“The resident alien who lives with you will be treated as a native of the land. Love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. ” This advice from Leviticus 19:34 was given to the Hebrews, fresh from their Egyptian exodus, more than four thousand years ago.
Taking this divine counsel seriously, Adventist volunteers from Northeast Maranhão, Brazil, organized a charitable event in August to help Venezuelan families who are camped in the makeshift bus terminal area in São Luís, the state capital.
Local businessmen, bakers, the São Bernardo Residents Association and members from the Adventist Solidarity Action, collaborated to provide breakfast, basic food baskets and clothes to families staying at the bus station.
“It was very gratifying to see the joy on the faces of each of those people, and even more to be able to see church ministries such as Pathfinders and Adventurers involved,” says Patricia Miranda of the Adventist Temple of Habitar. “That is, the church committed to doing what Christ asked us to do: really love our neighbors not only with words, but with our actions.” The idea for this ministry opportunity came to Miranda during a congregational meeting.
In addition to providing food for the refugees, members offered a worship service with a biblical message, too. Volunteers such as Alex Correia plan to continue assisting refugee families. Correia, who has been visiting and offering Bible studies, says, “My goal is to take them to church on Saturday.”
The gesture of solidarity by the volunteer team was acknowledged with gratitude by Venezuelan Jonny Jose Mata. “The situation in my country is very sad. Many children [are] starving and there is no clothes, work, or food. Everything is very expensive. We want to thank the Brazilians who were here with us and were able to help us. I really appreciate it, ” he said excitedly.
It is estimated that the number of Venezuelan refugees in the locality exceeds more than 200 people.