People are starving in Venezuela. Children and adults are dying from malnutrition. Last year 75% of Venezuelans lost 19 pounds or more. Thousands pour over the border into Colombia, seeking a free meal and another day’s hope before returning to their homes and families in Venezuela.
Hearing that there is milk in the stores, locals line up outside early in the day, hoping they can feed their children today. Many will walk away disappointed when supplies run out. How did things get this bad?
Not so many years ago, Venezuela had the strongest economy in all of Central and South America. People were well educated and sophisticated. Venezuela was a popular tourist destination for Americans.
Economic downturns brought Hugo Chávez and his strong socialist agenda to power. Under Chávez and his successor, current president Nicolás Maduro, severe shortages and steep inflation led the population into increasing desperation. Maduro continued to consolidate power, taking control of all imports into the country and even maneuvering to neutralize the power of the congress and other government entities.
The economic and social effects have been disastrous. Hospitals are closed for lack of resources. Basic necessities, including food and propane for cooking, are in short supply. Inflation skyrocketed, reaching 1200% in August. People took to the streets in protest, and the government retaliated by killing some protestors and imprisoning others.
Hope for Venezuela’s hungry and hopeless
In these dark days, there is a light. As ANM’s Latin America director, I was praying to find a ministry already making a difference that we could support. The answer came in a dedicated and capable man named Cruz Paniagua!
Pastor Cruz operates a missionary training school in Venezuela. Just last year he and his team planted 52 churches. So far this year they have planted 16 more, despite the obstacles. In an effort to feed his students and minister to the community surrounding the training center, the students plant corn and fruit. The Lord is providing for them, so they offer a feeding program to the community.
I asked Pastor Cruz, “How are you managing to feed your family and students with all of the shortages?” His answer was impressive: “I can’t answer how. We just trust God and He provides… When we are in a country where there is no food, we see God as provider; or being without medicines, we experience God as healer. In the chaos, the church advances.”