Though President Hugo Chavez last week ordered New Tribes Mission (NTM) to leave Venezuela, the mission reports it hasn't received an official expulsion order and says it won't leave on media reports alone.

U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield has asked Chavez's government to reconsider its plan. Brownfield denied that NTM missionaries are CIA spies, as Chavez claimed in a nationally televised speech on October 12. At that event, Chavez announced NTM's imminent expulsion from Venezuela, where it has ministered among indigenous peoples since 1946. Chavez did not set a date for the expulsion, but said he would give the missionaries time to "gather their stuff."

The U.S. ambassador has offered to mediate discussions between NTM and Venezuela.

The expulsion order was also made by Liborio Guarulla, governor of Amazonas state, where NTM primarily ministers. NTM's spokesperson, Nita Zelenak, said that NTM has not received formal papers from the state's governor or the national government.

NTM Venezuela field director Chuck Marshall said that army soldiers came to one NTM family's home in Amazonas state to ask them to leave. The missionary asked for the soldiers' written authorization, but the soldiers had none and left. Should Venezuelan officials present NTM workers with formal papers to leave, "We would ask our people to comply," Marshall said.

The Sanford, Florida-based New Tribes Mission is an evangelical church-planting and Bible-translating agency that ministers among unreached people groups in Latin America, West Africa, and Southeast Asia. Worldwide, the mission has 3,200 workers, including 160 in Venezuela.

NTM's Venezuela ministry includes 30 Venezuelans. The rest of NTM's 160 workers are from the United States, Canada, England, ...

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