Donors Provide a House to Murdered Pastor’s Widow, Children

June 12, 2013 by Open Doors in General


Two years after a pair of assassins murdered Aira Sanchez’ husband, daughter and sister-in-law in the church her husband pastored in the family’s home, Open Doors has partnered with two Colombian engineers to help the widow and her surviving children move to a small house of her own.

The new home offers Aira and her three children a fresh start after gunmen from a right-wing criminal band took the lives of her husband Maximiliano “Maximo” Suarez Romero, 37, and their daughter Nubia Melissa Suarez Sanchez, 9. Also killed was Maylen Cecilia Guevara, 27, wife of Aira’s brother Elias and member of Maximo’s recent church plant in the Divino Ni community of northern Colombia.
In the midst of grief, Aria proclaims, “Today I am once again feeling hopeful. I feel I can live. Before, sadness permeated the depths of my soul. But little by little, God is restoring me.”

La Guajira is a region long beset with violence. The current threats come from criminal gangs that formed after Colombia’s largest paramilitary group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, laid down arms in 2006. Hired assassins, narcotrafficking and other routine violence have prompted a steady stream of exiles to flee into displacement under death threats and fear.

Amid this backdrop of lawlessness, members of Maximo’s church overheard men demanding that Maximo support criminal gangs. They also ordered him to pay them sums of money and stop holding meetings for prayer and fasting. Criminal groups understand that prayers and fasting act as weapons against them-when Christians get together, the evildoers’ plans fail.

As Maximo was reading Psalm 15 to members of his small congregation during Saturday morning prayer and fasting on Feb. 12, 2011, Aira’s family changed forever. This Scripture promises that those who refuse to accept a bribe against the innocent may dwell with the Lord. As he read, armed men associated with a criminal gang burst into the meeting looking for Maximo.

When Maximo steadfastly refused to give in to their demands, the criminals shot and killed him, his young daughter and his wife’s sister-in-law, and wounded a child.

After the devastating attack on Aira’s loved ones and her church, she thought she’d never experience joy again. A dedicated homemaker, she had few marketable job skills through which to provide for her own children as well as support her husband’s parents. She moved with her surviving family members into a room of her sister’s small house.

Since then, each of Aira’s family members has participated in Open Doors trauma recovery as well as receiving counseling and financial support for food and rent. An Open Doors worker shared Aira’s housing need with two Christian engineers. The engineers partnered with the ministry to provide the widow with land and a three-room home. Aira’s brother Elias helped with its construction.
With a tuition grant from Open Doors, Aira is in her third semester of studying occupational health as she works in her daughter’s small Internet cafe. Also using a grant from the ministry, Elias has completed studies on the operation of heavy machinery.

“The fight is constant, but we feel joyful knowing people are praying for us,” Elias said. “It encourages us when we receive the helpful visits of OD.”

An Open Doors volunteer commented on the difficulties facing believers in Colombia, one of the world’s most violent places. “It is not easy to be hopeful in a place where the daily bread is death and Christians are targets of violence and persecutions,” she said. “We fight threats and pressure.”

Another worker said that although they cannot be there all the time with their brothers, “We are able to keep an eye on them by phone and involve them in activities and trainings that we know will help them in the healing process,” the worker said. “The support for buying the land is also an effort for Aira to get her life back-hers and her children’s. Someday they may help others in the same situation.”

Aira’s family has decided to move forward believing God will provide. “We cannot build many rooms now, but step by step we’re going to build our house in which neither Maximo nor Nubia Melissa are going to be,” Aira said. “Still, we’ll all be together, giving thanks to God for his mercy.”

Father, thank You for Your mercy for Aria and her family in the midst of their profound need, and thank You that the help came from Your people, from the Open Doors community in Colombia. We pray that You will give her and her bother Elias favor in their studies and future employment that will help them provide for their families. Thank You for Maximo’s faithfulness to You even in the face of death. Strengthen Your people in Colombia to bear up under persecution and at the same time we call on You to bring an end to the power these criminal forces have over Your church. Comfort Arias in moments of grief and strengthen her as she moves forward in faith. In the name of Jesus, our aid in time of trouble, Amen.

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