I have been getting recently different messages directly from Venezuela. Some of them expressed concerns and uncertainties about the future. Most of these messages stressed and showed the tension between resistance and hope. My understanding is that there is a deep conviction, primarily among pastors and lay leaders, that affirms a faith that provides a horizon of hope for the future.
I want to comment on four dimensions of a complex reality in Venezuela. First, Venezuela is a country under siege by an impressive number of countries, under the leadership of the United States. Second, these constant aggressions are affecting the daily lives of the people of Venezuela, including the economic blockade, which is hurting more than half of the population. Third, Venezuela is threatened every day with military intervention by the USA, with the cooperation of Colombia. In some circles, there is an insistence that the Organization of American States (O.A. S.) should intervene in such an invasion in the Venezuelan territory. In my opinion, an invasion will constitute aggression against Latin America and the Caribbean, with severe consequences. Fourth, there is no doubt, Venezuela has many abundant natural resources, primarily oil and gold, with impressive reserves. Other significant natural resources are coltan, copper, aluminum, and lead. Venezuela possesses the seventh place in biodiversity in the world, including major rivers, bird species, geographic and climatic diversity.
When I visited Venezuela for the first time in July 1966, I was impressed by the spirituality shared in worship, conversations, and public testimonies. The richness of a cultural heritage expressed in music, poetry, and storytelling provided for a constant renewal of national unity and identity. Over the years, I realized what I might call a Pentecostal experience trying to discern the signs of the times, in a country rich in natural resources and much of its population living in extreme poverty. In the next three decades, the Evangelical Pentecostal Union of Venezuela promoted what could be described as the attempt to discern the role of an autonomous Pentecostal church in becoming more involved in the commitment and promotion of peace with justice.
The process of integrating a Pentecostal identity, which included the experience of a liberating Spirit and the ethical implications of a militant faith with an ecumenical commitment, raised many questions by other Pentecostal denominations, questioning whether or not this was a “Pentecostal option.” My response to those criticisms is that the Evangelical Pentecostal Union of Venezuela has been able to create a new paradigm in which the Pentecostal experience was contextualized. They have been creating new worshiping experiences with hymnody of their own, with relevant content and pertinent preaching, The theological formation of pastors and leaders, is a crucial factor in the life of local congregations and at the national level. The other important dimension is the openness to a secular education that complements the leadership formation.
How do I see the role and place of the Pentecostal Union of Venezuela today? In recent communications from Venezuela (and those include some leaders from other non-Pentecostal national denominations), my interpretation is that two complementary dimensions of a pastoral accompaniment are affirmed and expressed: Resistance and Hope. The primary sources to resist in times of conflict are the spiritual strength and the moral and ethical principles in the defense and sanctity of life. Hope for the future must be established in a national consensus toward a new society with peace and justice for all! The churches should play a relevant role in promoting an atmosphere of true tolerance and dialogue.
Our ecumenical partnership with the Evangelical Pentecostal Union of Venezuela is once more a call to renew this commitment to a basic plan in action, promoting justice, peace and peace, and the integrity of creation in all continents. God is calling us to a new vision for the future for all of humanity. The Strategy for Mission in the “Guiding Principles and Policies of the Division of Overseas Ministries”states:
God has never, in any place, been without a witness. One who is fully known in Jesus Christ has been. It is at work in the creation of community, the sharing of love, the seeking of freedom, the search for truth, the reflections of wonder and awe in the presence of nature’s power and beauty and creativity, and the awareness of the worth of persons (Guiding Principles and Policies of the Division of Overseas Ministries (St. Louis: CBP, 1981), 16).
For years, the Evangelical Pentecostal Union of Venezuela has been singing in local congregations, national conventions a song that is nowadays well-known all over the world and is appropriate to reaffirm hope for a better life in Venezuela. We Disciples of Christ in the U.S. and Canada, United Church of Christ, and our partners all over the world should join in loudly singing this chorus:
Y andaremos por el mundo con fe y esperanza viva
Celebrando, cantando y sonriendo y luchando por la vida
And we will go through the world with a living faith and hope alive.
Celebrating and singing and smiling and struggling for life.
(Bishop Eseario Sosa, UEPV)
In times like these, we need to pray for Venezuela and for the global scenario in which we are called to a renewed vision of God ‘s mission in a world God loves! Amid the COVID + 19 Pandemic, we pray for healing and full recovery for those affected by the disease and their relatives. May God´s consoling mercy be real for the families that lost beloved relatives. Amen.
Carmelo Alvarez serves with UEPV (Venezuela) and CEPLA. His appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.