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December 13, 2012

COLOMBIA: That could be me

Gloria is just 30, three years younger than I am. She was 26 when her husband was murdered and she was left to raise two kids on her own.

The stories in which I can see myself always hit me the hardest. Gloria and her husband were commissioned as missionaries by their church in Colombia. They went to start a church in an area of the country under guerrilla control, where the church had been closed for years. Guerrillas controlled every aspect of life in the village – who could come in, who could do business and who could meet when.

Gloria and Manuel started small, visiting people in their homes. They eventually had a small group of believers, and after eight years, Manuel decided to ask the guerrillas for permission to reopen the church building for a special holiday service.

The answer wasn’t what he expected. He knew it was dangerous to live where he lived, and he knew dealing with the guerrillas was always risky. But he also knew there was no way around approaching them, if he wanted his church to celebrate Easter.

Four guerrilla soldiers marched into the community on the appointed meeting day and shot Manuel in the street. His son, Daniel, was just feet away in the community school house. And Gloria was also nearby in their home. At the sound of the shots, she ran outside. She ran to her husband’s crumpled body, gathered it in to her arms and kissed him goodbye.

And then, instead of losing herself into grief, this 26-year-old woman took her Bible and preached a sermon to the villagers who had collected in the aftermath. She wanted to continue her ministry in the village, but after continued threats against her, VOM helped move her to a new location.

I first met Gloria and the kids about a year after Manuel’s death. The feelings were still raw. Gloria shared her hopes for the future, but the kids barely spoke. They had traveled to another city to meet me, and were overwhelmed with all the new images and sites of the city. Kids who had spent their whole lives in the sticky heat of the tropical jungle were freezing in the cool mountain air. What we had planned as a weekend’s retreat from their grief didn’t seem to help.

I kept in touch with the family through VOM’s in-country staff. VOM decided it would be best to help the family buy a home in a new town, so Gloria wouldn’t have the burden of providing housing for her family. We helped connect her with a local church who promised to help her with spiritual needs as well as provide fellowship and a place to serve.

A month ago, I was in Colombia working on another story. I decided to travel to meet Gloria again, to check in with them. I found a totally different family. In two and a half years, the children had blossomed into teenagers. They were talkative but still shy, and the two siblings showed their deep affection for one another and for their mother. And Gloria was glowing.

I soon learned why. She was to be married in two weeks’ time. She met her future husband in the church that promised to take care of her. The two of them were involved in ministry, including the afternoon I met them. They went out to the town square to publically share the gospel with passersby.

I asked the kids how they felt about their mother’s impending marriage. It could be a big change for this tight-knit family of three, deeply bonded through the loss of their husband and father. With his sister sitting on the arm of his chair, Daniel said, “We’re happy for her. When she asked us about it, we told her to go ahead and get married. She has the opportunity and she is young. My sister and I are thinking about her future. She would be alone when we leave home.”

Gloria’s future husband also spoke with the kids. “He said he was praying for her and God arranged everything,” Daniel said. “He also asked our permission to marry her. We told him yes.”

GLORIA_WeddingLast week, my friend sent wedding photos. Gloria and her new husband kneel at the altar, eyes earnestly squeezed shut as they are commissioned as a married couple by their church.

Gloria’s story is a story of hope and redemption. Of all the widows VOM has worked with in Colombia, she’s only the second widow to remarry after losing her husband because of their faith. Usually the death of a husband means a woman is resigned to a lifetime alone, struggling to support children. VOM helps, the churches provide support, but anyone who has lost a spouse knows how difficult the path is.

I’m so thankful for what God has provided for Gloria. Please pray with me for this new family as they adjust to life together, and that God will continue to use them for his glory in Colombia.

Along with her husband, Dory P. has worked with VOM for six years. As a missionary kid and in her own ministry work she has travelled to more than 40 countries.

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Comments

Love it! The stories are the same for me...ones in which I can see myself always hit me the hardest...More pictures, please?!

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