could help other people read the Bible – they thought – then others too may have their lives filled with new meaning, purpose and compassion. After receiving a gracious donation of hundreds of Bibles, they got busy talking to whomever would pay attention to what they had to say.

The majority of Venezuelans placed their hopes for change in a political process that started in 1999 called the “Bolivarian Revolution.” However, in recent months an air of disappointment and cynicism has overtaken the country.  Its inflation is the highest in the world, projected to reach one million percent this year. With food shortages, average salaries equivalent to less than 50 cents a day and unemployment estimated at 30%, doctors are seeing alarming rates of children facing death by starvation. The United Nations projects two million Venezuelans will leave their nation this year – in addition to the exodus of 1.8 million over the past two years. Although different factions of society attribute the current humanitarian crises to a host of different reasons, there is little doubt that Venezuelans are facing a calamity of unprecedented proportions.

Amidst the uncertainty of these times the 120-year-old Presbyterian Church of Venezuela (IPV, for its initials in Spanish) has identified among its areas of priority for the next year distributing 13,000 boxes of groceries to families in need in seventeen different communities where their churches are located. In addition, they are opening the doors of nine of their congregations in order to invite their neighbors to enjoy approximately 570 nutritious weekly meals. Although the IPV is not a formal partner of The Outreach Foundation, we forwarded donations from churches in the United States in support of those efforts. As some of the IPV congregations come in closer contact with their communities, they would also like to make Bibles available to the guests that would like to further explore Christianity. Through the Bibles for New Christians fund, Outreach is making it possible for the IPV to distribute 2,000 copies of the Scriptures. 

Serious social and economic challenges invite us to respond in prayerful solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ. In a pastoral letter issued on April 15, the Synod of the IPV boldly affirmed: “We commit to being part of the solution and not part of the problem, conscious that we are salt and light in Venezuelan society… [we commit] to use our pulpits as a platform for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth that consoles, restores, heals, empowers and transforms. For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation.  Romans 1:16 NSRV”

As for those that started the Bible distribution efforts in the eighties, two of them are now Presbyterian pastors living in the United States. With God’s help, they remain committed to seeing God’s Kingdom continuing to break into the realities of darkness and injustice in their country of birth as well as in their communities in the U.S. and beyond. Thank you for helping The Outreach Foundation put Bibles in the hands of new Christians. Regardless of the ironies of history, followers of Jesus are still “turning the world upside down,” and the message of Christ is as worth sharing as it has ever been. 

Juan Sarmiento    
Associate Director for Mission

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