More than 12,000 church members volunteered to spread messages of hope and offer assistance to more than 200,000 people in 29 cities.
August 12, 2015 Laura Marrero/IAD Staff
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Caracas, Venezuela, mobilized thousands of its church members to bring a smile, share hope, beautify parks, and offer assistance to scores of people across streets and communities in the eastern part of the country on Aug. 1-9, 2015. It was the third such event in as many years.
Church leaders are calling it the most comprehensive community outreach to take place in Caracas and 28 other eastern cities in the country. More than 12,000 volunteers took time off from their jobs and daily schedules to touch the lives of more than 200,000 individuals.
During the historic initiative coined as “Close to You Venezuela—Smile God Loves You,” thousands of Adventist young and old donated 1,295 pints of blood, planted dozens trees, offered free health screenings, held health expos, visited the sick in hospitals and brought cheer to those in nursing homes, cleaned up parks and city streets. Mothers donated their breast milk, as well.
Church members also knocked on doors, offered prayers, distributed pamphlets, cleaned beaches, organized a clothing drive, participated in a 5K walk through the main streets, offered free haircuts, provided warm meals to the homeless, taught vacation bible school to thousands of children, participated in a campaign to end violence against children, and more.
The objective of the initiative was to see people smile amidst the difficult times in the country, said Pastor Josney Rodriguez, president of the church in East Venezuela.
“We want to let people know that there is a wonderful God who believes in us,” said Rodriguez. “We want to help our fellow men with love, supplying their basic needs, assisting them in a variety of activities, helping them feel that we are here to serve them and to invited them to join us in serving others,” explained Rodriguez.
Sharing hope and serving others is the vision the church has been working to expand since the initiative began in the capital city since 2013, when the church mobilized 3,000 volunteers.
“This initiative awakened commitment to our church members especially our young people who dedicated time, money and their talents to join in the efforts and has brought more visibility and positive image to the church in the community and the government,” added Rodriguez.
The church is positioning itself as a church with a deep social interest, especially through its blood donating campaigns promoted during the initiative, explained Rodriguez.
“Everywhere the church participates, records are broken with the blood drive,” he said.
The event was covered through over 70 media outlets including national television, radio stations, the print media, and social media platforms.
Several press conferences were held before the initiative took place in Caracas and the surrounding cities. The church’s Esperanza TV Venezuela online channel covered the daily activities as well.
The initiative ended last weekend at different locations, where volunteers gathered at the Jose Beracasa Gymnasium and at the Altamira Plaza near the metro station, where they shared their experiences and savored the blessings shared during the week’s event.
According to Pastor Rodriguez, this type of large-scale impact has never been seen in Venezuela and is one that brought joy and satisfaction to everyone who took part in it. “We praise God for each one of the volunteers who took time to serve, they are the real heroes of hope.”
Church leaders are already planning to expand the initiative to more cities and communities next year.
The East Venezuela Union is one of two major church regions in Venezuela with more than 146,400 Seventh-day Adventists worshiping in 539 churches and 275 congregations. The West Venezuela Union oversees the work of the church in the western part of the country.
For more information on the Seventh-day Adventist Church in East Venezuela and its recent impact, visit Cerca De ti Venezuela