Venezuela Refugees: Bogotá, Colombia
After years of worsening economic conditions and increasing violence, millions of Venezuelans have had to make the difficult decision to leave their home country and seek refuge elsewhere. Today, more than four million Venezuelans have fled their home country, with most of them living in Colombia. CAMA has been partnering with the Colombian Alliance in several locations, including a shelter in Ipiales, medical work in Armenia, and a food program in the capital city of Bogotá, where Virna and Luisa’s families have sought refuge.
Virna arrived in Bogotá with her youngest daughter and eight-year-old grandson. They made the journey on foot, which took them a year. When she arrived in Bogotá, her shoes were so worn that they were literally being held together by threads. They had the clothes they had worn, and nothing more. Virna’s oldest daughter was already there, so they moved in with her into an apartment which was just nine square meters shared with 15 other people.
Virna had heard about the Lord in Venezuela but hadn’t been connected with believers in a long time. Now in Bogotá, she heard about Betel Alliance Church and was greeted warmly by the pastors and community there.
Virna found she could almost make ends meet by selling hamburger patties on the street, but that barely covered rent. In partnership with CAMA, Betel Alliance Church started offering a meals program for refugees, which came at just the right time, as her daughter and grandson were badly malnourished.
After experiencing love through Betel’s food program, Virna felt convicted to give back. She made the decision to volunteer herself in the dining room. “For many, a plate of food must seem like very little,” Virna said. “But for people who start from scratch in a country, it is a lot—even more so when accompanied with a message of hope.
“My service in the dining room has filled me with deep joy, seeing my brethren come to not only feed their bodies but their spirits with the words of encouragement that God continually places in the hearts of our pastors and volunteers. Today, we live in a better place with a bathroom and a kitchen, and I have been able to grow in the knowledge of the Word through the church.”
Luisa was a nutritionist in her home in Venezuela. She arrived in Bogotá with her husband and seven other family members, including her mother and grandmother. They arrived with a small amount of money, which they used to set up a street cart to sell cell phone accessories.
Luisa decided to search for a church in Bogotá because someone in Venezuela had shared the gospel with her. She became connected with Betel Alliance and instantly began to feel like she was at “home.” She started taking membership classes in the church and inviting other refugees.
Luisa was burdened for the needs of her fellow Venezuelans and began working with the dining room ministry and advocating on behalf of the refugees. One of the great joys of this dining room ministry has been seeing how those most in need are encouraged and empowered, so that they are able to give back with compassion to their community.
Luisa arranged a missions trip back into Venezuela to take supplies and evangelical materials through the outreach department at Betel. This trip resulted in aid being sent into prisons and hospitals in Venezuela.
Luisa has since set up an informal employment network, assisting new refugees in finding safe and healthy ways to work in Bogotá, while continuing to work to make sure that her fellow countrymen have food security and a church connection in their new home.
Alliance Women is seeking prayer and financial support for this project. GIVE today.