Every day, approximately 5,000 Venezuelans are forced to leave their homeland in search of food and shelter. More than 4 million have left Venezuela in hopes of finding security with more than 1 million having left in the last year. Most of them are heading into Colombia looking for work and a safe place to sleep. On foot, carrying a few belongings in backpacks and bags, many of them with little children, they have become know as the Walkers.
Venezuela is in the midst of a leadership struggle, with authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro facing challenges from opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Guaidó has been recognized as Venezuela’s leader by many countries, including the United States. This leadership struggle has caused Venezuelan currency to lose most of it’s value, with inflation of more than 30,000%. To put this into perspective, if you had one million dollars worth of Venezuelan currency in 2014, that same currency would now be almost enough to buy one dozen of eggs. Most of the people crossing the border are without any savings, having lost it all to the hyperinflation.
Summer of 2019
The scouting trip
PCCR sent a team to Colombia during the summer of 2019 to see how we could help with the Venezuelan refugees crisis. The biggest need was providing the refugees (aka Walkers) with food and a safe place to sleep. The walkers left Venezuela on foot, and were walking hundreds of miles to cities in Colombia and countries beyond with the hope of finding a job that would provide food and a roof over their head.
October 5, 2019
The first Shelter
On October 5, 2019 we traveled to Colombia again with a man who was interested in taking his family there to assist with the crisis. We connected with a local Christian in Colombia who had a passion to help the Venezuelan refugees. With his help we were able to open a simple shelter at a strategic location where the Venezuelan walkers could stay overnight. At this shelter we were able to provide bathrooms, shower facilities, a safe place to sleep, breakfast, and a gospel message and literature.
After several months this shelter location was closed and we moved to a location close to the Venezuelan border where our team is currently working.
October 20, 2019
From a Facebook post…
A group of Venezuelans walking through Columbia, trying to get to Bogota to find work. The one lady is only 21 and has three little children with her. We were able to give them water, a little food, and connect them with a shelter in Bogota where they could stay for a night or two. They still have about 100 miles to go.
There are many opportunities to reach out and be the hands and feet of Jesus in Colombia. Most of the Venezuelan refugees are from a Catholic background, and have idol worship mixed into their religion. Our goal is to reach out in love and compassion, meet their physical needs of food and water, their emotional needs of safety and knowing someone cares, and their spiritual needs by introducing them to this man called Jesus.
We are reaching the Venezuelan refugees, and the most needy Colombians by going into the shantytowns, camps, and the poorest communities and doing food distributions, church services, children’s programs, and discipleship. We are doing “walker ministry”, which is providing food, water, and prayer support to the many Venezuelan refugees that are still walking the long journey from Venezuela to other locations in Colombia. There are also hundreds of hours spent discipling the people that God has placed into the lives of the team there.
Winter of 2021
Handing the Work off to a partnering organization
PCCR is a crisis response organization that focuses mainly on short-term outreaches in times of crises. Due to this fact and the ongoing need in Colombia, we are transitioning the established outreach to another ministry who will carry this long-term work.
Mr. Jimmy and his Carucha
“This family has been instrumental in the ministry of PCCR here in Colombia. One evening Jimmy (the man in the picture) asked if he could borrow Conrad’s moto to take his wife home. He said “yes” so they happily took the moto out for a pleasant drive homeward. They came upon a police check point at which they were motioned to stop. Since the moto papers were in order, they sought to catch him with something else. The police asked Mr. Jimmy what he had been imbibing. He patted his ample stomach and cheerfully acknowledged that they had just been to a birthday party at which he had consumed soda. They insisted that it couldn’t have been simply soda and that he also must have stolen the motorcycle. We will fine you $3 mil. pesos (roughly $800 USD) or you could pass us some money. Mrs. Jimmy decided prayer was the key and began to loudly declare God in this situation. She asked that God would convict the policemen of their wicked hearts of bribery/fraud, etc. When this started, they quickly shoved the papers into Mr. Jimmy’s hands and told them to get out of there.
Jimmy does carucha (bicycle taxi) for a living. Currently, there are a lot of political road blocks protesting the government, wanting higher taxis so the police are out arresting taxis of all sorts even though they are just wanting to make an honest living. This morning while Jimmy was working, the police came and took his carucha. You can pray that God would move the heart’s of the police to return his carucha without massive fines. On behalf of this family, thank you!
“Even in times of death He brings life. We get quite a few chances of attending funerals of those who do not have the money to transport or bury a body properly. This Monday was no different…A grandma, a mom, a sister, and a friend is gone, leaving grieving hearts behind. The loud wailing, the alcohol on people’s breath, and the smoking by the graveside are all normal. Our team came. We sang songs, prayed, and held people as they wept brokenly. In this specific case, three of the woman’s daughters accepted Christ at the wake for which we rejoice. Because of generous donors like you we get to become the hands and feet of Jesus to those who are hurting and are without hope.”
Please keep the work in Colombia in your prayers as the Lord continues to outpour his Spirit amongst the broken!”
“Since the Border has opened up again between Venezuela and Colombia there are hundreds of walkers flooding our town of Arauca. We try to meet them on their Journey with food and literature and prayer. This day we set up a table with food and chairs for weary legs. They would sit down and eagerly eat the food. We talked to them to hear their stories. Prayed with them. Gave them lollipops (in Venezuela a lollipop cost $3) and sent them on their ways.
People all searching for a hope and a future. There weren’t many walkers at the time so I took the privilege of walking with a young family of three children the oldest being 6 years old and the youngest a chubby 11 month old. I carried a backpack while Kristyn carried a plastic bag with their water supply to lighten the load. We hadn’t walked long till the little lad needed a bathroom. His belly hurt because he had gobbled the food so rapidly. A tree beside the road needed to suffice. We walked for approximately 15 minutes when a horn blew at us. Here it was a PCCR volunteer with our moto and cart. He picked up the two woman and the baby and the luggage to the next town. They were ever so grateful! Meanwhile my daughter and I continued to walk with the seventeen year old “dad” of six months and the six year old girl and four year old boy.
The cars raced along the road. I held little George’s hand pointing out the cows and horses and machines but one can only point it out and count animals so often until it simply gets boring. He kept looking up at me with his large chocolate eyes searching my face as to who is the gentle white mamma holding his hand. At one point an ambulance passed by lights blinking. You could see the fear in his eyes as he told me about how his mamma had to go in ambulance due to violence. His four year old legs would get weary but somehow having a hand to hold made a difference.
As we walked, the sun shone hot on us. My head began to throb and I saw heavy storm clouds rolling in. Kristyn was asking for water. We hadn’t brought any with us and I was thirsty too. Finally after walking for 45 minutes the volunteer reappeared and picked up the young man and two children to take them to the next town. As Kristyn and I turned back to rejoin the team, the wind started picking up and the thunder sounded nearer. I began searching for a place near the road where we could shelter in place till the storm passed over. We were so grateful when Conrad rescued us just in the nick of time as the team rolled in in full force. We raced back to the PCCR team waiting beside the road to be picked up. I drove my moto home with three littles on to get out of the storm.
At home it was dry and warm. It proceeeded to dump buckets of rain the rest of the evening… To walk a mile in their shoes was good for me although I had it easy since someone took my bag. I wasn’t carrying a chubby 11 month old baby. I wasn’t taking all my earthly possessions that I could carry and hoping to start a new life in another country. When the storm was rolling in I could have gotten shelter anywhere because I am from the United States. I could shelter in my house out of the storm. I had a real bathroom to use. I had shoes that were sturdy and not full if holes. I have food for a number of days in my house. I have a loving husband of seventeen years. I have hope and a future….because if supporters like you, we have the incredible privilege of becoming Jesus with skin on to weary souls and bodies! Thank you!”