Friday seemed to be a long day. Everything here takes four times as long as we are used to in the states. Kevin told me to choose two things to do in a day and be thankful if you get one of those done. I will never complain about there only being four checkout lines open at Walmart or Kroger again! At our local store, Metro, there are many lines open, yet it still takes 20 minutes to check out. A quick run for some diapers and apples is not a quick run – it is an adventure. And it is literally just across the street from our hotel!
On Friday, Kevin and another missionary spent the whole afternoon gathering items to improve the shelter in La Donjuana – shelving for all of the kitchen equipment, water filters, and rubber sleeping mats.
After dinner, they picked up myself and the boys and we were all able to go to the shelter together. This could have been a quick forty-minute trip or a long two-hour stop-and-go depending on the day’s construction and accidents on the winding two-lane road. Thankfully, it was a quick trip, and we were there in no time.
I have waited and waited for this. A time to serve together as a family. Serving others together is what I envisioned us doing together. We arrived at the shelter and we all got to work with changing the water purification filter so that the water did not have sand in it anymore and laying down mats to sleep on. After the refugees had been walking all day, they stop at the shelter for a hot meal, shower, and a place to sleep. Since many are simply leaving Venezuela behind, they have not thought about where they are going. When you ask where they are going, most just shrug and say, “Bogota. I heard there’s work there.” Therefore, a lot of time is spent teaching them about the long route and how to be safe along the way.
The men were able to get the filter system running great, and Vivianna, the boys and I were able to help pick up the cardboard the refugees had been sleeping on and replace it with foam. Until Friday, the refugees only had pieces of cardboard to sleep on the wood floor. Both the men’s room and the women and children’s room now had something a little softer to sleep on. Benjamin and Andrew jumped right in by helping remove the cardboard, and providing lots of entertainment to the refugees. Everyone is amazed at how blue their eyes are! You would think that they are rock stars the way everyone gathers around them while the boys give out free hugs and high-5’s.
The shelter had a big mix of ages between 1 and 70 years-old, with an older man who was from Los Teques, where the Venezuelan Baptist Seminary is located. There was a group of young men who were excited to have the opportunity to speak English with Karen. They wanted to tell her everything they knew about America which included the music stars such as Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber. HAHA! There was a single mother with her four children, who were just staying the night before starting out again on their next long hard day up the mountain. It will be almost a week of walking before she reaches her destination of Bogota, hopeful to find work and a place to stay there. However, while walking during the next week, she will have to find a place to stay each night and food for her family.
Friday night was a special night in Colombia when they celebrate the Night of the Little Velas (Candles) where everyone places candles and luminaries outside of their home. It is the official start to Christmas here. Vivianna made sure that everyone at the shelter had a candle to light and place outside on the sidewalk. It looked like a candlelight service at church at home with everyone gathered smiling. She then shared the Gospel and God’s love for them before leading everyone in a prayer for their journey and all of Venezuela.
Our prayer today is that all the details work out for the second shelter to open at the highest point of the mountain, which is, of course, the coldest. Kevin has spent a month working on this location and feels that it would be perfect because there is nothing to help feed or shelter the refugees for over 50 miles. Please continue to pray that the doors will open, figuratively and literally. We continue to work hard and wait on God’s timing.