Christian churches in Venezuela are asking other believers to pray as their country is gripped by worsening political crisis.
"The Christians in Venezuela are asking us, in North America, to pray for them-to pray for a solution to the situation," Steve Shantz, Trans World Radio's international vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean, said, according to Mission Network News. TWR is a ministry that works through mass media to reach people for Christ.
The country has been rocked with a series of protests since March 30, when the Venezuelan Supreme Court took over the congressional powers of the opposition-led National Assembly.
The move has pushed opposition leaders to label Pres. Nicolás Maduro as a "dictator."
"Nicolas Maduro has carried out a 'coup d'etat' ... this is a dictatorship," Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly, said at a news conference, according to Reuters. He proceeded to tear up a copy of the Supreme Court ruling, calling it "trash from people who have kidnapped the constitution, rights and freedom of Venezuelans."
Last Sunday, Maduro declared talks with the opposition will resume, but there appears to be no sign that the protests will be ending anytime soon. Ten people have died in the protests this month, with 11 more believed to have been killed by electrocution when a bakery was looted in Caracas, according to the BBC.
As the country's political crisis has continued to heat up, its economic crisis has also worsened, resulting in the continuing shortage of basic needs like food and medicine.
Shantz said the situation is "very dire." The inflation rate, presently at 679 percent, is predicted to rise up to 2,000 percent by next year if these problems persist.
The economic crisis has gotten so bad that "in some cases, people are actually starving," and the number of violent crimes has increased, Shantz said.
Maduro has tasked the military with food distribution, but the military has taken advantage of the situation and made profit by operating illegal markets with prices up to 100 times higher than the government's recommended price. Those who need food are not able to buy it, the Associated Press reported.
Some hungry Venezuelans have resorted to picking up grains of rice and corn that fall from trucks. Others have turned to flamingos and anteaters for food.
In the midst of the chaos, TWR continues to bring hope to Venezuelans through its morning show called Despertar.
"People listen to it when they're getting ready for work and on their morning drive," Shantz said. "And we also insert a lot of devotional-type thoughts into Despertar, into the program. Many of the words we're speaking are words of encouragement."
The church has also become a place where people find grace. Shantz told a story of how, in one church, people bring food like rice and beans-despite what little they have-and feed up to 120 children every week.
He said one thing North American churches can do is to pray for an end to Venezuela's political and economic crises.
"As believers here in North America, we can pray that somehow the political situation in Venezuela comes to a reconciliation so that the country can start meeting the needs of the people, of the poor," he said. "And we could pray that somehow Venezuela will get the currency they need to purchase food and drugs."