NASHVILLE (BP) – Somewhere in a Venezuelan prison, Luis*, a 26-year-old inmate, recently received new life after placing His trust in Christ. And his newfound faith has been bolstered in large part due to a new Bible he received through a partnership with LifeWay and an organization that has been mobilized to distribute copies of God’s Word throughout the country.
In August 2020, LifeWay Christian Resources donated nearly 30,0000 copies of Spanish “Reina Valera” (RVR) Bibles of nine different types for distribution across Venezuela through the global ministry partner. Some of the types of Bibles include large print, reference and “Colormax” – a more visually dynamic version suited for students.
This mission wasn’t without its challenges. Fuel shortages and COVID-19 lockdowns hindered the distribution. Even still, hundreds of ministry partners were mobilized to transport Bibles through 2,200 churches in 19 Venezuelan states between October and December 2020, primarily to citizens who did not previously own a Bible – people like Luis.
“I had no Bible, and it is a gift I never expected to receive,” Luis wrote. “It is something marvelous that I will truly cherish. I am moved as I see the hand of God operating through your ministry, which I realize is the result of much effort. The attention you give us here in prison seems incredible to me, because I know God is able to change lives.”
At a cost of about six months’ wages, a Bible is a luxury most Venezuelans can’t afford.
“A very important part of our work since the beginning of LifeWay as an organization has been serving the church wherever the church is located, searching for the best way to serve their needs and to help with the realities of the local communities,” said César Custodio, LifeWay’s Spanish sales and marketing director.
“Over the years we have served countries such as Venezuela through our commercial partners. However, this has been a mission that has been complicated because of the situation that this beautiful country has gone through in the last few years.”
This mission to get Bibles into the hands of Venezuelans began by selecting trusted local church partners in consultation with the Evangelical Council of Venezuela (CEV). Church leaders from the states that received Bibles compiled lists of beneficiaries divided into five categories:
- Church members who did not own a Bible
- New believers who didn’t own a Bible
- Elderly church members (for the large-print Bibles)
- Pastors who did not own a reference or study Bible (for the reference Bibles)
- Youth ages 10-18 from economically vulnerable believing families or new believers who did not own a Bible (for the “Colormax” Bibles)
Local church leaders distributed the Bibles to beneficiaries in their respective churches and parishes using Bible fairs and special “Bible Month” events. Thousands of church leaders who had never owned a reference Bible, or whose old Bibles were well worn after years of use received new ones to assist them with their sermon preparation and personal discipleship.
Due to transportation challenges, some teens walked for miles to receive their first Bibles. In the States of Zulia and Amazonas, two indigenous groups – the Wayuu and the Piaroa – were able to receive Bibles.
Church leaders from all states expressed their appreciation for the Bibles, which arrived just as the humanitarian crisis deepened in Venezuela and inflation rates skyrocketed.
“We can see the current worldwide crisis, such as COVID-19 and the way it has expanded throughout the country of Venezuela, imposing great challenges that grow every day and affect the local churches,” Custodio said.
“We pray the church in Venezuela knows that LifeWay supports the great mission they undertake during these difficult times. It is with great joy that LifeWay and the Spanish resource team get to know that our work out of Nashville, Tenn., can bless the lives of the Venezuelan people. Our hearts and our prayers are united with the church in Venezuela.”
As the economic crisis deepens and the COVID-19 pandemic spreads in the country, these Bibles provide churches with a tool to reach their neighbors and friends with the hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ – the same hope that will sustain Luis as he begins his personal ministry in a Venezuelan prison.
“How could I imagine starting a new life in this prison?” he wrote. “It was a fantasy. But when I came to Christ and came to know Him, He gave new meaning to my life. … Thank you for the food and medicine you provide and for this Bible. I have felt loved by Jesus, and I know that other colleagues of mine here in prison have felt the same.”