Urabá is one of the most important banana-growing areas in Colombia and, unfortunately, it is also one of the most representative regions of conflict in the country. It all started a little more than 30 years ago, when paramilitary groups began making incursions into the region to fight the guerrillas, affecting the lives of its inhabitants, as in the case of Reina*.
The Gulf of Urabá is a strategic place for drug trafficking, which is why armed groups fight for control and forcibly recruit children and young people from the region to fight in a conflict that doesn't even belong to them.
Without God or Law
For many of the armed groups, "religion is the opium of the people". They see religion as a means of control by the ruling classes. This is what Reina, now 45 years old, was taught. She was forcibly recruited by the guerrillas as soon as she had enough strength to carry a gun, carry a backpack, and walk for several days in the jungle without stopping.
"I was taught to deny God, that God did not exist... I completely believed that God did not exist"
Reina tells us that, "they told me many lies and I ended up in the ranks where my life was a calvary, where I was taught to deny God, that God did not exist, that men had invented this story of God in order to make people live oppressed under the yoke of the state. And I completely believed that God did not exist...".
In addition, there is a lack of opportunities and neglect by the state. According to the Medellín Chamber of Commerce, about 25.83% of basic needs are unsatisfied in every household in this region, including the lack of formal jobs, the inhabitants' low level of education, and the lack of health insurance and basic sanitation, among others.
The First War
These situations are what led Reina to join this armed group: “My soul was wounded... I had no peace, but pure thirst for revenge seeing so much injustice, to see even innocent relatives who went out and did not come back because they were killed. I was filled with so much impotence, so much anger, so much hatred…”.
Her days in the jungle would start at 4:45am – she would brush her hair and be in formation by 5am. If there was food, she had breakfast at 7am, and if not, she simply started her workday, which, she says, changed according to the needs of the organization: "I did all the work that had to be done - mobilization, going out... It was a life of daily routine, always moving from one place to another. There was never stability anywhere."
"I was fully equipped. I was a warrior, a fighter..."
But that is not all. She says that in that male-dominated environment, "...women are mistreated and discriminated against. So, we are abused in every way". Despite this, she made her way in that world and began to fight. "My job was to patrol. I was fully equipped. I was a warrior, a fighter..."
The Turning Point
Although in her youth she had rejected God and firmly claimed that He did not exist, she now acknowledges that "God was there, always looking at me." God revealed Himself to Reina in a very personal and supernatural encounter then.
One day when she was on her way home after being in the jungle for a long time, she fainted, and as in a dream, she "started to go down, down into the depths. I was going through a very fearful and cold tunnel."
At that moment she remembered the people who had shared the gospel with her and went to an even worse place where someone started showing her all the material things she longed for. That the person told her, "What good is all this money to you? What good is what you want? What good is it to you if you don't even own your own body?” Faced with this situation, she began to cry in the dream and asked God to take her out of that place if He really existed.
While all this was going on in her dream, the people who saw Reina lying on the ground took her to a hospital, and when she finally woke up, she asked a woman who had told her she was a Christian to pray for her. "When I got home, my mind was different. And from that moment on, many people started praying for me." The same people who prayed for her, saw a total transformation in her life and invited her to a service at their church the following Monday. "That Monday I made the decision to go to a sister and she took me to church, and that night I accepted the Lord as my Saviour," she says.
A long path of repentance and forgiveness
The path ahead of her afterwards was a long one full of repentance and forgiveness. To Reina, her recruitment into the armed group was the fault of her parents, who could not give her the opportunity to study. "I felt anger towards my parents and everyone, I felt anger towards myself and society...That was something that affected me. And it filled me with a lot of anger. Seeing others in offices and seeing myself in the ranks of an armed group, because my parents didn't have the opportunity to study. But I started to forgive, because to be honest, neither of my parents were to blame for the fact that I couldn't study."
“If I served the devil with so much love, with how much more love will I serve the One who gave me life?"
During this process, many people rejected her because of her past life, and there were even some who did not believe that she had been transformed. But Reina stood firm in her faith and grew in her desire to serve the Lord. “If I served the devil with so much love, with how much more love will I serve the One who gave me life? And if I was already brave enough to carry a gun, here I must be brave enough to serve God. If nothing was big enough for me there, how much less now that God is the one who has me in His hands, that I am not on my own?”
As she appreciated the price Jesus had paid on the cross for her, Reina soon began to feel love and compassion for those who did not know Him. That was also when she met her husband and began to serve as a leader in her church and became an elder of the congregation. After some ups and downs in her service and walk with the Lord, she was asked if she wanted to start a church, to which her answer was "yes."
"I will not die when the devil wills, but when God wills.”
So, Reina and her family began to hold small meetings in different houses. In the middle of this, a man threatened to kill her. He demanded that she return to the armed group and stop preaching the Word, otherwise she would die. To this, Reina responded, "I will not work with you, nor will you kill me, because I will not die when the devil wills, but when God wills. And I will continue to serve God”.
“There is nothing more worthwhile than serving God”
This is how she began to be persecuted for following the Lord. There are men who come to her church meetings to watch her and pay attention to the content of her sermons, sometimes following her in the street, demanding that she quit her work of preaching the gospel, but she stands firm. This led us to ask her if it was worth suffering persecution for following Christ, to which her answer was: “I believe that because of what Christ has done for us, God is worth serving. No matter the situation, no matter what the circumstances are, no matter where. There is nothing more worthwhile than serving God. He is the only one who deserves everything”.
Therefore, despite the difficult situation of violence in Urabá, Reina is willing to continue serving the Lord and loving her brothers and sisters, bringing reconciliation to members of her church who before Christ were from opposing armed groups and considered enemies.
"Church, please pray for Colombia!”
She is aware that the context in which she found herself led her away from the Lord and to make bad decisions in her youth, which is why she encourages us to pray for her country: “We must pray for Colombia because it is one of the countries with the most internal violence and the most poverty. Pray for Colombia, for us, that God will fill us with more wisdom to be able to continue rescuing those souls that are lost. Church, please pray for Colombia!”
- Pray for Reina, who continues to preach God's word despite the threats she suffers. May God use her to reach more and more people and bring them to Christ.
- Pray for her family. May God protect them in this very dangerous and violent region.
- Pray for those people who are fighting a senseless war in the illegal groups. May they know the true word of God.
- Pray for Colombia and for this internal conflict in which the population lives. Despite peace attempts, illegal armed groups are still authorities in some regions of the country. May God deliver the country from this violence.
A GIFT FOR A PERSECUTED CHILD
MY GIFT TO CHILDREN
- Every HK$200 could provide a month’s education to a child impacted by persecution
- Every HK$530 could support a child at the Colombia Children’s Centre, giving safety, education and a future
- Every HK$720 could give Bibles to ten children, so they can know Jesus through Scripture.