Nearly 9,000 Seventh-day Adventists in East Venezuela recently participated in what has become the church’s most comprehensive annual social program since 2013. Coined as Close to You Venezuela 2021, church member volunteers distributed supplies and brought messages of hope to those facing economic challenges. The program took place between July 1 and August 7.
Thousands of young people in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, took to the streets to the beat of marching bands to distribute bags of fruit and literature in plazas, sidewalks and hospitals. They held up signs and banners displaying encouraging words for the benefit of drivers and onlookers at traffic lights. Many of the youth dressed in heart-shaped costumes and cheered on those around them and took selfies with them.“What was so impressive to see was that each volunteer offered relief and hope to those who needed it,” said David Manrique, youth ministries director for the church in East Venezuela and main organizer of the initiative. “We praise God for giving us this enormous privilege to give and be a blessing to others.”
In the State of Miranda, dozens of children received toys and meals, and dozens of people received free haircuts.
Volunteers also distributed breakfast arepas, fruit and books to 210 people at the Santo Anibal Dominicci de Carupano Hospital in the State of Sucre.Elsewhere throughout the eastern region, thousands of children took part in vacation bible school, sports and arts and crafts. Volunteers offered free medical attention, health talks, organized blood drives and cleaned up parks and streets.
“Smiling has great health benefits, and young people accepted the challenge to go and share the gospel and a smile with someone who might not know the love of God,” said Diana Díaz, volunteer of the East Venezuela Conference.
The vision for the rest of the year is to continue with the social program once a week to reach more people, explained Manrique.“We are going to keep instructing our members to continue working in these projects in a more permanent way,” said Pastor Alpidio Ytriago, youth ministries leader in the East Venezuela Conference. “We cannot lose the heat of this fire since this is a very effective way of reaching people.”
Wilbelly Loreto, who for many years has volunteered as ADRA leader in Zone V of the South Central Venezuelan Conference, congratulated volunteers. “You must move forward, one heart at a time, conquering souls for Christ,” she said.The event was carried online and though social media platforms.
In West Venezuela, thousands of church members also celebrated the initiative from Aug. 1- 7, sharing food and clothing and offering free medical check-ups and haircuts. They also painted park pavilions.