A ministry to Venezuelan migrants

Latin Link member Ian Horne is based in Bogotá, Colombia, where he works with a church ministry that reaches out to Venezuelan migrants. One of his colleagues, a Colombian woman called Sandra, has always stood out as a person of great hope. Inspired by the way she shows so much love and acceptance towards the migrants, Ian sat down with Sandra to hear her story and find out where her hope comes from.

Ian Horne writes:
Growing up in Cordoba, Colombia, Sandra had a very tough early life. She was brought up in a household with a violent and abusive father, and she experienced the kidnapping of her half-brother for four years by a guerrilla group.

In her early twenties, she migrated 700km away from her hometown to Colombia’s capital, Bogotá. There, she lived in different areas of the capital, trying her hand at a variety of jobs. After fleeing an abusive relationship, she became a single mother, struggling to make ends meet. At this time, she sank into a deep depression that impacted her physical health as well as mental.

In her moments of despair, Sandra turned to reading the Bible and discovered much comfort. A special lady of faith took her under her wing, invited her to the local church and started discipling her. Sandra describes a particular turning point in her faith journey when she was able to forgive the men in her life who had harmed her in the past, finding immense inner freedom.

She soon got involved in the church´s intercession ministry and is still one of its prominent ´prayer warriors´. Over time, however, she began to sense that God was challenging her to get more involved serving others.

Migrant mission

The church has a strong heart and call to serve the thousands of Venezuelan migrants living in Bogota - many of them have arrived in recent years since the collapse of Venezuela’s economy and political chaos. These migrants are often mistreated, misunderstood and discriminated against. The church’s ministry to them includes practical help with food, rental, health care and income generation for vulnerable migrants but, above all, it is pastoral in nature. When an opportunity opened in this ministry, Sandra was quick to sign up. She now serves within this ministry as a part-time promoter.

Sandra discovered that her gift for counselling others had a vital contribution to make. Her favourite part of the role is listening to the migrants, giving words of encouragement, and helping them to see things from God's perspective. “We give practical orientation and encourage the migrants not to despair, to seek God and his peace,” she says. “It is important that we accept people as God accepts them and learn to see them through his eyes, understanding the things of their past”, she adds.

Sandra admits that her strong sense of justice sometimes leads her to feel overwhelmed when she hears stories of discrimination and police mistreatment against Venezuelans.

Signs of hope

Sandra observes that, despite the tough impacts of the pandemic, a group of migrant families helped by the church are maintaining a positive attitude, responding creatively to challenges and growing in their trust in God. Some have been helped to study the word of God for the first time ever in their lives. Others have come to faith and participate in the church community.

“God is at work,” says Sandra, “we have seen how He takes care of the vulnerable migrants here in so many different ways.”

As she brings hope to others, Sandra is also discovering new hope in her own life. Her son, now in his early twenties, has recently been able to start studying electrical engineering at university. She is a person who has received divine comfort in her own life and is able to share it with others in need.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).