Cúcuta, Colombia: “This is the Place”

October 23, 2018 | By: Chris Palusky

Over lunch in Cúcuta, Colombia, I was blessed to learn from Pastor Lucy. We’d spent the morning together at Bethany’s emergency center in Cúcuta, just a few hundred feet from the Venezuelan border. We talked to families from Venezuela who crossed the bridge into Colombia with one goal in mind—survival.

Pastor Lucy and I talked about Matthew 25 where Jesus tells His friends to feed, clothe, and welcome the “least of these.” Jesus said that when we do this, we are actually serving Him. I told Pastor Lucy this message is at the heart of Bethany. We want to be the hands and feet of Christ for those who are most in need. Pastor Lucy nodded her head and said, “This is the place.”

After a day in Cúcuta, I could see the truth in Pastor Lucy’s remark. Inflation has skyrocketed in Venezuela, making the currency nearly worthless. The minimum monthly salary is barely more than a dollar, and shortages of necessities—such as food and medicine—have driven more than 2.6 million people out of the country. Families unable to care for their newborn babies are abandoning them.

Venezuelans entering Colombia are crossing into Cúcuta more than anywhere else. I can still hear the click-clack of the worn suitcases they pull behind them across the bridge. Inside are the only possessions they have. Many of these families have already traveled hundreds or even thousands of miles to escape Venezuela. Others cross the border every day in search of work or to sell something—anything—to provide for their families.

Since early October, Bethany has been serving these vulnerable children and families at an emergency center that we opened in official partnership with the UN Refugee Agency. There, I met a young mother and her months-old baby. They’d slept in the street the previous night but came to Bethany that morning looking for help. In another part of the Bethany center, dozens of Venezuelan families were learning about their rights in Colombia. People who stop into the center can find food and water, get basic medical help, charge their phones, use the internet to send messages to friends and family, and talk to a counselor about the trauma they’ve experienced.

This is just the beginning. The needs are overwhelming, but Bethany is committed to doing what we can to meet them. Stay tuned to bethany.org/Cucuta for updates on our work and information about how you can help Venezuelan children and families who are seeking refuge.

One final thought. As I reflect on the overwhelming needs I saw in Colombia and how Bethany is stepping up to meet them, I am reminded of Bethany’s past. Bethany began by serving just one child in need. Our work grew from one child, to 10 children, to thousands of children over nearly 75 years. Throughout our history, Bethany has been a place of refuge for children, so of course we would be here now in Cúcuta. “This is the place” where people need us most.