They were just simple school kits—filled with notebooks, pens and pencils, rulers, erasers, a pencil sharpener, calculator, crayons, glue and even a sturdy bag to carry them in to class. “It makes me laugh today,” the girl told Open Doors, which again this year supplied more than 600 children in seven regions of Colombia with their basic school supplies. Her family had been saving coins for a month and still did not have enough even for a notebook. “Now I have not just one notebook, but all I need for the year!”
Decorated this year with sewn covers displaying an attractive motif, the new notebooks and other materials were transported to the children of Colombia’s persecuted Christians by every means of transport imaginable—car, boat, airplane, horse and mule. In the country’s remote southwest and northern areas where persecution of indigenous Christians is mounting and incomes remain very low, it would take a full month’s wages working in the fields to buy all these items for one school child.
“As a pastor, I thank you for making it possible for all these children to study,” said Ludibia Aragon of the Christian Missionary and Alliance Church in San Antonio, Getucha, in the Caquetá region. Aragon noted, “Of the 20 children in this area, seven have no father, because they [were killed]. Other fathers have had to flee from the violence, leaving their wives with the children. These are mothers who are heads of the home, and we can see their gratitude, and the joy they feel when receiving this big help.”
“It is like a gift from God!” exclaimed an excited child. Many of the children hugged the person delivering their new school kits, others starting singing and crying for joy. “Thanks to God and to you, I can go to school with a new bag and notebooks,” a young boy named Juan wrote happily in his letter of thanks.
“I hope that God will bless you greatly in everything…that He triplicates it all! You are special people to us. I receive the help that you gave me with all my heart, because I notice that you give it to us with much love,” another child declared.
In a separate report, Open Doors trauma recovery program for Colombia widows has helped turn around the future for 13 women in the Arauca region, where so many Christian wives and families have faced the tragic martyrdom of family members. When Open Doors first met the women, most were paralyzed with grief and unable to forgive their persecutors or help their children, let alone find a way to support themselves. Implemented for the first time in Colombia, three successive workshops held in May, October and December of 2010 provided a healing, practical step forward for these women.
After the third session in December, Margarita* declared, “I was really another person before this…I did not want to do anything. But now it is different. In the first meeting, it was like I had taken out all the pain inside me. In the second, I was ministered to with restoration through the Word, and in the third, I was helped to identify my gifts.”
At the first workshop Margarita and the other widows cut and sewed tapestries, depicting their personal tragedies. Margarita had been very quiet during that session, frozen in her pain over the loss of her husband. “As I worked with the tapestry I understood that God was telling me it’s time to step forward and overcome the past.” Then, during the second meeting Margarita learned the truths of God’s Word about forgiveness along with understanding how to allow God to fulfill His plan for her life.
Ludis,* whose Christian singer husband and brother-in-law had been killed by paramilitary groups, traveled 26 hours by bus to attend the workshops. “Although it took me a long time to get here, I feel I need to be here, because I feel hope,” Ludis said. “I have been taught how to deal with my children, and practical advice to help me to assume with courage the role of father and mother at the same time.”
One grandmother whose son and daughter-in-law had both been killed was among the widows. “It is comforting for me to know that women who lost family members as I did, with my son and his wife, now have joy in their hearts and want to serve God. This encourages me to allow God to heal my heart,” she said.
The third event last December focused on helping each one of the participants to identify their spiritual gifts and practical abilities. Most of the widows were for the first time recognizing the talents and abilities God had built into their lives. “After the first workshop, I began to evangelize and participate in my church,” Margarita said. “And now, with this third training, I realize that God has given me some very specific skills to win others more effectively….I give thanks to God for letting me understand this!”
Two of the participants have now begun income-generating projects to support themselves and their families. Ludis is pursuing a photography business along with the help and active involvement of her sons. Gloria,* whose pastor husband was killed in the eastern part of the country in September 2009, is taking training to design high-quality pictures for sale to churches as well to a growing local market.
After the third workshop, an Open Doors trainer reported that the women’s faces that had been so shadowed with sadness back in May had been transformed by expressions of confidence and peace.
“After mourning, joy has begun to return to their hearts, with the hope of a new dawn,” she said. “Although the way is not easy for these women, they now understand the purpose of God for their lives.”
*Pseudonyms have been used to protect the women’s identities.
Father, we are delighted to hear the stories of women’s lives who have been changed! We thank you that you have transformed them and have moved them out of grief and into joy and trust in You. Thank you for the amazing workshops that took place, and we pray that Your Holy Spirit would continue to work in their hearts as they live to serve You and serve others. Amen