Since 2014, 5.4 million Venezuelans have left the country in search of a better life in surrounding nations such as Colombia, Peru and Brazil.
The trek out of Venezuela is filled with danger. From shoes crumbling to dangerous mountain roads to severe exposure to the elements, the “Caminantes” or “walking migrants” are risking their lives every day that they remain on the trail.
One of Send Relief’s partnering project directors had this story to share about their treacherous walk towards freedom.
As a broken Venezuela empties its population across the continent, the poorest people walk across the Andes mountains to reach their varied and unknown destinations. The mountains are barren, cold and windy. The road is difficult and dangerous. A meal often consists only of the leftover bread given by strangers. Nights are bitter. Days of walking extend into weeks, and the body becomes exhausted while emotions go numb. Step, step, step. One more step. Just one more.
Earlier this month, I accompanied a volunteer team from First Baptist Atlanta up a mountain to the 11,000-foot pass, where one of the few overnight shelters is located. From that point, another 120 miles of walking will get the Venezuelan refugees to the next city. The FBC Atlanta team presented the gospel to those at the shelter but, due to government regulations, could not give out the used clothes and shoes that they brought to distribute.
The team was extremely disappointed at having to take their donations back with them when the needs of these families were so obviously visible. I suggested that on the return trip, we pull over by Venezuelan trekkers to find out how we could help. It had been raining, but once we headed down the mountain the clouds cleared, and the sun began to shine. One member of the group commented, “Now we’ll see a rainbow.”
Sure enough, just around the next few bends, we saw a glorious rainbow protruding from the mountain below. Several turns later, we spotted a group of three Venezuelan young men sitting by the side of the road, so we pulled over and approached them.
I asked, “What do you really need on this journey?” One responded, “I need shoes. The ones I have are tearing my feet apart because they are completely worn.” Another young man also expressed the need for better hiking shoes. We just “happened to have” two pairs of adult men’s shoes with us, but we should not have been surprised: both pairs were exactly the right size for these refugees.
We cared for their feet with cleansers, cream and several pairs of socks each. The team gave them warmer clothing and food and shared the hope of the gospel with them. One of the Venezuelan men looked stunned the entire time. His look said, “Where did these people suddenly appear from with everything necessary to meet our needs?”
As we were getting ready to leave, I told the young men that during their journey, they have a wonderful opportunity to start a conversation with God. One responded, “When we were walking past the rainbow, I told God, ‘I need shoes. My feet are completely torn up.’”
No more than ten minutes after that cry for help, we arrived with a good pair of athletic shoes that fit him perfectly. These refugees now have no doubt that that they are not alone—God knows where they are.
Thank you for making it possible to share God’s care with the lost and hurting refugees of Venezuela. Please be in prayer for those making the trek across the Andes, that they will be protected from bandits and the elements as they journey onward.
On Giving Tuesday, you can help more refugees on their journey to freedom. Give below or click here learn more about Giving Tuesday.
Published November 16, 2021