Christian organizations around the world are rallying behind New Tribes Mission as it faces the possibility of being expelled from Venezuela after nearly 60 years of service to the indigenous people of the country.
As New Tribes Mission (NTM)s field committee, Marcos Brito and Tim Fyock, along with NTMs Venezuelan lawyer, Dr. Andrade, address the Venezuelan media through national television and radio programs, Christian agencies are supporting NTMs stance and praising its mission work in Venezuela and throughout the world.
Our response here at Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) is essentially sadness at the lost of the people of Venezuela, of the service of New Tribes Mission if in fact this threat is followed through on and all the missionaries are forced to leave the country, said VOM Spokesman Todd Nettleton.
This is a mission organization with a great history of service in that country; a great history of service to the people of Venezuela, the indigenous people, the tribal people and the poor people.
Similarly, Samuel Olson, president of Venezuelas top evangelical organization, The Evangelical Council of Venezuela, also praised the works that NTM had accomplished in the past six decades of missions.
Its unfortunate that this has to happened, said Olson to Christianity Today. New Tribes has done very, very fine work among many of the tribes in Venezuela.
In an unexpected declaration on Oct. 12, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered NTM to leave the country during a nationally televised speech. Chavez accused the mission group of collaborating with the CIA, violating custom laws, and living in luxury, among other allegations.
NTM believes that the Venezuelan government has misunderstood NTMs mission, purpose as well as its relationship to the U.S. government.
The accusation by Chavez that New Tribes Mission is somehow connected with the CIA or that their missionaries live in luxury are xenophobic and ridiculous, said Jim Jacobson president of Christian Freedom International. I fear Chavez is becoming so anti-Christian, anti-America that no U.S. based missions organization operating in Venezuela will be safe
Stephen Kopalchick, U.S. Director for the Barnabas Fund also commented on the allegations, noting that this incident is part of a growing trend of suspicion among national governments and mission groups.
The expulsion of New Tribes Mission from Venezuela simply highlights the fact that, increasingly, foreign governments are linking Christian missionary activity to U.S. foreign policy. Chavezs comments and actions seem to reflect this growing, worldwide trend, and given the current geo-political realities, the pressures facing the Church, particularly the indigenous Church, are only likely to increase.
During its service in Venezuela, NTM has built health units and dispensaries, schools where children are taught in their own indigenous languages by indigenous teachers, planted churches with indigenous leaders, translated Bibles into indigenous languages among other works.
New Tribes Mission in Venezuela has been a very important source of support, said Jose Kayupare of the Puinave people to NTM.
For those of us who live in the jungle, [NTMs expulsion] really is a decision that the majority of indigenous people in Amazonas dont support, he added.
Seeing NTMs contribution to the country, Nettleton said, you would think that a president who cares about his countrymen would want all the help he can get for them. Instead this president is forcing people who are there to serve, who are there to help, who are there to bless the people around them, to bless the entire nation he is forcing them to leave.
We feel sadness for them, the VOM spokesman added, we feel frustration at some of the events that have led to this point and we just encourage people to be praying for the missionaries of New Tribes Missions as well as for the people of Venezuela and especially the Christians there.
So far, according to NTMs news update, President Chavez has not signed documents that would officially order NTM to leave Venezuela and NTM has not received communication from the Venezuelan government.