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Atlanta new worshiping community works to ease the suffering in Venezuela

 

June 9 ‘Pray for Venezuela’ event includes packing boxes with medicine, water tablets, food

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Rafael Viana is pastor of On The Way Church, a new worshiping community in Atlanta. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — On The Way Church, a Spanish-speaking multicultural 1001 new worshiping community in Atlanta, is holding a “Pray for Venezuela” day on June 9 for those impacted by that country’s worsening economic and political crisis.

Fifty percent of worshipers in the 1001 community are from Venezuela, and daily they receive audio and videos of people in their home country crying out for help. Amid recent blackouts in the country, there is widespread looting. And prices are skyrocketing — the International Monetary Fund predicts a 10 million percent inflation rate in 2019.

“They are in such crisis,” said Adela Guerra, who came to Atlanta and with her daughter Maria and three grandchildren.  “In Venezuela I have another daughter and grandchildren. They have no food, school, or medicine. I feel deep sadness for not being able to help them.”

With hyperinflation getting worse each week, an estimated 3.4 million Venezuelans have sought refuge — including 5,000 per day in 2018. More than 1 million are in Colombia, and another 500,000 in Peru.  About 300,000 are in the United States, according to the U.N. International Organization on Migration.

On The Way members from Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Peru, Puerto Rico, and Ukraine want Venezuelan families in their community to know that “their suffering and pain is felt by us,” said On The Way’s pastor, the Rev. Rafael Viana. The church decided to hold the day of prayer, which will feature Venezuelan food, music and décor — and the packing of donation boxes, which will be sent to families in Venezuela. Packed with rechargeable fans, lamps, water treatment tablets, pain relief medication, repellent and food, the boxes have items that Venezuelans need but can’t get because there is no place to buy them in their country.

On June 9, On The Way Church will gather to fill boxes packed with hard-to-get supplies for their brothers and sisters in Venezuela. (Contributed photo)

“Many of our brothers and sisters here are from Maracaibo,” Venezuela’s second-largest city, where temperatures often reach triple digits, says Viana.  “Some nights it’s difficult to sleep from the heat and mosquitoes. There is no basic medicine and one of the biggest problems is lack of drinking water.”

Omar Duran, the mother of two girls who are 11 and 9, says she can’t talk too much about the crisis in Venezuela because it breaks her heart.  She gets out the words “my family” before breaking down in tears.

The father of her children, John Maury, acknowledges that missing family members daily — and knowing they are suffering — is the hardest part of migrating to the U.S.  But unfortunately, he said, his family had no future there.

“We suffered political persecution and threats,” he said. “We had to flee because of it.”

Maury is working hard, moving forward for the sake of his daughters to take advantage of what he calls “the opportunities this great country offers us.”

“The good thing,” he says, “is that we built a new family, not of blood, but of fellowship, a multicultural family made up of many countries.  A gift from God through his word and the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Maury is one of nine Venezuelans On The Way will baptize on June 23.

To hear more of the Venezuelan family stories from those who are part of On The Way Church, click here.

The Presbyterian Mission Agency has supported On The Way Church with Mission Program Grants, which are made available through Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries.  These grants support new worshiping communities and mid councils’ work to transform existing congregations.

In 2012, the 220th General Assembly of the PC(USA) declared a commitment to a churchwide movement that results in the creation of 1001 worshiping communities by 2022.  At a grassroots level, 468 diverse new worshiping communities have already formed across the nation.

 


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