July 11, 2023

Marching Band Celebrates 12 Years of Engaging Young and Old in Venezuela

The initiative has become an outreach and mission tool in the area.

Steven’s Rosado, and Inter-American Division News Staff
Members of a marching band created by a retired pastor and his wife play during a recent march in the streets of Yare, Venezuela. [Photo: East Venezuela Union]

A marching band created by an experienced Seventh-day Adventist pastor and his wife in Venezuela celebrated 12 years of praising God and engaging young and old alike in a local church and community. Sinai Marching Band was launched in 2011 in Valles del Tuy, Miranda State, south of Caracas (the capital city of Venezuela), by now retired pastor Pedro Gil and his wife, Rut, its musical director.

“When my husband and I were close to retirement, we visited Valles del Tuy and saw a need to provide guidance to the local youth,” Rut said. “This is how the idea of creating a marching band was born, to help young people stay away from drugs and crime.”

Little by little, the Gils began to purchase musical instruments — including snare drums, lyre xylophones, and cymbals — often by paying for them in installments. Eventually, they had about 50 instruments and repair kits. In 2023, the Gils were glad to report that, for the first time, they were gifted a couple instruments. Now they are planning to purchase some cuatros, a Venezuelan instrument similar to the ukelele but with a distinctive character and sound. With that, the Gils are planning to dabble in other music styles to enlarge their repertoire.

Steady Growth

Rut Gil shared how, from those humble beginnings with a small group of young and adult Adventist church members, the band has grown to include 26 young participants from the community. Current young members were first contacted thanks to the “Give Them Something to Eat” initiative by Edgar Mongua and his team of volunteers, she said.

“The marching band has been a beautiful musical experience for me, but my greatest achievement has been working with children from the community,” Rut said. “When I see their happy faces, when I provide them with a hot meal, I feel grateful to God.”

Likewise, Rut explained, “every time we place a musical instrument in their hands, we are teaching them about a future of service while enjoying God’s blessings.”

The current composition of the band includes a general director, a musical director, a treasurer, and a chaplain, Rut Gil reported.

An Outreach and Mission Tool

Through the years, the Sinai Marching Band has participated in various programs and events in several communities in the Valles del Tuy region, including Charallave, Santa Teresa, Ocumare, San Antonio, La Esperanza, and Yare. Its young members have performed at public evangelism events, special celebrations such as Mother’s and Father’s Day, and World No Tobacco Day, to name a few.

Rut Gil added that besides attending church and community events across the area, the marching band has performed at San Andrés University in Mérida, at an evangelistic series in Barquisimeto, and in the country’s capital city of Caracas. Thanks to the mission-driven approach of the initiative, six young members were baptized in 2022.

“Our current project includes offering Bible studies to the 26 kids from the community,” Rut said. “[Our purpose is] not only to give them music lessons but also Bible classes and to feed them every Saturday.”

Improving Young People’s Lives

Rency, an 11-year-old boy with autism who is a member of the marching band, said he’s happy to belong to the music ensemble. “I am so happy. I have learned to play the lyre xylophone and the snare drum at different beats,” he shared.

But the most important thing, according to Rency, is “spending time with friends, performing across communities, and helping to distribute meals to those in need.”

The Valles del Tuy sub-region is part of what is known as the larger Great Caracas region. According to a November 2022 study, at least 50 percent of Venezuela’s 28 million residents live in poverty. Since 2014, more than 7 million residents have fled to neighboring countries and beyond. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, about 150,000 Venezuelans have returned home, often after losing their jobs in their host countries.

The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division news site.