Jul 5, 2023 Fleeing Venezuela to Find Jesus

“It’s a miracle we made it through the jungles,” shared Luis.* “We were desperately seeking refuge, but now we know God was leading us here—and most importantly, to Himself.”

Luis and his family spent two weeks in the jungles between Venezuela, Colombia and Panama. There are no direct roads through to Panama, and overall the journey is about 1290 miles (about 2076km). It took their family about two months. The journey meant risking their lives because of guerilla fighters, panthers, and other wild animals. But, the danger at home was even greater from warfare, economics, and other challenges. Luis and his family were determined to find a better life, for safety.

When Luis and his family finally made it to the border crossing between Panama and Costa Rica, the immigration officer said that if they wanted to continue into Central America, they would have to go back to Venezuela again and file the proper paperwork.

They couldn’t go back—where could they go?

Praise God! Refugee workers connected Luis and his family with an Adventist family in La Chorrera, Panama. The family took them into their own home. The members at the Neuvo Emperador church were also welcoming and supportive. They provided clothes, shoes, and food. Within two weeks, Luis found a job and church members offered a house where they could live rent-free. Best of all, their new friends from church continued to show such love and kindness that Luis and his family started studying the Bible.

Luis’s wife, Carmen,* learned about a week of special meetings at the church presented by a QHM mission team, and she wanted to attend. The family went to every single evening meeting. Pr. Ardila was surprised when he heard the family’s story.

Pastor Fernando Ardila, personal ministries director for the Panama Central Conference, got to know the family more on a Friday evening when he made an appeal for baptism. He asked people to stay after the closing song if they needed prayer or had questions. The couple and their children were waiting for him.

“That’s when they shared their whole story with me,” said Pr. Ardila. “It was so heartbreaking, so difficult. They had no rest through the jungles, no food, nothing.”

Carmen had been praying especially for Luis during the three weeks they had been staying in La Chorrera. She wanted to get baptized and join the Adventist church, but she understood her husband struggled. She had asked Pr. Ardila to pray for their family earlier during the meetings.

“I prayed silently as I gave that final appeal for baptism,” said Pr. Ardila. “Everyone was so happy when Luis raised his hand! Praise the Lord!”

That final Sabbath, Luis, his wife Carmen, and their older son and daughter were all baptized together!

“I thank God for leading me and my family,” said Luis. “Through our trials, now we know, Jesus. Jesus is real. I can see His face on my brothers and sisters here in the Adventist church in Panama.” Praise God!

Luis and his family shared that at first, they felt so hopeless when they were rejected at the border, but now they’ve decided to stay in Panama.

“I know that this is the church my family and I need to be at,” said Luis. “I know God has a purpose for my family. We will continue to do our best, and we want to do it all for Jesus now. Jesus sent us people to help us at the moment when we needed Him. Now, we want to do the same for others who are suffering and need help.”

Praise God! Will you continue to pray for Luis and his family? Will you pray for refugees around the world facing hardships and seeking hope?

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

*Names changed for protection

Cover photo: Luis, Carmen and their family in the middle, holding their new Bibles and baptismal certificates (the man on the far left with stripes on his shirt was also baptized). Woman on far right is also Venezuelan, who has helped this precious family.

Nuevo Emperador Church in La Chorrera, Panama
Leading song service
Praise God for a family united in Christ!
Carmen* praying and praising God

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