Christ the Lord is risen today! He is Alive and we can rejoice.
Our family wants to wish you and yours a Happy Easter. Our Easter, just like yours, looked a lot different.
Karen and the boys made Easter crafts and watched every Story of Easter they could find on YouTube. We zoomed with family and shared pictures with friends. Kevin has been incredibly busy with work so keeping the boys busy inside has been Karen’s task. She keeps saying, “Can we get a mini-trampoline delivered, it would really help with the boys’ energy!” Kevin laughs and then takes them mountain climbing. So far he has led the boys on three expeditions – Mt. St. Helen’s, Mt. McKinley, and Mt Everest! He takes the boys downstairs to the garage, and then they hike 12 flights of stairs to our top floor, an open terrace where they run some more. It’s been just one of the ways to be creative while keeping our sanity in the midst of the pandemic. The only outside time they can get! The Lord has been so good during this time as we have felt your prayers keeping us patient and giving us endurance.
We are starting Week 6 of a mandatory quarantine here, and we just got word that the school the boys attend has been cancelled until at least May 30th. This means children do not leave the home and adults only shop on their specific day that corresponds to their ID number which is strictly enforced by the police. Kevin is an essential worker so he is able to go out daily which also means he is the grocery shopper too. He goes out with the list for the week, and then seeks out bargains and special treats to surprise us with. One of the other Samaritan’s Purse staff found real chocolate chips, and shared that little gem with us. Kevin sniffed them out, found a special two-for-one deal on them, and then as he grabbed them, an older woman said to him, “Oh, those are the best for drinking hot chocolate, aren’t they?” So the real chocolate chips are hidden in the middle of the hot cocoa aisle and the black waxy non-chocolate chocolate chips are in the baking aisle! So, we found these cute little tins that have about a cup of chocolate chips in each one. It’s a small treat but means a lot when looking for bright spots in this goody time.
Many things have changed in 5 weeks and continue to change. Here is an update on the work that we are doing here in Cucuta.
Kevin posted a video a couple of week ago that the SP shelter in Berlin had closed for the time being because the government has closed the Venezuelan and Colombian borders to keep people from coming into Colombia and leaving Colombia. Both sides of the border closed. Venezuela has maintained tight border restrictions which is different from the past. Even the shelter close to the city had slowed down because everyone was just staying where they were. When we thought it would be quiet and gave some uncertainty to our role here, God quickly said, “You are here to serve!” And we are glad to help in every way we can.
Kevin's phone began ringing nonstop and he has been working 7 days a week 10+ hour days to feed the people in Cucuta and throughout all of the border areas from the Caribbean to the Amazon. His team in also serving throughout many different cities in Colombia all along the border. Organizations are calling on SP to help with food and medical relief. The teams are working hard to serve people food and help with medical needs. They’ve distributed almost 5000 bags of food so far that provide a family of 5 about three-weeks’ worth of food. So many people earn money in the streets to pay for that day’s rent and food, but with the quarantine are unable to go out. Many are now being forced out of their apartments, hotels, and rented spaces (many Venezuelans will rent only a piece of floor in a bedroom!), and are unable to find food as most places are closed except on specific days.
Kevin is going into areas he has never gone into. One day he went into a warehouse where 300+ Venezuelans are living and was able to give them food. Their living quarters are like small cubicles or horse stalls and three bathrooms are shared by all. Samaritan’s Purse is building a stronger reputation as one of the only groups willing and able to help. Larger groups that you may have seen in the news have even refused to participate. Because of this, we are able to support nursing homes, AIDS patients, and orphans. Now with Covid19 spreading, Kevin is delivering food packages to patients homes because they need food and cannot get out.
As work continues, the situation of the Venezuelan people is getting worse as we are seeing buses of thousands of Venezuelans leaving from all over Colombia and taking them back to Venezuela. Many cities and towns are offering bus rides at exorbitant prices with promises of a better life if they leave. It really is a mess, and what we hear most from people is, “I can starve here or at home, so I might as well go back.” Hundreds even thousands of Venezuelans are sleeping on the bridge between Colombia and Venezuela because they are not welcome in Colombia because of the virus and as they cross into Venezuela they must be tested and quarantined for 14 days. That takes times which means that the buses of Venezuelans are being backed up. They have nothing often riding for 30-40 hours with no food and some without even bathrooms. Samaritan’s Purse has been partnering with the police, who are concerned for their wellbeing but without any resources, to bring them help and hope.
One story we want to share with you is of one of Karen's good friend’s mom and sister who were in Colombia when they closed the border. They are Venezualan and were taking food to a young man in Venezuela a week ago. This was the same time the buses of Venezuelans were getting pushed back into Venezuela. They got caught up in the deportations and now they are in quarantine in Venezuela and in poor conditions. The food they were taking to the young man of course was spoiled and they were left with nothing. We pray peace and comfort for them as they are sitting in a unused school for another week at least.
Our Easter pictures were taken the day after since Kevin was working but that is okay, we got them. Saturday night, the day before Easter, Kevin received a call at 6 p.m. from the police asking for help with a bus of 54 Venezuelans. By 6:30 p.m., he had somehow managed to find food and drinks to get them through the night in the midst of a quarantine. Two of the travelers helped him to organize everyone into two lines, women and children and then men. Together, the three of them handed out empanadas (the local favorite hot pocket) and water. Who knows when the last time they ate was! Kevin talked with them and shared the Resurrection story with them and hope. We do not know what the future holds but we know Who holds the futures. A man names Jesus died on the cross for you and for me!
When Karen heard that there were 6 children on the bus ages 18months-8 years old she quickly began making goodie bags for them which included snacks, coloring paper, crayons, a yellow happy face balloon, and an Easter egg with candy. Karen also sent baby blankets we had collected from you all. No matter the age children like a blanket for comfort during the unknown.
We work here in Colombia because we love the Venezuelan people. We love the Colombians too! But we SERVE IN HIS NAME because we know that Christ is with us.
We love and miss you all so much. Our family is praying for you as we know you are praying for us as well. Thank you for being an encouragement to our family and especially during this time of quarantine.