Eager to assist the thousands of Venezuelans coming into Colombia, several Seventh-day Adventist churches in Rionegro, in the state of Antioquia, northern Colombia, recently hosted a special dinner with local business owners and politicians to raise funds to assist many migrants needing medical attention and meals.
More than 75 guests crowded into the El Porton Llanero restaurant to enjoy a musical program, Venezuelan dishes, and an opportunity to assist thousands in need.
“We wanted to hold this dinner of solidarity because in our district we have seen firsthand the Venezuela migration and its drama, and we noticed that our call as Christians forces us to transform our empathy into concrete acts of kindness towards them,” said Kevin Mendoza Gutiérrez, district pastor and organizer of the event.
The special event raised more than US$1,000 that will go toward the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) effort in Colombia. ADRA Colombia has been assisting Venezuelan migrant families in the cities of Bucaramanga and Medellín since September 2018. Funds will also be sent to support a local ADRA project in Cúcuta, Colombia, a city bordering Venezuela, where hot meals are distributed once a week to some 200 Venezuelan migrants.
“I have been a witness to the strategic points in Colombia where ADRA is doing a wonderful job, so we want to do our part so that this can move forward,” Mendoza said.
The activity motivated many church members from the Carmen de Viboral, La Ceja, and Guarne Adventist churches to get involved in the fundraising project. “Everyone involved was enthusiastic about taking part in organizing the event — from the food committee, publicists, financial budget committee, and others,” Mendoza said.
Maria Gabriela Huerta told those gathered during the program that she had left Venezuela approximately one year earlier for Colombia because of the social, economic, and political situation her country faces. She thanked the Adventist Church for showing such initiative.
“This has been a wonderful initiative that you have put together, wonderful and thoughtful, that truly helps us in these moments when we need so much support,” Huerta said.
According to state government statistics, some 77,000 Venezuelans, not counting undocumented migrants, are looking to settle in Antioquia. The Adventist churches in Antioquia have become a collaborative network that supports and provides information for Venezuelans on ways to seek employment and obtain assistance, local church leaders said.
A well-known artist found out about the fundraising dinner at the restaurant and offered to donate one of his paintings, local church leaders said. He also contacted other artist friends and suggested the church organize a larger event where 50 more pieces from fellow artists could be donated to assist in the work of helping Venezuelans through the work of ADRA Colombia.
Joel Jaimes, Adventist Church president in the Southwest region of Colombia, led a prayer as the fundraising dinner ended. “I pray that all of us here may continue helping many Venezuelans in need,” he said.