CARACAS, Venezuela (BP) -- Missionary Ed Engle puts his life in God's hands as he begins his journey up the mountain to El Coche, a slum in Caracas, Venezuela.
|"Pray that the people in the barrios won't just be saved, but that they will be like Paul or Timothy." |
-- IMB missionary
On the way, a man calls out and runs toward him, a nearly toothless smile lighting up his face. He's been drinking and can barely form a coherent sentence, but he recognizes Ed's friendly face. Engle embraces the inebriated man and spends a few minutes talking with him as best he can.
A few minutes later, Engle climbs into a crowded SUV -- the public transportation that will take him up the mountain. The roads are too steep for other vehicles and it's too hot to walk. He wipes the sweat from his face, then hands out Gospel tracts to the other passengers.
At the top of the mountain, Engle steps out onto the dirt road, mindful of the open stream of sewage flowing nearby. He spends the next few hours tirelessly trekking through the maze of tiny concrete and metal homes, handing out tracts and talking to residents about their families, their lives and Jesus.
He meets a 17-year-old girl -- with two young children -- whose lover has just thrown her onto the street. He visits a family in their home -- a doorless, windowless shack with an uneven dirt floor. Heavy rocks and beer bottles anchor the thin metal roof to the house.
As Engle winds his way from house to house, he isn't bothered by the lack of shade and water; it's worth the discomfort to share the Gospel.
Tomorrow, he'll get up and do it all again, knowing that there's plenty of work to do.
Of the more than 5 million people living in Caracas, only 1 percent are evangelical. Many of those who are spiritually lost live in the city's barrios (slums), considered some of the most dangerous in the world. Nearly 4 million people -- some 80 percent of the city's population -- live in lean-to houses that stretch across the mountains on either side of Caracas. The narrow streets are plagued with constant crime, substance abuse and gang violence.
Engle and his wife Pam, International Mission Board missionaries in Caracas, have worked in the slums of Caracas for 12 years. In a place where houses are built nearly on top of each other, there isn't space to hold large evangelistic services or other public events. Instead, the Engles, from Tennessee, must rely on individual conversations to tackle a God-size task. Read More