This week has been full of deadlines and excitement. As we all know, it is all in HIS timing. Karen and the boys received their VISAS a few days before the deadline and all is good, because GOD IS GOOD. The paperwork says, "Welcome to Colombia, stay as long as you want'. Karen quickly pointed out, just like a driver’s license, there was an expiration date so we will get to do this all over again. Waiting that is. If the visas didn’t renew in time and we missed the deadline, the boys and Karen would have overstayed their visit, and we would have had to leave the country for a few days to reset the visa process. Sadly, this would have meant going to Costa Rica, Panama, or Curacao. Kevin was kind of hoping that the visas would have expired and we would have had to find the closest country with the cheapest tickets…likely somewhere warm with nice sandy beaches.
Kevin spent a few days in Berlin where we have been working hard since before we even came here to open up a shelter with a Colombian brother in Christ. On Friday, after a lot of prayers from all of you and a lot of hard work by the team, the shelter OPENED! This is great news for the caminantes who are fleeing Venezuela who have to walk through this area on their way to their destination. Between now and the end of June, the UN is predicting that another one million will flee Venezuela in search of food, water, medicine, and a job.
Berlin is a beautiful place and very much looks like Montana. The sun is shining but it is a very cold place at 12,000 feet up in the mountains. The Venezuelans are very much afraid of it, and now refer to it as the Nevera - the Freezer. There are unsubstantiated stories of people dying of hypothermia in that region, and the most common one is that a mother and infant succumbed to the elements there. The government does not keep any official records about Venezuelans passing through, but Kevin has been there at night when it was 45 degrees, raining, and high winds. Perfect conditions for hypothermia, and we know that people are sleeping out in the open fields there. As we talked about back in December, Kevin and his team were trying to explain to the caminantes how cold it is because as you know, it is 90 degrees here in Cucuta and that is all that most of the caminantes have ever known. To them, cold means 65 degrees. The men, women, and children have no idea what cold is until they get closer and feel it for themselves. As Kevin warns them, most of them pat their small backpack of items, saying, "Ok. I understand. I'll put on another t-shirt with my shorts and sandals." The caminantes are learning more information from others as they make the long trip and have become afraid of the Freezer. They are desperate and will do anything to avoid that. We are now there to provide hope for them – physically and spiritually. If they have to walk through there, they know that there is hope and do not have to despair. At the Berlin shelter, those who pass by get a warm place to stay, a hot meal and information on how to stay safe on their travels. They have HOPE! There is a retired police officer that is serving as the shelter coordinator and he is a strong evangelist with a heart of gold. Kevin and he were able to share the Gospel just during the orientation as they explained what Samaritan’s Purse is and the reason for the work that they do.
As of 9am on Friday the shelter had its first visitors before it was even supposed to open. Kevin and Miller unlocked the door just to set up for the new training, and as soon as Kevin turned the key, a mother with two young girls walked up asking for help. They had spent the night out on a porch across the street and walked to the shelter as soon as they saw them. The lady and her three and five-year-old daughters rested, ate a meal, and then played with Kevin, adopting him as part of their family. While trying to repair the water line, hook up the gas stove, and train brand-new staff, Kevin would stop and play some of Benjamin and Andrew’s favorite games, like helicopter rides, hide-and-seek, and peek-a-boo. Of course, Kevin had three bags of candy that he kept sneaking to them!
Thank you for your prayers as this has been in the works since even before we arrived in Colombia as our SoBa missionaries had a contact and saw the huge need there. It has been awesome to see God's hand working before we had even accepted the position. Now, Kevin had the opportunity to open this place up for those walking this long two-lane road to HOPE.
Several have asked about what you may be watching on the news, and yes, most of it is true. On Saturday night, just as Kevin was getting back from work, the giant American C-130 airplane bringing in the humanitarian aid literally buzzed our apartment overhead! It was so close, we were able to see the American flag and tail numbers on it. Our windows were shaking it was so close! In addition to the shelters, Kevin is also getting super busy working on some special food projects that are focused on helping Venezuelans.
Continue to pray for our family, our team, and the lives impacted by Samaritan’s Purse here and the amazing team of which we are a part.
We are thankful for those who have given and look forward to sharing more with everyone soon. Time to go for now, we got a package today from MeMa to open!
SERVING + SHARING IN JESUS' NAME