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Patmos Venezuela Prison Ministry - Highlights of February 2024 Annual Planning Meeting

Patmos Venezuela Prison Ministry

Highlights of February 2024 Annual Planning Meeting

Cartagena, Colombia

Presented by:  Nery Duarte, Advisor

 

Background of Patmos Venezuela Prison Ministry


This Sustainable Agriculture Humanitarian Development concept was started after a mission visit from John R Steinmann, chair of the Board of Peoples Church of Toronto, to an Agricultural Development Project in Kenya, Africa. He was exposed to sustainable development, working alongside Christian humanitarian missions. The Peoples Church of Toronto also supports a similar project in Mexico with the same idea, and both have proven very successful. More importantly, they generate self-sustainability. John recruited former LAM Canada missionary Nery Duarte, who agreed to go to Mexico and Nicaragua to learn about this Project and develop the same program in Venezuela. After visiting both programs, Nery decided to take over this Project in Venezuela.


John and Nery travelled to Venezuela three times to start the project in a local church and penitentiary. The work at a local church was successful but did not achieve the final objectives because of a lack of leadership and vision by the local church administration. However, the work at a local penitentiary led by pastor Jorge Moreno, with an entrepreneurial vision became very successful. This pastor saw this agricultural project as an opportunity to enter prisons where preaching Christianity was discouraged. Patmos Venezuela Prison Ministry Venezuela was started. This ministry has now been involved in six penitentiaries across Venezuela, employing over 400 inmates. The agricultural program primary goal is to gain entrance to the penitentiaries to support the local churches or plant a congregation if there is no church. Seven new churches have been planted, 49 local churches have received biblical teachings, and around 23 acres of gardening have been developed. This Project and the Biblical teachings have been so influential that Venezuelan prison authorities and local gang leaders have become supportive and have provided protection and permits for the projects proper function. This is happening in penitentiaries considered as: “The world’s most dangerous prisons.” This is also happening in prisons where outside assistance had been previously discouraged. Click here for pictures.


Critical Issues: 


Venezuela is going through what has been described as the worst humanitarian disaster in the Americas after WWII. An estimated 8 million nationals have fled the country. Within the last 18 years, the standard of living has dropped from one of the highest in Latin America to the third after Haiti and Honduras. Long-term planning is complex. Patmos Prison Ministry, is working on several initiatives to provide Bible teachings, pastoral training, and evangelistic tools on a short-

term basis to local prison-based churches and regularly provide the agricultural supplies and training needed for an ongoing agriculture program. This prison ministry is working in a country with many uncertainties and where, at times, the practice of Christianity has been discouraged, and freedom of association has been curtailed. Patmos Venezuela Prison Ministry does not have a legal status in Venezuela, which makes it difficult to receive outside direct financial support. However, there is an opening to accept in-kind donations to continue its ministry. The ministry continues to overcome the challenges to obtain legal status. The main challenge is to remain apolitical yet respectful of the local governance and not to curtail any interest outside our primary mandate: Preaching and teaching the gospel of reconciliation.


Highlights of leadership meeting in Cartagena, Colombia:


  1. With the equivalent of the combined territorial size of Georgia and Florida plus tremendous fuel and land transportation shortages, the logistics of ministering in prisons across Venezuela is a challenge. Therefore, we agree to focus on central and western Venezuela, which will still be challenging. East Venezuela prisons, including El Dorado and Bolivar prison camps, will be visited as a second priority if more resources become available.

  2. For many years the prison system in Venezuela has been controlled by organized crime, and as a result, the prisons in Venezuela became the headquarters of the most powerful gangs. This setup has dramatically changed in the last six months as Venezuelan authorities have taken back control of most prisons. During this six-month transition, our prison ministry, Patmos Venezuela, was permitted to continue ministering in two prisons, Tachira and Miranda. Four new congregations have been planted at these penitentiaries, and the ministry has been given access to all available farming land. The transition in the prison system has ended as the authorities have taken complete control of all Venezuelan penitentiaries, and Patmos Venezuela has been invited to return to all Venezuelan penitentiaries. We agreed that we would start returning to gardening and supporting churches with teaching as resources became available.

  3. One of the subjects of our discussion was about extending our garden/teaching ministry to Venezuelan schools since the ministry has proven to be very effective in prisons, and we have received requests from churches and schools for us to come and develop such a program. During our discussions, we concluded that although the needs are overwhelming, we cannot expand due to logistics and operational limitations. However, we all agree such programs are indeed needed, and we now have the expertise and experience to expand to schools and local churches. We did not close the doors to these school requests but agreed to pursue the matter further once we solidify our prison work and our operational capacity.

  4. We have access to the Ramo Verde high security prison camp in Caracas, where one of our missionary’s interns has planted a vibrant church. We will give priority to supporting this church established inside the most isolated and secured Venezuelan prison.

  5. One of the greatest assets of Patmos Venezuela is that we have been able to cultivate a trusting relationship with key leaders of all the groups operating in Venezuelan prisons, including government military authorities, militia and gang leaders. We have made it abundantly clear that the only purpose for pursuing the gardening project inside prisons is because we want to provide some humanitarian and teaching relief to the inmates and also have a presence supporting the Christian evangelical movement.

  6. Patmos Venezuela Prison Ministry will continue seeking ways to obtain legal status before Venezuelan authorities. In the meantime, despite the lack of accreditation, the leadership has agreed to continue tracking all financial records and reporting as a fully accredited Venezuelan entity.

  7. One of the founders of this Venezuelan prison ministry, Nery Duarte, has been doing prison ministry since he fully understood and embraced the message of redemption at the age of 17.  He has persisted with that commitment for the last 45 years.  Nery, is a trained SAR technician with a background in emergency first intervention.  At the beginning of the Russian/Ukrainian war, he was invited to travel to Ukraine to assist.  He agreed, and for the last two years, he has been travelling and serving at the Ukrainian front lines, providing training and humanitarian/emergency medical assistance. Unexpectedly, Nery’s actions brought a great deal of purpose and much-needed reconciliation to the prison churches in Venezuela since they took it upon themselves to support their leader with corporate united prayer.

  8. The director of Patmos Venezuela Prison Ministry works and does all the prison ministry as a volunteer. In order to support himself and his family, he works as a motorcycle Uber Eats delivery driver. On top, he travels at least one whole week per month visiting prisons. He is now in need of replacing the motorbike. We have made inquiries, and a new motorbike in Venezuela cost $US 4,200.00. We have set raising funding for this specific need as a priority.


Looking ahead:


We have set a goal to raise $US30,000 this year. With this budget, we can continue operating in most prisons except El Dorado and Bolivar prison camps on the border of Brazil. For the moment, we have excluded these two penitentiaries for security reasons and several operational and logistic challenges.  


Nery Duarte

Advisor

Patmos Prison Ministries



Donate:

US charitable donations:  https://ibcmworld.com/donations/

Canada charitable donations:  https://micn.org/donate/

Indicate the account designation: Nery Duarte, IBC Costa Rica.  

Support account, or Mission projects account.


Direct Donation: Interact RBC




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