Carmelo Alvarez - Venezuela
Juan Valladares has been an active member of the Evangelical Pentecostal Union of Venezuela since its foundation. It was in her house that a new congregation was started in Ospino, Portuguesa way back in the 1950s. And Juana continues to be faithful member at Oasis of Peace congregation in Ospino to this day.
In August 2005 the Evangelical Pentecostal Union of Venezuela held its biannual Convention in Ospino, and Juana was a faithful attendant to every session and every worship service. Like any good Pentecostal she wanted to be "en la presencia de Dios y la de mis hermanos y hermanas" (in God's presence and that of my sisters and brothers). I preached three times during that Convention and experienced how attentive and intense she was during those moments. For years I have known Juana and at times felt that she had some difficulties with her sight.
On Sunday morning, immediately after the Bible study I led in the closing session of the Convention, Juana came to see me. She was full of joy and almost dancing in the Spirit. She hugged me and expressed: "Didn't you notice something different in me?" Yes, Juana, you have new eye glasses, I replied. "And not only new eye glasses, I had surgery in Cuba to correct my cataracts and implant a new lens. It's that new mission that is called Misión Milagro (Miracle Mission); thousands of Venezuelans have received this blessing. To me as a Pentecostal is another way in which the Holy Spirit is doing miracles."
Juana was so happy that she started singing:
I have joy in my soul.
Joy in my soul and whole being.
They are like streams of living water,
Streams of living water,
Streams of living water in my being
For Pentecostals like Juana, God can provide healing through different ways and means. The important thing is to recognize God's healing power and presence. The most important miracle is to believe in God, believing in God's promises. Jesus is a living presence who touches the lives of others as he is touched by them. This healing touch is what Juana and other have experienced, as a transforming power. Jesus performed many miracles in his ministry and this compassionate touch is needed in so many places. The church needs to continue sharing thus sign of renewal to a broken world.
Like Juana, many women in Venezuela are seeing miracles these days. Misión Milagro brought not only physical healing but spiritual healing as well. The program is designed to provide treatment for people with serious eye injuries and illnesses. To this day more than 200,000 Venezuelans have received the benefits of this program. And many more will continue receiving the same benefits as the Venezuelan government in cooperation with the Cuban government is equipping new clinics all over Venezuela to perform these surgeries and provide other health services, even in isolated communities.
An important lesson here is to reclaim God's healing touch in our lives, in our faith communities. Are we paying attention to this neglected aspect of our life together in Christian community? How can healing ministries be integrated into our mission, liturgy, evangelism and education ministries? How can we become agents of healing in local communities?
I believe that Juana's testimony can help us to discern the miracles not yet seeing in our lives. We only need faith!
Carmelo Alvarez serves as a missionary affiliate appointed by the Common Global Ministries Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ to serve with the Latin American Evangelical Pentecostal Commission (CEPLA) and the Evangelical Pentecostal Union of Venezuela (UEPV) based in Chicago, Illinois. He serves as program consultant and visiting professor for the Latin American Pentecostal Commission (CEPLA) and the Evangelical Pentecostal Union of Venezuela (UEPV).