Rev. Matthew and Heather Ruesch
Serving the Lord in Puerto Rico
Area: 9,104 sq km
Greater Antilles, between Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands.
Population: 3,998,010 Annual Growth: 0.43%
Capital: San Juan
Largest Religion: Christian 3,809, 304 Evangelicals 1,007, 520
Challenges for Prayer
Pray for the Rueschs as they serve in Puerto Rico. Pray God gives them strength and peace as they transition to life in Puerto Rico, learning the culture and the language so they may effectively communicate the Gospel. Pray specifically for the Ruesch children as they adjust to their new school, meet new friends and learn about the Puerto Rican culture. Pray that the Lord would continue to provide support for this mission, allowing the Rueschs to stay in the field and serve the people of Mayagüez. Pray that the Holy Spirit would grant growth of the Mayagüez congregation and provide opportunities for new church plants throughout Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico is traditionally Catholic, but evangelicals have grown steadily from 0.1% in 1900 to 25.2 % in 2010, with some claiming even higher. A host of small indigenous groups, mostly neo-Pentecostal and charismatic, accounts for the majority of denominations and churches, and this is where most growth is currently happening. Sadly, the churches make little impact on the many social needs of the nation.
Societal problems cry out for Christian involvement. The incidence of substance abuse, disease, corruption, crime and poverty are some of the highest in the Americas. This being so in a land that is 97% Christian and 25% evangelical is an affront to the gospel. Specific prayer needs are:
a) Poverty. Over 45% of the population live below the poverty line. It is significantly poorer than the poorest US state of Mississippi, and half of the island relies on food aid.
b) Education. Only 11% have a college degree, while 62% fail to complete secondary school – the highest dropout rate in the USA. These low education levels are profoundly linked to unemployment, poverty and crime issues.
c) Home life. An astonishing 61% poverty rate for households headed by females. Given the widespread family breakdown on the island, this accounts for a large portion of the population; many youths grow up deprived of material security as well as a father figure and male role model.
d) Health and substance abuse. Puerto Rico endures some of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS, drug addiction and alcoholism of any US state or territory.
Venezuela, Latin America
Area: 912,050 sq km
About 80% of the population live along the Caribbean coastal belt in the north; the center and south are grasslands and tropical forest.
Population: 29,043,555 Annual Growth: 1.68%
Official language: Spanish
Largest Religion: Christian 24,553,421 Evangelicals 3,147,421
Fastest Growing Religion: Non-religious.
Challenges for Prayer
Challenges facing the churches.The need is for:
· Commitment to discipleship. Confronted with poverty, political activism and outright spiritual warfare, believers need to make wise choices. A life of true discipleship is not easy, and full-time ministry is even more of a challenge.
· Unity is essential for further growth and for the power to stand up to opposition. Cooperation is higher than ever before through the work of the Evangelical Council of Venezuela (representing 150 Christian groups).
· Missions vision is spreading within the churches, and interest is growing, especially among younger people. But the challenge of sending workers to Latin America and beyond is significant.
· Leadership training is crucial for sustaining church growth and preserving biblical doctrine. There are two main seminaries, a Baptist seminary and the Evangelical Seminary of Caracas, which serves both mainline and Pentecostal churches. A host of denominations run Bible institutes and schools. Even more vital are modular and correspondence training courses and in-service training programs, increasingly available to people who lack the time or income to study full-time. Church planter training also occurs.
Venezuela is unstable and deeply divided. Oil boosts the economy, but poverty is widespread. 60% of the city dwellers live in slums. Venezuela ranks as the 2nd most corrupt nation in Latin America. Significant drug and human trafficking passes through Venezuela. Pray for sensible policies that strengthen the nation and strive for peace at home abroad. Pray that the most needy people will receive care.
Spiritual forces battle in Venezuela. Both rich and poor visit witch doctors in the thousands of spiritist and occult shops. One cult has 500,000 followers. Fewer people go to church than any other Latin America nation. Pray for the Holy Spirit to bind all the powers that blind Venezuelans to Truth, and to reveal Christ to all.