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International peacemaker from Venezuela to visit U.S. churches this fall

Speaker to share struggles and ministry successes

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Presbyterian congregations in the U.S. will be able to learn about the struggles and successes of church work in Venezuela this fall when the moderator of the Synod, Presbyterian Church of Venezuela visits in September. The Rev. Zulema Garcia is a pastor of the Western Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of Venezuela.

Venezuela has been facing unstable times in recent years as the rise and fall of oil prices have created problems for the nation’s economy, causing friction between various political groups and prompting many to leave the country. Government officials estimate as many as 3 million people, or 10 percent of the country’s population, have left Venezuela in the past 20 years. Many who held high paying positions are now settling for low paying jobs just to get by.

Garcia says the greatest challenges facing her country involve reconciliation and peace.

“Venezuela is polarized. The church recently wrote a pastoral letter, declaring ourselves before these great challenges, we want to be part of the solution, not the problem,” she said. “Of course, there is still a lot to do, especially with so many conflicts and problems that we have as a country.”

Garcia says the church in Venezuela has placed a lot of emphasis on reaching out to families across the country and beyond.

“The food programs that we coordinate in our churches and schools, help to mitigate the hunger of our parishioners and the community in general,” she said. “We also foster awareness in our schools and training programs in our churches in order to prepare us for situations of pain and detachment of so many families that have been left alone, the product of migration, as well as care for sick people in homes and hospitals.”

One of the biggest challenges, according to Garcia, is trying to keep migrating families connected.

“One of the things that I am working on now is how to help so many families that have migrated to different countries and connect them so that they feel supported by a church, receive spiritual, psychological support, attention and care,” said Garcia.

Upon her arrival in September, Garcia says she has a lot to share with U.S. audiences.

“The intention is for churches and congregations to know about the situation that Venezuelans are experiencing, the efforts that we, as church, are making in favor of peace and reconciliation,” said Garcia. “I want to share the realities and motives of my brothers and sisters, and why people, in general, are migrating. I want them to know our priorities as the Presbyterian Church of Venezuela, including the situation of our pastors, food programs, among other things.”

Garcia says she’s grateful for the support the Venezuelan church has received from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) over the years.

“We have always been supported by the PC(USA) in all of our plans and projects,” said Garcia. “At the moment, I am participating in a network that supports the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Venezuela, formed by brothers and sisters of the PC(USA). I have preached and participated in Presbyterian churches throughout the United States.”

Garcia says church leaders in Venezuela felt it was important for her to participate in this year’s group of peacemakers.

“I am participating because the Coordinating Board of the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Venezuela, considered that my participation as moderator was important since it had elements that we can present to churches,” she said.

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Garcia is one of 10 international peacemakers visiting the U.S. as part of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. They will be speaking in churches, seminaries and other gatherings between Sept. 21 and Oct. 15.

For nearly 35 years, more than 300 peacemakers from more than 50 countries have been hosted by Presbyterian organizations. The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program is made possible by gifts to the Peace and Global Witness Offering.

 

Garcia’s travel and presbytery schedule includes:
Presbytery of the James            Sept. 14–18
Beaver-Butler Presbytery         Sept. 21–16
Savannah Presbytery                 Sept. 26–Oct. 1
Pikesville                                         Oct. 1–4


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