Venezuelan evangelicals have united in a humanitarian response to December's flood and mudslide disasters here, and their work is opening doors for evangelism and church planting. The storms brought massive destruction to hillside squatter communities in the capital of Caracas and along the coast. Some church workers fear the death toll may exceed official estimates of 50,000. More than 300,000 people have found semi-permanent housing in stadiums, where they probably will remain for up to a year, says Sam Olson, president of the Evangelical Council of Venezuela (ECV).

"The disaster was no respecter of social classes or income levels," says TEAM's field chairman James Carmean, referring to large single-family homes in the plush resort community of Macuto that are filled with mud and rocks.ECV, along with the Pentecostal Confederation of Venezuela, has united over 75 evangelical ministries to run nearly 100 distribution centers. ECV also is establishing long-term ministries that will channel aid from several dozen Christian aid agencies, including World Relief, World Vision, Samaritan's Purse, map, the Southern Baptist Convention, Mennonites, and Operation Blessing. Government officials say that moving the disaster victims to new towns in the country's interior will get them away from the precarious shanty towns that cling to the side of mountains around Caracas and relieve overcrowding in the capital city.

"I view these new communities as a church-planting opportunity," says Charles Fuller, a missionary with the Latin America Mission in Caracas. Up to 50 churches were reported destroyed in the disaster.

"The nation has been greatly affected by the tragedy," Fuller says. "People are more open and have some really big questions. It is a good thing that we have a really big God."

Related Elsewhere

ECV has established an English-language Web site with information about the disaster and the relief efforts. For more information about the country, the floods, and relief efforts, see Yahoo!'s full coverage area on Venezuela.

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