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The Hands and Feet of Jesus Know No Borders

Genuine love and plenty of light in the Venezuela crisis

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Venezuela is in crisis, and there’s no end in sight. With food, medicine, and cash hard to come by, more than 4 million Venezuelans have fled, spreading out into Colombia and other countries. By the end of 2020, the number of displaced could rival the current number of Syrian refugees—6.8 million.

Amid the unstable politics and chaos of the Venezuelan crisis, our God knows the names and faces of the families affected. And He is using His Church to meet their needs—as we listen and respond.

Love for the Foreigner

Misael and Blanca have been married for 56 years. When Misael’s prostate cancer progressed, they knew they needed to get to Colombia for medical treatment. The couple, their daughter, Karin, and Karin’s son made the hard decision to leave their home in Venezuela.

The elderly couple said goodbye to a son and two other daughters—it was the first time the family would ever be separated. They trekked 560 miles, mostly by foot, to Armenia, Colombia. As soon as they arrived, Karin began looking for a job and Misael began searching for medical treatment. It wasn’t easy.

Karin found work at a restaurant, but the owners often humiliated her because of her migrant status. A friend helped Karin find work at another restaurant where she today makes $4.30 a day to support herself, her elderly parents, and her son.

Alliance volunteers provide childcare for Venezuelan children while their parents receive medical or legal advice.
Misael found that many clinics or hospitals wouldn’t take him as a patient if he couldn’t pay out of pocket. While Colombia has been the most welcoming country to Venezuelans, policies are tightening as the number of migrants continues to increase—the country currently hosts more than 1.4 million Venezuelans, of which Armenia has more than 17,000.

Not sure what else to do, Misael and Blanca decided to visit a small clinic run by the Somos Vida Foundation, a church-based foundation of La Alianza Cristiana y Misionera en Colombia (The Alliance in Colombia).

There, the couple found the help and respect they were searching for. Misael is currently being treated at the clinic and receiving Christian counseling.

“I’m very grateful because I was treated as if I were a family member of theirs,” Misael said of this clinic that is modeling God’s law for Israel:

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God (Lev.19:33-34).

The Colombian Alliance Family

After almost a century of Alliance missionaries and Colombian pastors and churches working to advance the gospel, The Alliance in Colombia has 380 locations, 90,000 members, and 150 supporting organizations and compassion ministries. Each month, they meet the holistic needs of more than 55,000 displaced Venezuelans and disadvantaged Colombians. These churches have raised thousands of dollars to respond to the needs of Venezuelan migrants, but their resources are running low as the crisis continues and the numbers of refugees increase.

Because of the generosity of the U.S. Alliance family, CAMA sent $66,000 in 2019 to help local Alliance churches in Colombia serve refugees. CAMA continues to use donations to help Colombian Alliance churches in three cities: Armenia, Bogotá, and Ipiales.

Armenia: Meeting Needs of Families

When Luciana* and her two daughters arrived in Armenia, her youngest was malnourished and her 15-year-old daughter was pregnant. They connected with an Alliance church that found them a place to stay and provided food, diapers, and a crib, and helped Luciana start her own small business, selling empanadas and coffee. Because of the genuine love they experienced, the whole family has found Jesus and begun the discipleship process!

The church is connecting with people like Luciana through their various refugee ministries. The Somos Vida clinic, which treats Misael and Blanca, serves 300–400 patients a month—90 percent are Venezuelan.

Professional hairdressers volunteer their time to give haircuts to Venezuelan refugees in Colombia.
Alberto* is a patient at the clinic and is partially blind. When the clinic first offered him food, he said it was the first time anyone had offered him a meal since leaving Venezuela.

“You saw me. People normally don’t see me,” Alberto told clinic staff. “You treated me with dignity, and you took care of me in a way nobody has since I crossed the border. You took the time to share something bigger than food or medicine, and I’ve been craving it for as long as I know.”

Alberto has been visiting the nearby Alliance church.

Our Alliance family alongside other local churches and partner organizations, also serve refugees—hosting monthly outreaches where they provide haircuts, meals, legal assistance, and eye exams for adults and children. More than 100 people typically attend.

In addition, the church launched “Health Brigades,” a ministry of small teams that teach basic health care to about 100 Venezuelans a month. An exciting part of the Brigade outreach is how an Alliance-owned building in the community is being used. Since these teams started, 28 adults and 45 kids now worship together in this facility. A new church has formed because of this ministry! In addition, more than 350 people have accepted Christ through the refugee ministries in Armenia.

Bogotá: Lunch for Street Vendors

When two teenage Venezuelan sisters arrived in Bogotá they had not eaten for days. Needing money to survive, they kept walking around looking for work and passed the La Alianza Betel church. At the point of exhaustion, they decided to enter.

The church runs a food program CAMA has helped sponsor through the purchase of a stove, fridge, and utensils. They now serve 50–60 meals every Tuesday and Thursday with the help of eight church volunteers, who oversee the kitchen and dining room.

“We started by gathering Venezuelans who attend our church and asked who needed food assistance. Most expressed an honest preference to opt out so other Venezuelans could take advantage, especially those who do not go to church,” says Pastor Gilberto.

A health worker examines a child at an outreach for Venezuelans.
The congregation invited Venezuelans living in their neighborhood, many who are street vendors, to have a meal. They have since served more than 1,500 meals to about 200 people. Fifteen new people have joined their church and others have joined fellowships closer to their homes.

Pastor Gilberto attends every lunch meeting to pray, share a short message, and invite attendees to church. He also makes sure they understand church attendance isn’t required to have a meal. He has observed that in some ways the Venezuelans are more grateful for the fellowship than even the meal.

“As a church Body, this has given us to the opportunity to see the foreigner with eyes of love and mercy, and it has given us courage,” Pastor Gilberto says.

When the two teenage girls entered La Alianza Betel, they received water, food, and rest. After the pastor put out a group message on WhatsApp, church members really surrounded and loved the two. Because of this genuine care, the sisters accepted Jesus and were baptized! They are both serving in La Alianza Betel today.

Ipiales: A Shelter for the Displaced

Refugees who make it to the city of Ipiales, on the border of Ecuador and Colombia, typically have walked nearly 50 days. The city daily receives approximately 3,000 migrants.

The Ipiales Alliance Church, the first church Alliance missionaries established in Colombia in 1923, opened a shelter to care for 50 people, daily providing food, shelter, biblical counseling, and legal counsel. Refugees can sleep in a bed, wash their clothes, take a shower, and eat a decent meal.

While everything was in place to start the shelter in 2019, local elections paused the legal process to open it. In response to the need, church families started taking refugees into their homes until the shelter officially opened in January 2020. The congregation is demonstrating genuine love to tired families who have very little certainty in their lives.

A.W. Tozer wrote in The Alliance Weekly, November 24, 1954, “There is plenty of light. The Spirit in the Church has seen to that. And for this we should be deeply grateful.”

Through the generosity of our Alliance churches, CAMA will continue to partner with local Colombian congregations to give hope and practical help to Venezuelan families. Additional gifts are still welcome to assist our brothers and sisters in the Armenia, Bogotá, and Ipiales churches as they reach out with compassion to Venezuelan refugee families.

For those who have already given to this humanitarian need, please receive a heartfelt “thank you!” For others yet to give, thank you in advance for providing critical medicine, hot meals, and a warm bed to these beleaguered families as they experience the genuine love and security found only in Jesus.

To give hope and help to Venezuelan families, visit camaservices.org/venezuela.

* Names changed.

2 responses to The Hands and Feet of Jesus Know No Borders

  1. I happened to read Kassi’s article on this day, when our own borders are closing. Thank God for the porous borders of his Kingdom and the open hearts of his people.

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