Hello! We are the team at Next Step. Stay tuned for stories of empowerment from our partners around the world.
By Wolfgang Fernandez.
It is not apparent in the news yet for the last few months I have continued to watch in horror and disbelief at the further deterioration of society in Venezuela.
It is estimated that more than 4 million Venezuelans have left the county in the last five years. First, were those with enough resources to buy plane tickets relocating to Europe, the United States, and beyond.
Now it is the turn of those taking buses and walking the rest of the way. The numbers crossing the bridge that links Venezuela and Colombia in the city of Cúcuta continues to overwhelm anyone’s imagination. It is estimated that over 100,000 Venezuelans are in Cúcuta alone at this moment with more coming every day.
The same is happening to the south in Brasil. The difference is that going to Brasil means going through the Amazon jungle. Boa Vista, a city of 250,000 is the first urban center. Having done their best to receive the newcomers, they are now desperately trying to figure out how to attend to them. The state’s governor has declared a state of emergency.
In this environment, all forms of human exploitation is thriving. Abuse is rampant and so is victimization of those who escape a desperate situation to another where their worth is treated with disdain.
In the other hand, being designated “ Refugees” can be problematic because such immigrants can’t return to Venezuela; President Nicolás Maduro has called them “traitors” of the state yet many say that as long as Mr. Maduro is in power they have no reason to return.
On top of all of these challenges, diseases like Malaria and Yellow Fever which were under control are now thriving. A recent report from the Venezuelan Health Department revealed 275,000 cases of Malaria. Our partners in LivFul have the product that can contain insect borne diseases but we need funding to get the product over there.
At the moment, together with Nexus, our partners in Venezuela, we are working on ways to support groups of churches that are stretching their resources to serve Venezuelans.
These Venezuelans continue to swell the 65 million around the world who wander, seeking a place to live in safety and decency.
The resulting abuses and injustice created a space that President Hugo Chavez decisively filled in 1999. He defined his leadership as a rally point for the poor to demand what was unjustly taken from them. Chavez became the undisputed leader of the country winning with overwhelming majorities the elections three times. He changed the constitution and even the name of the country.
Chavez then, began to project his message beyond the borders of Venezuela becoming a messenger of justice and a “savior” to the poor everywhere. He began by providing badly needed oil to Cuba and other poor Caribbean islands. He even provided cheap oil for the poor in the USA through one of Venezuela companies in the country.
Last July while visiting our partners in Denpasar, Bali, I met three ladies who had been infected by HIV-AIDS through their husbands; they found themselves ostracized and with no way to care for themselves or their children.
Fortunately, they met Andy and his wife Chika who run Gerasa, a community serving people in need. They offered the women and their children food and a place to sleep. The ladies went through the training program and now serve others who find themselves in similar predicaments. We have worked with Andy and Chika for the last 9 years, we know the special love and care they give these women,
Together with Andy, we developed several initiatives to help these women and others like them to stand on their own feet while encouraging others to find dignity, freedom and peace. Some of those initiatives included cleaning motorcycles, laundry services, selling food and coffee, and even making and selling organic soaps. However, they were not able to find sustainable success in any of these.
A couple of months ago, my colleague Andrew Jones (from New Zealand) introduced us to Nicole Voelkel (from USA). She is a fellow sojourner from everywhere. She is a Missional Fashion Designer and has worked in projects in Mexico, Mozambique, Colombia and will now partner with us in Bali.
Nicole will be in Denpasar on December 10 and will invest a month to train the minds, hearts and spirits of the women of Gerasa. She will enhance their sewing skills and prepare them to sew her designs using local fabrics. Nicole will then sell their products in the USA and Europe, investing back into the ladies in Bali, empowering them to sustain their lifestyles and continue to serve others.
We have an opportunity to be part of this exciting process by buying 10 sewing machines to get the ladies of Gerasa started. You can help us buy a new machine for $350 which will enable these women to sew items that Nicole will sell in USA and Europe and in turn support herself, her
children and the work of Gerasa.
Your gift is fully tax deductible (in the USA) and you will be helping sustain not only the ladies sewing but the entirety of the Gerasa community.
You can donate to this project here.
As Mount Agung in Bali rumbles, 91,000 villagers living in the vicinity of the mountain have been displaced leaving their homes and their simple belongings under the threat of imminent destruction.
The famous island of Bali, located right on the “ring of fire” is an idilic place and the most visited tourist destination in 2017 according to Trip Advisor. I have visited Bali dozens of times and have enjoyed it’s balmy weather, amazing hospitality, delicious food and beautiful sites, it truly is a place to cherish.
Some of my best friends are locals who love this island and serve those who are negatively impacted by the dark side of tourism. Illegal drugs and sex trade which are also part of the “attractions” offered here, victimize Indonesians that are caught in the vortex of insatiable pleasure. Local people end up as the hidden victims of sex trade and drug abuse, ranking Bali among the highest HIV-AIDS affected communities in Indonesia.
These days, people like Andy and Frans are turning their attention to serve the displaced in the makeshift camps set up by the local authorities. Together with teams of volunteers they are providing basic services to encourage those who are now fearing for their lives.
Children, are among the ones that need a great deal of attention as they are easily bored and can quickly get in to mischief.
Frans together with his wife Lydia run The Way, a barber shop in the Uluwatu area. Here they offer great haircuts at affordable prices while training local barbers to offer excellent service and customer care. Last Tuesday (September 26) Frans and Lydia brought 25 orphans, who live in the region of the volcano to their shop providing haircuts and then taking these kids to the beach.
Andy and his wife Chika, run Gerasa Bali, a rehabilitation and community development center for victims of drug abuse and HIV-AIDS. Together with their team, Andy and Chika have gone into the displaced people camps in order to bring a little joy and fun helping them experience care at deeper levels.
Please join us in praying that the volcano’s activity will not bring further chaos and destruction to Bali.
You can also join us in financially supporting our friends who are serving there right now. You can donate your financial gift to Next Step and all funds will be sent directly to Bali.
From the most remote regions of Indonesia, they have come to the USA to prepare themselves to bring change to their communities.
Populated by tribal groups, Papua is home to around 312 different tribes, including some un-contacted peoples. The ancient cultures of Papua have remained disconnected from all forms of modern progress. This isolation has given them a sense of identity and autonomy which would be challenged at every level as outsiders began to approach them. Under the jurisdiction of Indonesia since 1969, Papua lies hundreds of miles to the east of Jakarta. It is the last in the string of Indonesian islands.
In recent years a new generation of Papuans has emerged who are committed to their people and land and preparing themselves to bring 21st century leadership to their communities.
Veronica grew up in Sentani. She lost her father at a very early age and her Mom worked very hard to support her and her other five siblings. She worked at an airfield and began to learn about airplanes and airport management. Today, she is studying Business Management and wants to continue to study Aviation Administration management for a masters degree and dreams of providing air transport to remote areas of the vast island.
Anis comes from the remote Highlands, an area surrounded by 3,000 meter high mountains: the only place where one can find snow in Indonesia. He is studying Aviation and Political Sciences and dreams of creating transportation systems that will ease commerce lowering the prices of goods and services.
These two, among the 14 other Papuan students, are preparing themselves to make a difference in their communities. The enthusiasm and commitment to their people is evident in the way their plans were explained.
FICA (Fellowship of Indonesian Christians in America) in an organization dedicated to bring students, in this case – Papuans and mostly Chinese-Indonesians – to work together represents a major step forward in forging a better future for the nation.
The people of Papua feel colonized by Indonesia. The political and economic injustices that have ensued as a result of being ruled by outsiders have nurtured anger and resentment. The attempts by the central government to be of assistance and encourage development have constantly been marred by the corruption that is endemic in all governmental endeavors.
In the mean time, socially, Papua is unraveling. People coming to the urbanized centers from their remote villages experience such clash of civilizations that it overwhelms them. The rates of HIV-AIDS, drug abuse, and promiscuity among young people are among the highest of the nation. A whole generation of young people is being lost. Unfortunately, the traditional safety nets no longer hold society together.
In these uncharted waters there are no road maps that can assure a stable and prosperous future for the people of Papua.
This 24th annual FICA gathering represents a fresh wind of hope for the people of Papua. By bringing together Indonesians from diverse backgrounds FICA is laying a great foundation for the future. I experienced this firsthand as students interacted with each other, both in discussion groups as well as simply sightseeing at night in downtown Chicago.
The plans being crafted between students in the USA will define working partnerships that could last a lifetime, representing real hope for unity and progress.
Having started two years ago with a small personal investment of $10,000, Ibu Sora, a local lady with a heart for the women in the region’s villages has started a movement providing a qualified mother a loan of $100 which is paid back in 6 months at $5 per week. The basic income of the villagers is $1 per day but since its inception, we have seen in the first year their average income increase to $5 per day with some reaching up to $10 per day.
In this fourth trip to the area, my wife and I visited two of the communities impacted by the program. In Tangung Pura, a typical village in the northern part of Sumatra, we met 20 women who have been implementing their business projects for the last 2 months.
This was a typical weekly gathering where they meet each other, review their experiences, and exchange tips and ideas. They also receive input from the team and discuss new concepts. This meeting also serves as the financial accountability checkpoint where they pay their loan back and pay into a savings account which provides them with a security they’ve never had before.
The ladies of PERTIWI (the cooperative) are different than most village women. Through their own hard work, they have earned a sense of dignity and security which now define them as active assets for their family and community.
Through our program, they learn to spend money only on what is necessary, thus avoiding the consumerist mindset prevalent in our culture today. They also learn that their word is their greatest asset. Finally, we also teach them the priority of paying off their debts so that they can be free from financial burdens.
As their income increases, these women are able to send their children to school, breaking the cycle of poverty that keeps these communities in bondage. They also are able to improve their living standards by acquiring clean water and homes with sufficient ventilation.
The number of loans has now reached 1,500 and we aim to add another 100 per month for rest of this year. While we are happy with this growth, the needs are far greater than this. Currently, we have 1000 ladies ready to join the program.
We are looking for partners that will join us and help bring practical and lasting change to these communities. Will you join us?
Take a closer look at the Pertiwi Microloan Project here.
Next Step Ministries is a USA based 501(c)3 non-profit organization Tax ID: 20—028787