Venezuela (MNN) – The Venezuelan economic crisis is turning citizens into refugees. Hundreds of thousands of people are leaving the country—pushing the situation ever closer to a crisis point rivaling the Mediterranean refugee emergency. But, these people are not escaping civil war. Instead, they are fleeing the lack of basic human needs.
Venezuela’s Refugee Crisis
Trans World Radio’s Steve Shantz says folks are not even seeking transportation in their travels. They’re simply walking to the nearest border. Unfortunately, it does not look like the flow of refugees will be slowing anytime soon.
“The situation in the country is just so bad that people have reached a level of desperation. To put it bluntly, they’re starving, they’re hungry, and they don’t have access to the basic needs. They don’t have access to medicine because there are no medicines on the shelves,” Shantz explains.
When the government devalued the bolivar last month and switched to a cryptocurrency, shopkeepers stopped selling goods for fear of not being able to restock their shelves.
The devaluation has led to accelerated mass starvation in Venezuela. The situation has become a continental crisis as Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru try to coordinate a response to arriving refugees. TWR is responding with relevant programming in attempts to address people’s needs through the radio.
Do Soundwaves Help?
But does Christian radio programming make a difference in situations like what Venezuela is facing?
According to Shantz, the answer is yes.
He explains how during crises people tend to turn to the familiar, like radio programming. Even if the programming can’t provide immediate physical relief, it does provide comfort and encouragement.
TWR does not skirt around or sugarcoat the issues facing its listeners, including Venezuelans. Instead, the ministry addresses their needs, even if that means getting listeners’ minds off their current situation by reminding them to look towards the promises of God.
“We broadcast to Venezuela every day from the island of Bonaire,” Shantz shares. “We have a very powerful station there that’s heard throughout the region. And so, every morning the wake-up program ‘Despierta (Wake Up),’ we’re broadcasting. And we’re trying to broadcast a message of hope to Venezuela and [the] people. [We are] trying to encourage them to turn their eyes to the Lord, to God.”
TWR is trying to meet physical needs as well. The TWR Venezuela team has been sharing goods and food. However, because of the difficulties in getting resources, even this help is limited.
“Our team in Venezuela is trying to provide as much aid as they possibly can to people that contact them. We do have children’s rallies that they hold in various cities of the country and they try and provide food packages and aid to the kids who show up at these rallies,” Shantz says.
Crisis for the Church
The Church in Venezuela is also suffering from the economic crisis. In attempts to provide sufficient living income, the government has raised minimum wage multiple times in the last year.
These raises have meant some churches can no longer afford to pay staff. Today, many church staff members have become volunteers, a solution that is only temporarily sustainable.
“We need to really be praying for the church, that the church will be able to have a ministry… that [it] will be built, be staffed with the necessary staff to carry on the ministry,” Shantz urges.
Be Prayerful, Be Active
Pray for all of Venezuela. Ask God to keep the people safe during their travels and for kind souls to meet them on the road with help. Pray God will sustain the Church in Venezuela and enable it to respond to the country’s current crisis.
“I think we need to be praying for the Catholic church in the country. The Catholic church has influence and perhaps the Catholic church could influence the government to change its policies and make things better for the people,” Shantz shares.
Finally, pray for those leaving the country to be able to find jobs and new places to call home. Pray they will be able to restart their lives and hopefully one day return to Venezuela.