Vision 195 Spotlight on Visión Para Vivir in Venezuela
"Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or
mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times
as much in return and will inherit eternal life." (Matthew 19:29)
Vanessa couldn't rest. Amidst the familiar sounds of her house asleep, she
could almost hear Jesus whispering those words He spoke to His disciples
when Peter asked what they would receive for giving up everything to follow
Him. The Lord's response settled Vanessa's heart.
After all, it was a mutual passion for the Scriptures that had drawn her to
her husband, Cesar. He was one of the best orthopedic surgeons in
Venezuela, with training from both Harvard and Cornell—well regarded at
both hospitals where he practiced and the university where he taught. His
intelligence and reputation might have drawn others, but his love for the
Word had sealed Vanessa to him. In Venezuela, such love blooms like the
"Queen of the Night"—the rare, breathtaking Kadupul flower that opens its
delicate, white petals only at night. Finding a man who treasured the
Scriptures as she did assured Vanessa that Cesar was for her.
They married in 2003 and made their home near family. Cesar continued
practicing medicine and teaching; Vanessa owned a graphic design business.
Although crime and poverty spread as communism reached deeper into the
country, they hadn't been affected. They had a nice home, where they held a
Bible study, and a good church. In 2008, they welcomed a baby.
However, every year, they came to the States for a medical conference.
Wherever the conference was held, they visited seminaries. One year, they
fell in love with Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). Soon after, Cesar told
Vanessa he wanted to study at DTS. His words felt like a gut-punch.
"Absolutely not!" Vanessa replied. "Our life is here!"
But then the Lord brought Matthew 19 to mind. Vanessa knew she couldn't
stand in the way.
Two weeks later, they obtained study visas and said goodbye to their
bewildered family. "When we landed in August 2010," Vanessa recalls, "Texas
felt like an oven. I'd never experienced such heat!" For Vanessa, it felt
like the beginning of hell. For Cesar, it was heaven. Everything about DTS
amazed him! But Vanessa, overwhelmed by the new culture, felt completely
alone as she struggled to raise their daughter.
"I missed my work, family, friends, and home, even the weather and the
food," Vanessa says. "I felt so alone. I took classes, joined Bible
studies, but it wasn't enough. I wasn't happy. Why had God given all the
joy to my husband and all the misery to me?" She didn't mention her sadness
to Cesar; she couldn't bear to tarnish his happiness.
During this time, Cesar returned to Venezuela every six weeks to work.
After a week, he would come back with enough money to support their family.
Then the democracy in Venezuela fell; a cruel dictator rose to power. The
country became unrecognizable—overrun with crime, poverty, and sadness.
Doctors who had made $500,000 a year now made $10,000. Cesar could no
longer afford airfare. With only study visas, he and Vanessa also couldn't
Then one day, Vanessa found their bank account empty. She assumed Cesar had
simply moved their funds to a new account. She asked him about it that
evening. He dropped to his knees in tears. Desperate, he had trusted a
broker and invested all their money. In only three days, every penny was
Vanessa says, "That day broke our world." She had another account with just
enough money to survive for a year, but they were panicked. They couldn't
go home; they couldn't stay if they couldn't afford the tuition. How could
God have brought them here just to abandon them?
Vanessa realized what she needed to do: get a work visa while Cesar
continued at DTS. Clueless where to start, she turned to Google.
Miraculously, within two months, she had what she needed. Next, she looked
for a job. Again, miraculously, the Lord used the Internet to lead her to a
job with an employer whose wife had family in Venezuela. To make ends meet,
she simultaneously worked two other jobs and long 16-hour days. As the Lord
provided, Vanessa began to understand: Years earlier, He had begun making
the way for her, Cesar, and their now two children.
From there, a connection at church led Vanessa to Insight for Living
Ministries. Today, she's our senior digital artist/strategist at our
international headquarters in Texas. When she started, she had never heard
of Chuck Swindoll nor our Spanish-language ministry, Visión Para Vivir.
Then she heard the broadcast theme song and recognized it from the radio in
Venezuela. She had often, unknowingly, listened to our Spanish-language
broadcast on her commute!
Looking back, Vanessa realizes the Lord plucked her family out of their
country just in time. Today, nearly 90 percent of Venezuela's more than 31
million inhabitants live in poverty. In 2017, each person lost an average
of 24 pounds, simply due to shortage of food.1 The infant mortality rate is
more than double that of the U.S.2 While disease, malnutrition, and death
rates continue to climb, political unrest gives rise to rebellion and
violence. For years, Vanessa couldn't understand why God was putting them
through misery, but she sees now that He was, in fact, rescuing them. His
ultimate purpose remains to be seen, but Vanessa and Cesar now know
personally the truth of 2 Chronicles 16:9:
"The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those
whose hearts are fully committed to him."
Vanessa and Cesar pray for those still in Venezuela, where violence and
abuses of power can only be conquered with the gospel. She says the people
know about God. However, spirituality there is "very emotional." Studying
the Scriptures is "very strange." People need someone to teach them how to
study and apply the Word so they can live with hope . . . and that's why
Visión Para Vivir is so important.
Visión Para Vivir began in 1987 out of Ecuador. Today, our Spanish-language
broadcast can be heard in 22 countries, including Venezuela. Like Vanessa and Cesar, our Spanish-language pastor, Carlos Zazueta, says he
never could have dreamed the Lord's path for him. Born in Culiacán,
Sinaloa, Mexico, he eventually came to Dallas, Texas, where he graduated
from Dallas Theological Seminary with a doctorate in ministry leadership.
In 2010, he met his wife, Karla, on Insight for Living Ministries' Israel
tour. He later asked her to marry him on a mission trip to Ecuador hosted
by our ministry. In 2011, in a beautiful combination-of-cultures wedding,
Chuck Swindoll married them at Stonebriar Community Church. Then, just a
few months ago, they adopted a darling baby boy, Asher, in China. Like
Vanessa and Cesar, Carlos and Karla are great examples of how "the eyes of
the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts
are fully committed to Him" (2 Chronicles 16:9). They certainly felt that
truth when they were finally able to travel to China to pick up and hold
their adopted son, Asher! God had searched the whole earth and had
delightfully chosen Asher just for Carlos and Karla.
Likewise, He has made the way for us! The Lord alone opened the doors that
now swing wide for us to proclaim His Truth in Spanish. He alone can
continue to expand Visión Para Vivir so that eventually, through modern
technology, every Spanish-speaking individual on earth might receive the
hope that comes from His Word.
Many times, Carlos has said, "The most valuable lesson I have learned in
ministry is that you can never be too small for God to use . . . only too
big." The Lord knows His plan for His followers! He knows exactly how He
will fulfill the Great Commission worldwide today, just as He did with
those first eleven disciples. He knows the exact next steps our ministry
needs to take in order to expand Vision 195 and the exact individuals who
will join us in prayer and financial support.
The Lord is searching the whole earth for those whose hearts are fully
committed to Him . . . will you be ready when He calls YOU?