From a Colombian Rebel to a Soldier of God
Sandra* lives in Arauca, a region of Colombia where guerrillas actively persecute Christians because the church opposes their violent practices. Rebel insurgents have killed Christians and forced churches to close.
She understands the poverty and despair motivating most fighters’ decisions to join illegal armed groups throughout Colombia. That’s because 20 years ago, Sandra herself came close to taking up arms and joining their ranks.
Her own tragic background includes the sexual abuse she endured from her stepfather at age 13 and an emotionally abusive relationship with a boyfriend. These terrible circumstances moved her to consider becoming a FARC guerrilla fighter. From her perspective, the decision wasn’t difficult. What could be worse than poverty, a wounded heart and ongoing sexual abuse?
At age 14 she told a FARC commander she was ready to enlist. The commander told her he’d pick her up in a few days, along with a group of her girlfriends also poised to join the insurgency. Asked what motivated such a drastic decision, she told Open Doors, “It was the only possibility I saw to do something with my life.”
While awaiting the commander, she prepared herself emotionally and psychologically to leave her past behind and start a new adventure. That’s when somebody invited her to a church service. And she went.
In that service Sandra experienced something “so supernatural and so strong that it made me tremble and fall to my knees,” she said. “Up until that day, I was planning to kill my stepfather, but God erased that thought from my mind.” God’s presence was so powerful through the preaching that she gave her life to Jesus Christ.
Then the guerrilla leader arrived to take her to the rebel camp. The combatants issued her boots, a rifle and a uniform. But she refused to accept any of the equipment, telling the commander that she’d accepted a better invitation: She’d received Jesus in her heart and had resolved to follow and serve Him.
The guerrillas hurled insults at her. One issued a death threat: “If we see you doing anything wrong, we will mercilessly kill you.”
She knew that the FARC’s definition of wrong wasn’t necessarily hers. Still, Sandra’s response was simply: “I accept the challenge.” She was willing to die for the Lord who had given her new life in Him.
The FARC commander and other guerrillas left with her four newly recruited girlfriends. That same day, paramilitary fighters ambushed the group, killing the girls and the commander who recruited them. Had Sandra gone forward with her plans to join the insurgency, likewise, her fate would have been sealed.
“The Lord saved me from that experience, even though I don’t understand why God loves me so much,” she said.
Her first years as a believer proved difficult because she continued attending guerrilla meetings, even though she was regularly present in church services. In January 1992, she received a summons to attend a FARC meeting. Her reply: “I’m attending the church service today because I now belong to the army of the redeemed who follow Jesus Christ.”
When Sandra meets guerrillas, she shares God’s Word and encourages them to seek Christ. Once a guerrilla leader showed up to close the church. He rebuked Sandra, saying, “Where is God? There is no God. Who sees Him?” The leader was killed three months later.
On another occasion some rebel fighters showed up at her church while members were fasting and praying. The rebel leader declared he was closing the church and demanded that the Christians join the FARC. She took advantage of the opportunity to talk to them about the love of Jesus.
Although Sandra faces economic difficulties, today she teaches the Word to women and children in the Pentecostal church where she’s a member. For the past four years she’s gone from house to house sharing the gospel. She went to an Open Doors training in Arauca on inductive Bible study, reinforcing the teaching she received two years ago in a similar seminar.
“Thanks to these trainings I have learned to study and interpret the Word. I’ve acquired tools that will equip me to be an instrument of God in teaching the gospel,” she said.
Sandra has overcome many difficulties to become the leader she is today. She sees her life as a Christian in the same way as the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 1:28-29: “He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”
- Pray for God’s protection over Sandra both physically and spiritually as she shares Christ’s love and forgiveness with guerrillas.
- Pray that Sandra will continue to win, teach and disciple women with boldness.
- Pray that Sandra’s economic needs will be met.
Photo: A group of former rebel soilders