Open Doors and Open Hearts
By : Merlin M. | Volunteer
For more than two years, Ciudad Refugio has been praying and seeking ways to evangelize our immediate neighborhood, Prado Centro. For those who aren’t aware, Prado Centro was once a wealthy and upper class neighborhood within Medellin. It was even designated a historically protected section due to the traditional style of homes that make up the area. However, over time many of the wealthy left the neighborhood and the homes themselves were bought by foundations or large organizations. This gave way to an increase in violence, crime, and drug related activity. In fact, Ciudad Refugio is located on one of the most “criminally active” corners of our neighborhood. As a foundation, while we serve in other sections of our city, such as Manantiales and El Pomar; our hearts also longed for a way to minister and better serve within the neighborhood where we are planted.
True to His nature, God opened the doors of Prado Centro by shutting down everything else because of the COVID-19 quarantine. Due to the lock down, many families were in dire economic straits. Most make their income by working informal jobs; they can be found on the street corners selling things such as gum, candies, food items, or cleaning the windows of cars. Because the quarantine forced everyone to shelter in place, the source of income for such families were completely cut-off and many began to starve. As a result, Ciudad Refugio began to mobilize and canvas the neighborhood to offer assistance and grocery bags.
In the past, the families of Prado Centro could best be described as friendly but reserved towards our advances. Now, due to the fact many are desperate and out of options to help their families, the doors of the homes began to open. Volunteers from the foundation were invited into the houses to introduce the ministry, visit with families, and most importantly pray with them. And by doing so, our eyes were opened to how many in our neighborhood actually live.
We discovered most live in homes that are called, “inquilinatos.” The inquilinatos can best be described as large homes that houses 20-30 families; with each family renting a room within the house. Many of those who live within these homes are Venezuelan refugees who receive little or no assistance from the government. We found many within these homes to be young single mothers or pregnant women as well.
Our hearts were moved by the faces and souls we saw that were suffering. So we began to distribute food on a weekly basis and invited them to come to the foundation building so they can be better acquainted with us as a ministry. It is truly amazing that after years of trying, God used the most unlikely situation of a world-wide pandemic, to answer our prayers. But once again, it shows us how God can use any circumstance to bring glory to His name!
Having our eyes opened to the need around us, we are in the process of planning and gathering resources for new ways to serve and meet the need. To that end, Ciudad Refugio is working on opportunities to assist the pregnant and single mothers that live in many of the inquiliatos. Please pray for us as we desire the blessing and heart of God to live out His mandate from James 1:27 on what true religion is: “Religion that pleases God the Father must be pure and spotless. You must help needy orphans and widows and not let this world make you evil.” (CEV)
We understand for many of you, these are uncertain times. We pray that you may be encouraged by this testimony how even in the darkest of nights, the light of God can still shine through. Press On! Keep believing! We truly serve a prayer answering God!