Millions have signed petitions calling for a recall election. Many are unhappy about the economy, and there is significant political tension. The future is uncertain in this land of 24 million. Is this the scene in the state of California? No, this is actually the far more pressing situation in the South American country of Venezuela.
In the midst of the current unrest, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is sponsoring one the largest evangelistic outreaches in Venezuela’s history–“Mi Esperanza” (“My Hope”)–which could positively change the course of the nation as thousands of citizens come to know Christ.
A Point of Crisis
Despite its status as the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, Venezuela is in the midst of severe economic crisis. “Today in Venezuela many people are living in very depressed surroundings,” explains Bill Conard, Vice President of International Ministries for BGEA.
“In the past year, thousands of businesses have closed,” adds Carlos Baldovinos, National Coordinator for “Mi Esperanza” in Venezuela.
“People are very concerned,” says Greg Matthews, manager of the World Television Project for BGEA. “There’s a feeling of hopelessness. We’re praying that ‘Mi Esperanza’ will build a bridge to ease tension there. We want the people of Venezuela to know that there’s a better hope–Jesus Christ.”
With a population of 24 million, Venezuela is nearly four times the size of the previous largest country that BGEA has reached with the World Television Project (Honduras, 6.5 million).
Three nights of nationwide evangelistic programming, Oct. 1-3, will be seen in millions of households across the country, including over 100,000 “Operation Matthew” home groups. Each home group is led by a lay leader who has been trained by one of more than 5,000 participating churches. Organizers estimate that each home group will be attended by 10 to 15 people, for an invited viewing audience of up to 1.5 million people.
“Mi Esperanza” has already seen unprecedented success throughout Latin America. If similar results are seen in Venezuela, organizers expect hundreds of thousands of decisions for Christ. “In that regard, it is an enormous evangelistic outreach,” says Conard.
At a meeting of regional coordinators on Aug. 13, one attendee commented, “This project is a confirmation that God has a big solution for Venezuela’s big problems. Our confirmation is the unity and oneness of the Church. We have never experienced anything like this in our country.”
After the Broadcast
With strong potential for many thousands of decisions for Christ, the Church in Venezuela is preparing for a massive follow-up effort.
As Matthews explains, counseling and follow-up is “where the rubber meets the road” for “Operation Matthew” participants. “All discipleship is a relationship, and relationship is already built in,” says Matthews. “They’re not left hoping that somebody somewhere doesn’t drop the ball. The ball is in their hands, and so they take the responsibility to follow-up.”
Participating church pastors receive copies of all the reports from their church members’ home groups. Says Matthews, “Working together, the pastor and the church member can begin to encourage these people that have reconciled with God to come to church, to enter into discipleship.”
In addition, every person who makes a commitment to Christ receives a copy of the “Vivir en Cristo” (“Living in Christ”) Bible study–the same material distributed at Billy Graham Crusades and Franklin Graham Festivals. Matthews explains, “‘Living in Christ’ gets you into regular Bible study, praying to the Lord, confessing your sin, doing the things that Christians need to do to have a close relationship with the Lord and find the joy and the victory in the Christian life.”
A Gift of Hope
As the three-night outreach quickly approaches, BGEA and the churches in Venezuela have high hopes for God’s Word to be proclaimed. Says Baldovinos, “We are praying and fasting for the entire country to find the only lasting hope for Venezuela.”
Conard adds, “We hope that there will be a response among all classes of society. We hope that at the very highest and lowest levels people would hear the Gospel and respond to it.
“We pray that out of this would come future pastors and evangelists, strong politicians, good Christian attorneys and bankers and businesspeople, artists and journalists. Most importantly, we hope that the entire Church is strengthened and that thousands of people will place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
- Please pray for stability in the country and that the programs would not be preempted.
- Pray that Christians in Venezuela would have boldness in reaching out to their unsaved family and friends.
- Pray for the 200-300 phone volunteers who are serving in the Caracas phone center, that they would be sensitive to the spiritual needs of the people who respond by calling.