When TWR’s national partner in Venezuela takes its puppet ministry on the road, small gift bags containing school-type supplies typically are presented to children in the audience.
But this Sunday, May 28, the ministry team will be offering a different treat after the performance by Little Peter the Octopus, a character from RTM Venezuela’s (RTM is the Spanish version of TWR) popular children’s broadcast.
“This Sunday we will go to a village where people don’t have much food at all,” said Gabriel Fernandez, RTM Venezuela’s director. “… Now we know the kids will appreciate food more than a notebook. So this time we are preparing milk with oatmeal for the children.”
The new treat is a small symbol of the large troubles facing this South American nation in continuing crisis. The Washington Post recently reported that the country is “sliding into anarchy” as the government and its opponents clash over elections and an economy in shambles. Deadly rioting and looting have broken out amid shortages of food, electricity and medicine.
“Bakeries don’t have flour, so there is no bread,” Fernandez said. “Instead of bread, Venezuelans eat other food, like bananas. There are big lines in stores everywhere. And standing in that line is no fun. There is lots of talk, comments and complaining in the lines.”
On the five-day-a-week radio program that he hosts, Despertar (Wake Up), Fernandez talks about the crisis, urging listeners to share food with their neighbors.
“Trust in God more,” he cited as another major theme. “We talk about this. Lately, I am also talking about peace. There’s lots of violence between demonstrators who are against and for the government. There are confrontations and fights. People have been shot. People are dead.”
Political propaganda, often of dubious accuracy, is everywhere, even showing up on the ministry’s social-media sites. Some Christians back the government, and others oppose it, each side emphasizing only the news that supports its own viewpoint.
Fernandez tells site users that the ministry page is not the appropriate place for such disputes, and he tries to eliminate what he considers to be propaganda. Fortunately, he said, the differences of opinion and harsh living conditions aren’t preventing the RTM Venezuela staff from sharing the gospel with their countrymen.
“We are doing our job as a team,” he said. “We don’t have a problem. We respect each other. Every day we start with devotions; we share.”