The thought of bringing out smiles, carrying out acts of kindness, and sharing hope was what recently moved more than 12,000 Seventh-day Adventists in west Venezuela to help in their cities and communities amid the political turmoil and economic crisis in the country. The event mobilized church members to take a week away from their jobs and daily routine to focus on spreading joy in streets, avenues, and homes across the territory.
The church initiative, coined as “Close to You Venezuela,” became the fourth annual program to take place in west Venezuela and resulted in thousands of people being fed, clothed, or cheered in hospitals. Volunteers also provided medicines and ministered through Bible studies, music, prayer, and much more, church leaders said.
"We believe that this activity imitates the method of Jesus that He achieved in this world to reach people, especially those in need," said Orlando Ramírez, president of the church in west Venezuela. It's about reaching people, showing sympathy, love, and care, and meeting their needs in a wide variety of ways, he said.
“As a church, we want people to know that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is very close to each one of them, and through God’s love we are inspired to serve and love others,” Ramírez said. The initiative also carries a slogan that was used again this year: “Smile, God Believes in You.”
Months of planning and coordinating across nine church conferences resulted in more than 10,000 contacts interested in Bible studies, prayer connections, and 105 newly baptized believers. Church leaders reported that more than 37,000 hot meals were distributed, 15,000 blood donations given, 900 trees planted, and 171 free mobile clinics offered. In addition, 9,000 children attended the 180 vacation Bible schools conducted in the region, and thousands of drivers witnessed messages of hope at traffic light stops across cities.
In addition, the church held evangelistic meetings in more than 154 churches and centers throughout the region, distributed more than 61,000 pieces of literature, conducted 800 Bible studies, and visited more than 2,000 families.
Giovanny Martín, youth ministries director for the church in west Venezuela and main coordinator of the annual initiative, said that seeing so many members take part in helping others in their community brings joy and satisfaction. “I am so thankful for the many blessings poured upon the Adventist people, for the resources to be able to share love and support in the community,” Martín said. The activities would not be possible without the team of pastors and committed church members who took the week off to pour into sharing hope everywhere, he added.
Martín said that churches used their own funds to support the community impact activities during the week.
One of the new projects added this year was to provide safe drinking water in the neediest communities, including the state of Falcón. Additionally, church members set up stations to repair clothes and shoes in many communities in Mérida state.
The activities drew media coverage on dozens of radio and television stations and in newspapers across the region. The church’s Hope Media center carried the event through a comprehensive social media campaign. In addition, staff of the Hope Media center taught a group of children participating in vacation Bible school activities how to speak in front of the camera and how to help produce news reports for the event.
Ysabel Pinzón, a member of the Curbati Adventist church in Barinas, cut the hair of dozens of people. “This is the third time that I take part in ‘Close To You,’ and it was good to have this program where we can serve communities by painting kids’ faces and cutting their hair,” Pinzón said.
“We thank communities all across the region because they have welcomed us and supported us in all the activities to ensure that every impact ran effectively,” Martín said.