Over the Easter weekend, hundreds of children in Cúcuta, Colombia, heard about Jesus' love for them through a Samaritan's Purse's outreach. Many of them are refugees who fled the socialist crisis in Venezuela.
Evangelist Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, joined with church partners in this Colombia-Venezuela border city to preach the gospel and to hand out Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts to children.
Graham was in Cúcuta leading the evangelistic association's two-day Festival de Esperanza (Festival of Hope). The festival was held in conjunction with 400 of the city's churches. More than 116,000 people attended events over the course of outreach.
"The physical needs, I think, of the people, God sometimes uses that to open the hearts spiritually," Graham told CBN News. "With all the people coming across into Colombia, suffering as they come into the country, it just opens up a door to preach the gospel."
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"There is no question of a great spiritual need among the people... not only Colombia because they just came out of a civil war. We have to remember they have had a terrible civil war and that has just ended and so the people are still reeling from that. And now we see what's happening in Venezuela next door," Graham said.
Before the Easter gifts were distributed to the children, Graham told the children about the ultimate gift—the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who died on the cross for all of our sins.
Chanel Contreas, a widowed mom of three, is one who crossed the border. She and her family left Venezuela in the fall of 2017 because there was no food, health care, or jobs left in her area.
"My kids grew up used to it," she told Samaritan's Purse. "As a mother, I don't want them to live in that situation. I want them to be happy and healthy, both physically and emotionally."
When her children received the shoebox gifts, Contreas was overwhelmed with gratitude and her kids with joy.
"I feel very happy to see them happy like this. This has no price. I have not seen them like this in a really long time, but I wanted to see them like this," she said. "I think God's timing is perfect."
"Every box is an opportunity to reach a child with the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Graham said in a press release. "It's about telling children around the world and their families that God loves them. God hasn't forgotten them."
Samaritan's Purse is also working to meet the practical needs of the Venezuelan refugees.
According to Samaritan's Purse, Operation Christmas Child, has been active in Colombia for more than 15 years. The organization's partner churches have distributed more than 2.4 million shoebox gifts and graduated over 700,000 children from The Greatest Journey follow-up evangelism and discipleship program
Last year, the organization started special projects in Colombia to help the Venezuelans who have migrated to escape their country's economic crisis.
One project is a relief station for migrants located just outside of Cúcuta. Migrants are provided hot meals, shower facilities, hygiene items, and a safe place to spend the night. They also get to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ from local Samaritan's Purse staff.