As Venezuela struggles to cope with its
worst disaster in modern times, World Relief and the national churches
are working to give survivers a means to meet the new millineum with hope.
"These people are terrified of the future. They have no idea what they will do," says Rev. Samuel Olson, president of the Evangelical Council of Venezuela. Rev. Olson comforted one woman who spoke matter-of-factly about the loss of her husband, children and home. But when asked about her plans for the future, she became speechless. "Her brain has literally not allowed her to think of the future," Rev. Olson explains. "As she thought of my question, she went into shock and hasn't spoken since."
On December 16, avalanches of mud and debris, triggered by torrential rains, buried entire towns along a 60-mile stretch of the Carribean coast near Caracas. Currently, the death toll is estimated at 30,000, but workers on the ground believe the death toll could be significantly higher. Entire towns and population records have been destroyed. No people remain to report the dead.
The Venezuelan churches have access to emergency provisions, such as water, food and medical supplies along with the volunteers to distribute them. But they need help in coordinating the mass distribution. World Relief is helping the churches distribute relief supplies and provide temporary shelter and trauma counseling. As approximately 400,000 people lost their homes and material possessions and more than 200,000 jobs have been permanently lost, World Relief plans to continue helping the church meet the longer-term needs for housing and jobs. World Relief's Assistant Director of Microenterprise Development, Dave Larson, met with some of the devastated families yesterday. One asked him, "What will we do? All that I worked for is gone.
The company I worked for was destroyed. I have no house and no job."
As it did for Turkish earthquake victims and Kosovar refugees, World Relief is committed to help evangelical churches of Venezuela meet the pressing needs of the country's citizens.