“I was a stranger and you welcomed me…”

We have seen many news reports on TV here in Recife about the crises in Venezuela and how the people there have been suffering greatly. Hunger and violence have escalated to unbearable proportions. Thousands of people have been fleeing the country since 2016. I watched many reports on that crisis and how many were taking refuge in the far north of Brazil. But never, not in a million years did I imagine that our paths were going to cross here in Recife.

The story goes like this. One day a friend of mine told me that in downtown Recife, in one of the many old buildings, a group of Venezuelans refugees were sheltered. She told me the precarious situation in which they were living. I asked her if she could take me there so I could meet them.

When I got there, I saw about twenty of them, all ages; old, young, and children, all crowded into three tiny rooms, sleeping on old mattresses on the floor. They didn’t speak Portuguese, and my Spanish is not that good either but somehow, we managed to communicate, and I began to better understand their situation.

Our local government paid for them to stay in these rooms for a month, and the deadline was just a few days away. Soon, they would have to leave. They were going to be homeless in the streets. To make matters worse, two of them were pregnant women. They were desperate. It was heartbreaking.

I felt overwhelmed, and I didn’t think we could do much except for giving them food and clothing. But they needed something beyond that. They needed a place to live for the time being. They would like to return one day to their homeland whenever Maduro leaves power, but nobody knows when that will be. What could we do with this group of twenty-one souls? Praying, seemed like the first course of action and waiting for an answer, the second.

A couple of days later, I got wonderful news. One of our little sister congregations in a suburb (Vila dos Palmares), offered to keep them temporarily in two small houses next to the church building. I was happy and, at the same time, very concerned because I didn’t know the Venezuelans well, and I didn’t want them to cause problems for the church that so lovingly welcomed them.

With God’s help, several people came forward to help us do what we could to take care of these families. I am happy to announce that they have recently moved into their new place and are adjusting well. They do have to abide by some rules, such as keeping the grounds clean and do whatever they can to live in harmony and gratitude with their neighbors.

The kids will start school soon and one of the pregnant women just gave birth to a baby boy. Mom and the baby are doing well. The group feels very grateful for all the help they are getting.

Currently, we are working on discovering their skills. I found out that the women can make clothes by hand, so I am collecting materials and supplies for them. I do have mixed motives in this… I need a new dress ?!

Please, pray for them as they continue to adjust. And pray for their family members that are still being oppressed in Venezuela and for those here who ache for them.

If you want more information about their specific needs, feel free to contact us. Thank you for taking the time to learn more about their story!