Scripture reading: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you. (Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18, NIV)
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic many people have wondered, both outside the church and in, “Is God really there? Does He know what He’s doing? Why has this pandemic come? Is it some kind of punishment, and if so, for what?” These are ancient questions that have arisen throughout history whenever something inexplicable occurs, and yes, even Christians ask them. The psalmist in this, one of the most intimate Psalms in scripture, reminds us that God, the Creator, knows and understands our questions about things beyond our grasp. Indeed, God is not afraid of our questions. Many of King David’s psalms are psalms that rage with questions, but in his heart he knows God hears and understands, and that He is the only answer for the things that we cannot explain.
Today, be assured that God knows your heart, understands your questions, and reassures of His eternal interest in all that flows out of our human limitations. He is without limits, and He who knows intimately how we are made, Who witnessed our “becoming” from the beginning, is able to comfort, strengthen, and restore us in our days of uncertainty and doubt. We pray to One who knows what we often fear to give voice to in prayer, whether spoken or unspoken. He responds to an honest heart. Nothing is hidden from Him! We do well to simply remain faithful in prayer, recognizing that people all around the world are just as perplexed, and those “without hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12) are the reason for all we do in missions. All are known by God, but not all know God. Don’t let your questions and doubts prevent you from being one whom God can count upon to lift others to Him in prayer. And as this year unfolds, determine to rejoice in the God who knows you intimately, and loves you unconditionally. Imagine a world where everyone rejoices in this truth!
Countries of Focus
- General: Venezuela—work established in 1982; 95 organized churches; 5 not yet organized churches, 10,574 members.
Regional: Venezuela is on the North Andean Field of the South America Region.
Cultural: Venezuela gained independence from Spain on 5 July 1811. In 1830, what had been known as the Gran Colombia collapsed, and Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador emerged as independent countries. Throughout much of the 20th century, Venezuela has been governed by democratically elected governments, though not all transitions have been smooth or deemed legitimate.
- Special: The majority religion in Venezuela is Christianity (98%). Of this demographic 96% are considered nominal Roman Catholic and 2% Evangelical. The literacy rate in Venezuela is 97%. The estimated poverty rate stands at over 27%, down from 50% over the last 20 years, due to heavy investment in petroleum, which funds education, healthcare, and other government services to the general public. However, poverty is clearly more prevalent than the data would indicate, due to the refugee situation. Nearly 32% of the population of Venezuela is under the age of 25. Venezuela has been dealing with over 170,000 Columbian refugees over its borders since 2016, which has stretched the country’s resources significantly, and contributed to more than 4.6 million Venezuelans to seek refuge and asylum across Central and South America, hoping for a better life. Human trafficking of men, women, and children is a significant problem in Venezuela, which is seen as both a source and destination country.
Mission and Ministry
During the COVID-19 pandemic the number of cases in Venezuela has reached 114,908 with 3,192 reported deaths.
One of the greatest challenges to the work in Venezuela is the refugee situation, which has seen many Columbian refugees entering the country, while many Venezuelans have fled the country. This has caused division and uncertainty for the government and the social makeup of the country. However, this presents opportunities for the churches in Venezuela to be compassionate bridge-builders for those on the move. Discipleship and the deepening of faith is called for and requires that wise counsel be offered to those struggling with the social, political, and economic environment in which the church now serves. Theological education is also needed, with a strong commitment to Christian orthodoxy that is able to withstand prosperity doctrines and popularist unbiblical principles and teachings.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, churches have continued to reach out and serve their communities with the Good News of Jesus. Services of compassion and care have been provided by many churches to the many Colombian refugees within the borders of Venezuela. There has been church growth and new congregations springing up despite the restrictions related to COVID-19. There is a strong commitment to maintaining missions emphasis and thrust even at this time.
- Give praise that over 160 Nazarene women in Venezuela participated in the annual National Convention online, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Give thanks that many young people, declared the “hope of the country,” participate in the churches in Venezuela, and in camps held each year that attract between 600-700 youth.
- Give praise for the missionaries who began and built the work in Venezuela, which is now in the hands of national leaders. Also, give thanks for strong theological education ministries that are equipping the youth of the churches to lead in their generation.
- Pray for protection against increased COVID-19 infections, and for the weakened health system.
- Pray for the complex problems facing the country and the church, due to immigration and refugees along the border with Colombia, that the church may minister effectively to those entering the country. Pray also for the many Venezuelans who have migrated from their country in search of a better life, that the situations will change, allowing them to return.
- Pray for shifts in the understanding of “family” and for those who cannot support their family due to low-paying jobs (many at less than $2.00 US per month).
- Pray for pastors and church leadership across Venezuela, that they will have wisdom and courage to carry out creative and effective ministries regardless of the complex social, economic and religious challenges with which they are faced now.