Venezuela (MNN/TWR) – Sugar is hard to come by in Venezuela…and so is water. The combination of the two means that the iconic Coca-Cola bottles are disappearing, too. It may not seem like a big deal, but it’s just one small part of the bigger problem facing the country.
Jim Munger is the US director for Hispanic ministries at Trans World Radio. Since Venezuela is a big oil-producer, the country built its budget around the income. However, when the price of petroleum crashed, so too, did the country’s fortunes.
Soon, the cost of food skyrocketed. There were shortages in everything. Munger explains, “The government went to fixing the prices so that people could afford them. But, what happened was the foods then, eventually, the price that people could sell the food items at, was lower than the cost of production. Companies simply can’t continue to produce and lose money.” Many of these producers left Venezuela, and took their jobs with them.
With the economy teetering, it would only take one more thing to tip the scales. It came in the form of nothing. In this case, nothing means ‘no rain’. The government started rationing water. Then another problem cropped up. “The very large Guri Dam in the south of the country that produces the largest amount of their electricity is not able to produce enough electricity for the country, so now they have rolling blackouts.” Add to that a spike in violent crime, he says. “Personal security on the streets has been deteriorating. There are parts of the country that are actually controlled by gangsters and the mob who will collect a payment if you want to stay safe.”
What does any of this have to do with Trans World Radio?
With the country in turmoil, now, more than ever, the message of hope needs to be broadcast. TWR has history in Venezuela. Bonaire, the Caribbean island from which the Bible-based programs are broadcast to Latin America, is just off the coast of Venezuela. “A number of years ago, we were able to cover the whole country, and far beyond. We were able to operating with a one half million AM transmitter”, says Munger. “Then, due to cost, a number of years ago, we found it necessary, back around 2000, to reduce the power to 100-thousand watts.” As a result, the signal to many TWR listeners in this nation of 30 million became spotty or altogether silent.
One listener wrote to TWR’s national partner RTM Venezuela (RTM is the Spanish version of TWR) that “the day came I was no longer able to tune in to RTM. Years later, I heard some RTM programs on an FM station in the city. It was such a joy for me to have heard the programs of RTM, which I had listened to years back. I would like so much to be able to listen to the programming of RTM from Bonaire again.”
Another said, “I have been listening to Radio Trans Mundial for many years, but now I cannot listen like before. … I give thanks to the Lord because my father came to know Christ through Radio Trans Mundial.”
TWR heard those cries. They’ve been putting together an aggressive response they’re calling the ‘Power Up’ campaign. “Our plan is to increase the power to 450-thousand watts on the AM band. That will, increase our coverage to, essentially, what we had before.” Munger outlines the stages of the plan: “We’re in the process of installing the phaser array that helps to channel the direction of the signal according to what time of day and what language we’re broadcasting. The final step will be to actually purchase the transmitter itself and install that. That will probably take another year, approximately.” The price tag? $3.8 million. He says, “We’re about two-thirds of the way there, financially. As we’ve moved forward, we’re working as we go. As the Lord provides, we install what we can.”
The Church in Venezuela, the RTM audience and people who listen to partner radio stations across the country are praying that the Bonaire upgrade will be completed soon. And many have gone a step further: Every quarter, contributions from Venezuelans are forwarded to the TWR international office to be applied to Power Up.
The staff continues to produce radio programs around a chaotic blackout schedule. It takes creativity and dedication, he adds. “Sometimes, they’ll record something and put it on a flash drive and take it to another location and edit it on a computer where there is electricity.” To that end, Munger asks you to pray for the staff. “Pray that God will encourage their hearts and help them to persist in the midst of great difficulty, knowing that their efforts will reach more people for Christ.”
More about Power Up and how to support the project is available at twr.org/powerup.