The nine-story commercial building in downtown Maracay, a Venezuelan city of about a million people, is mostly dark and empty.
The occupants began leaving along with the electricity, which went out about six months ago when the building’s transformer failed. Without power, there’s no elevator to reach the higher floors and no running water.
But TWR’s national partner hasn’t left the building, and its staff members – at least those who can physically manage it – still climb the stairs to the eighth-floor office every day. A large chip broken out of one of the terrazzo steps lets the climbers know that they are finally nearing their lofty office.
Fortunately, RTM Venezuela – RTM is the Spanish version of TWR – has two generators on the roof, or the media ministry would pretty much grind to a halt. That doesn’t provide as much power as there would be if the transformer were working, but it enables the staff to do the essentials, like turn on their computers, access the internet and record radio programs in the onsite studios. Every other day, ministry director Gabriel Fernandez heads out to buy fuel to keep the generators running.
Revival amid the travails
The deteriorating condition of the office building is emblematic of the grim political and economic crisis plaguing this South American country. Inflation is sky-high, violent crime is rampant, and food and medicine are in short supply, thus leading to rising poverty, hunger and disease. Small reserves of medicine, provided by supporters outside the country, and of food, purchased in quantity to keep the prices down, are sometimes available at the office and portioned out to staff and needy listeners.
“These days many people look to God for help,” Fernandez said. “That's why our radio programs are so important. We are experiencing a revival in the midst of this crisis.”
And the programs are important not only at home. RTM Venezuela produces 11 Bible-based programs that are also aired in many other countries, including in Cuba, Argentina and the United States, as well as from the Western Hemisphere’s most powerful station, TWR’s Shine 800 AM on Bonaire.
The important role they play in proclaiming God’s Word at home and abroad is a major motivator for the RTM Venezuela team members. Translator and social-media specialist David Albarrán sees many of his friends leaving the country, but he asks himself, “If I leave the country, how can God work through me?” More than 2 million people, about 7 percent of the population, have fled the calamitous conditions, straining the resources of neighboring countries.
“When I pray and read my Bible, I feel God’s spirit telling me: ‘Stay a little bit longer. Stay, stay and be brave,’” Albarrán said. “Everything is hard to get these days. However, we have our faith. Believe! And if you believe, you will see that God is working. I have seen many miracles. Before I never saw miracles, but now we do.”
Children don’t forget
Albarrán also provides the voice of a character in Pedrito el Pulpo, a popular children’s radio program built around the puppet known in English as Little Peter the Octopus. Despite the obstacles, Pedrito rallies continue to be a vital ministry for RTM Venezuela. When problems finding affordable transportation for the performers and their gear to rally sites became nearly insurmountable, another TWR national partner, ERF Medien of Germany, stepped in to provide funds for a used van. Already in 2018, the team has entertained and taught over 2,500 children in 27 rallies.
Fernandez’s belief in the indispensability of the Pedrito ministry is based on experience, going back to the days when his father accepted Christ and underwent a dramatic life change. Although dad’s new, reformed ways seemed strange to the family, 12-year-old Fernandez unhesitatingly became the first to join him in going to church. Today, Fernandez is convinced that his openness to the experience was the result of his having attended church with his neighbor several years earlier.
“That’s why I think it is so important to work with children, because children will never forget,” he said.
Of course, sharing the gospel with people of all ages and connecting them with the local church are overarching goals of all TWR ministry. And that’s crucial during this time of crisis, when Fernandez and Albarrán, along with RTM Venezuela board chairman Ramon Munoz, say they are witnessing a revival in the country.
“Although half the church members left the country, our church is still just as full!” said Munoz, who is a pastor. “The other half is filled with new members! Looking for God and answers in this crisis, they come to church.”
Venezuela needs your prayers
Prayer is crucial as RTM Venezuela staff members and their national compatriots endure this crisis – the never-ending search for enough affordable food, the soaring political tensions, the economic collapse.
- Ask the Lord to sustain and encourage believers in Venezuela, especially the RTM staff.
- Pray that power will be restored to the building housing RTM’s offices. This would relieve some of the physical strain on the staff while enabling them to do their work more effectively.
- Pray that God will continue the signs of revival, bringing more Venezuelans to Christ despite the times of trial.
- Ask the Lord to work in the hearts and minds of political leaders inside and outside the country to find an appropriate pathway back to stability and prosperity for Venezuela.
Photo: The team that travels to perform at Pedrito el Pulpo rallies poses in front of the van purchased with the help of ERF Medien of Germany. Wearing a cap in the center is Gabriel Fernandez. Stores selling car parts reportedly are some of the few businesses doing well because new cars are too expensive in the slumping economy.