A harrowing refugee journey out of Venezuela

An 11-year-old girl is saved from trafficking and reunited with family.

by Daneal Lightner

Venezuelan refugees, a young mother and father carry child

What is your worst nightmare? Your greatest fear? Is it being forced to give up your home? Or seeing your family in danger? How about losing a child?

Right now, many families are living that very nightmare. They are refugees—fleeing violence, civil war, and oppression, seeking safety in new and unfamiliar places. 

Refugees like Samuel, Ana, and Olivia. 

Samuel and Ana flee Venezuela by foot

Samuel and his wife, Ana, decided their home in Venezuela was no longer safe for them or their 11-year-old daughter. Their only option to avoid gangs, violence, and war was to leave their home. And with limited resources, the only way out was on foot.

The walk was long. For most fleeing Venezuela to Colombia, the trek is over 300 miles. By car, that would take more than 11 hours.

Imagine this family walking, for days, up and down mountains on dangerous, twisty highways, across rivers, with a child. 

They set out together, just three people among thousands, searching for help and safety. 

Think about what would force you to abandon your home and head into the unknown with only the things you can carry. It’s hard to imagine this is happening to millions of people right now.

Parents’ nightmare is realized: Olivia goes missing

In the chaos of the trek, 11-year-old Olivia was separated from her family. In the blink of an eye, she’d vanished.

For days, her mother and father frantically and desperately searched for her. They pleaded for help, but none came. Olivia was gone.

Her parents’ worst nightmare was realized. Their daughter was the victim of kidnapping and trafficking, and they were helpless to save her. 

God’s goodness prevailed, however. Miles down the road, in a town called Tame, Olivia received help.

Bethany staff recognize the trafficking situation and rescue Olivia

The trafficker, pretending to be Olivia’s aunt, brought the young girl into Bethany’s office in Colombia, asking for financial assistance. Trained staff quickly realized Olivia was not the woman’s niece.

When questioned about the situation, the trafficker panicked and disappeared. 

Unfortunately, although removed from the hands of a child trafficker, Olivia was still alone and separated from her family, days away from where they had last seen her. 

Searching the crowds to find and reunify families can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. The odds aren’t always good. 

Olivia is reunited with her parents

Bethany’s staff began searching for Olivia’s parents, who had separated to look for their daughter. Finally, her father, Samuel, was found at a bus terminal. He was distressed, exhausted, and hungry. He was taken to a shelter to shower, eat, and mentally process what he had been through.

Coincidentally, his wife, Ana, was there. They were overjoyed to see each other and learn their daughter was safe. 

Ana and Samuel were briefed on Olivia’s traumatic experience and given tools to help her mental and emotional recovery. 

The family was reunited. You can imagine the excitement, relief, hugs, tears, joy, sadness, and love in that moment. 

But we aren’t stopping here. We can’t. There are more children, more families who need us. Together, we can protect and help these vulnerable families desperately searching for safety and stability. 

You can help today by donating, praying, and sharing the message with others who, like you, care and want to help. 

Your support changes lives