Timóteo's family found Jesus and converted from the beliefs of their tribe in Colombia. That made them targets for persecution - and made Timóteo a target for guerrilla gangs.
You're 11 years old, and you\'re walking home from school. A man carrying a gun calls you over to him. What do you do?
This wasn't a new experience for Timóteo in Colombia. Guerrilla fighters were everywhere in his community. They produced mixed feelings in him: fear and desire. Fear, because of their many weapons, the drug trafficking he'd heard about, and the ongoing war between the guerrillas and the army. Desire, because their way of life seemed to offer money and new opportunities for an indigenous kid like him.
And Timóteo wasn't just a child from an indigenous, animist tribe – one that believes everything in the universe has a spirit, and practices ancient rituals to worship them. His family were also Christians. Their conversion to Christianity enraged the tribe, who saw it as a betrayal of their traditions and feared they would anger the spirits.
"He used to evangelise the youth whom the guerrillas wanted to recruit," says Timóteo. "They weren't going to join the guerrillas if they had Christian thinking."
This angered the guerrillas, and they threatened to kill him because of his opposition to the fighters. But Timóteo's father didn't back down. It made young Timóteo an especially attractive target for guerrilla fighters.
When a Colombian guerrilla fighter wants to recruit a child, they use everything they can think of to try to make it an attractive offer. Money, food, medicine, shelter – the offer changes depending on the child's situation. If persuasion fails, sometimes children are taken by force.
With all the persecution he and his family faced from the community, Timóteo was severely tempted when he was offered a better life by the guerrillas.
"When I came home from school, there were guerrillas on the road," remembers Timóteo. "You saw that they had a good life because they had a lot of money. They offered you things, like: 'We will give you money. If you come here, you will have a better life'." And it wasn't just money. They offered him power and belonging – he wouldn't just be one of the tribe's outcasts anymore. He would be a guerrilla, and the tribe would have to listen to him or face the consequences.
But Timóteo said no. He remembered what his father had taught him about Jesus being worth more than earthly riches or power. He ran home – but the thoughts of the life he could have still lingered in his mind.
Timóteo's father was delighted his son had stood firm – but was afraid it was only a matter of time before Timóteo gave in to their offers or was taken by force. His son would make a fine trophy for them, given his own public opposition to the guerrilla fighters. And, remember, Timóteo was only eleven years old. It was a lot of responsibility for a young boy to shoulder.
Then Timóteo's father remembered the Open Doors Children's Centre. It\'s a school and home for persecuted children in Colombia, where they can stay for short or long periods. It offers safety and shelter, as well as education and community.
For Timóteo, acceptance at the Children’s Centre shows that God’s plans are bigger than ours. “I didn't plan anything; it was sudden. My father sent the request, as he was really distressed about the situation. I believe it was God\'s will, because nothing was planned.”
Once Timóteo arrived at the Children's Centre, it took a while for him to feel at home. Although he was safe from the guerrillas here, thoughts of joining them still haunted his mind. But over time, his thoughts changed. He received trauma care, to help him understand all the scars that the persecution against his family had left. He found new passions to focus on: “I play the guitar. I love music.”
In the years since Timóteo first came to the Children\'s Centre, his father and mother continued to risk their lives to spread the good news about Jesus. Thanks to your support, they didn't have to choose between following the call of God for their lives and keeping Timóteo safe.
And now, Timóteo wants to follow in their footsteps: “I want to talk to families. I would like to go to their homes and share about God as an evangelist. I want to do this because Jesus did this. If He did it, I must do it too."
Timóteo is 18 now and has graduated from the Children\'s Centre. He wants to finish his studies in engineering and return to his community to help struggling kids – there are many boys and girls who are still facing the challenges that he once faced.
"I am not afraid of the guerrillas," says Timóteo. "I know that God is with me and He gives me the strength to carry His gospel and will always protect me."
Not so long ago, Timóteo stood at a crossroads. The guerrillas offered him earthly wealth and power. But he chose something better – the love of Jesus Christ. God protected him in that situation, and this Christmas, Timóteo is safe, following Jesus, and keen to share Him with others.
Your support and prayers helped to make that possible – please continue to help make a safe home and a bright future possible for other persecuted children in Colombia.
Every HK$315 could provide a Bible to 10 children who have been impacted by persecution.
Every HK$1,460 could allow the Colombia Children’s Centre provide protection, care and education to a child of a persecuted church leader for a month.
Every HK$375 could provide a Christmas present for a persecuted child to let them know that their Church family loves them.