Venezuela (MNN) — School can be a challenge for many students, but when students in Venezuela faint in class, it’s not about the homework load.
Due to political instability in Venezuela, food, medicine, and fuel are all in short supply.
“Most of the children, especially in the poor neighborhoods, only get one meal a day,” said Mariette Oosterhoff of Trans World Radio. “As you can imagine, we can give them a gift but really, the children are hungry.”
TWR normally does its ministry on the air, but with so much sorrow going on just outside the door of one of their primary ministry centers, radio workers cannot turn a blind eye.
“On one hand, we are still bringing the Gospel, doing the puppet show, and giving the children a great time and a smile on their face, even though we know they go back to really hard circumstances at their homes,” said Oosterhoff. “On the other hand, if we have the opportunity to bless them with food we will take it.”
The problem is it’s not easy to give to the people of Venezuela. In an attempt to hold control over the troublesome political situation, Oosterhoff said the local government has refused outside help. If any resources do come in, the government seizes and sells that help to contribute to state funds.
That means “people who were already poor before are even poorer,” said Oosterhoff. Some parents have even chosen to leave their children in the streets, betting that it will be easier to survive as individuals than as a group.
But even for children on their own, food is hard to come by. Bakeries and other shops don’t have the ingredients they need to stay open, and Oosterhoff said those who can get them are relying on bananas to fill every part of their diet.
“When children are hungry, they’re weak, it’s hard for them to focus, and they get distracted,” Oosterhoff said. TWR understands that teaching alone won’t do much good until the children are fed and cared for, and there are plenty of Christians lining up to do just that.
“This difficult situation in Venezuela now creates an opportunity because people see a difference when they meet Christians,” Oosterhoff said. Radio broadcasters are now being trained to share the Gospel both on air and in their daily lives.
The constant presence of death is making people curious about the joy Christ provides. Oosterhoff said many Venezuelan believers have been approached and asked about their faith at evangelical events.
At one puppet show, “There was one young man who was very obviously wearing a gun under his sweater,” said Oosterhoff. “He was walking towards the team and asked, ‘Can you teach me how to play with the puppets?’” The team members got him connected with theater programs at a nearby church, adding to the list of people who have noticed that “in the midst of the darkest places, there can still be a light.”
Want to help? Oosterhoff said you don’t have to wait. “They are in the country, and we cannot go in the country because it’s way too dangerous, but we can help them in other ways through prayer and financial support.
“There will be a difference, a great difference between people without hope and Christians because they know we can trust a God who is not in a crisis even though we as a country are going downwards now — but God is there, He’s in control.”