The difference between hope and despair: refugees in Ecuador

Posted on January 1, 2012 by VMMissions Staff

As I was enjoying the company of a few Ecuadorian friends in late June, my cell phone unexpectedly rang. The anxious Colombian voice on the other end explained the details of a dilemma that has become a common story since I began working with the Colombian refugee population in Ecuador in December of last year: a family of four, internally displaced due to paramilitary death threats, tracked down in their new location, urgently wanting to flee Colombia, frightened and disoriented.

The voice was Raul, desperately seeking advice regarding the border crossing and the inevitable beginnings of a new life in Ecuador. Two days later, our church door bell rang and I opened the door to greet Raul, his wife Alejandra, their 4-year-old daughter and 8-month-old son. As I helped them carry their few belongings inside, they explained to me that they had gotten my phone number from the pastor of a Colombian Mennonite Church they had attended following their internal displacement in Colombia. After a long discussion about their situation, I accompanied them in a crowded bus to the government offices to process their paperwork and to a shelter where they spent their first seven nights in Quito.

Since their first day in Quito, life hasn’t been easy for this family. They continue to live in fear and face persecution, yet they carry with them a glimmer of hope. Last Sunday in our church, we celebrated Raul and Alejandra’s son’s first birthday, which also marked the four month anniversary of their arrival in Ecuador. Despite the fact that during this time they had to change apartments three times and Raul is working his third job, they attend Sunday morning worship services and participate in church activities. As Alejandra expressed in church one Sunday with tears in her eyes, their hope lies in the love they have found in the Mennonite church both in Colombia and now in Ecuador.

Let us not underestimate the power of Jesus’ example to love and accompany those in need. For those who experience this love, it’s the difference between hope and despair, the difference between living alone and living in a community of solidarity.

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