Valentina (15) in Colombia can't live at home - it wouldn't be safe. Because of her Christian faith, and because her dad's a church leader, she faces persecution from guerrilla gangs and indigenous groups. Thanks to your ongoing prayers and support, she can live at the Colombia Children's Centre run by Open Doors.
Smiling, surrounded by the love and warmth of her family, Valentina is excited for Christmas. It’s extra special because she’s home, in the beautiful Colombian mountains. “For me, the best Christmas is when I’m with my family,” she says.
But this moment of joy will be brief.
Valentina and her little brother Elver will soon travel for 15 hours to the Open Doors Children’s Centre where they live and go to school. It’ll be a year before they’re home again. But staying is not an option – because their faith makes them a target for intense persecution.
The cost of faith
Valentina was born into a Christian family. Her father, Francisco, came to faith aged 20 during a week of fasting at his local church. “God worked a miracle there,” he says. Francisco was baptised and threw himself into church life.
But in this part of Colombia, the indigenous Páez community practises witchcraft rituals and other religions are treated with suspicion and hostility.
Being a Church leader put Francisco in the spotlight. His stance on local issues – he refused to take part in illegal, non-peaceful land claim protests – infuriated community leaders. So when Valentina started school, not only did she become a target for persecution in her own right, she also became a way for oppressors to attack her father.
“I had no freedom,” says Valentina, reflecting on her difficult, lonely school days. As a girl, she was at risk of sexual assault, trafficking and forced marriage. Her brother Elver was a target for criminal guerrilla groups, who were recruiting boys as young as 12.
An agonising choice
Persecution drove the family to an agonising choice. Either the children stay home and live with misery, hopelessness and danger… or they leave.
Separation from parents is a cruel tactic of persecution used against Christian children around the world. In 84% of countries where persecution is most acute, children are likely to be separated from parents. Sometimes it’s enforced – a child may be taken from their family – and sometimes, as with Valentina and persecuted children like her, it’s a choice made out of desperation and fear.
“We were desperate. We realised we needed to get our children out.”
“We were told we had no right to education or health care, and guerrilla groups were looking to recruit children,” said Francisco. “We were desperate. We realised we needed to get our children out.”
So aged 11, Valentina was sent to Open Doors’ Children’s Centre in Colombia. She’s safe, is being educated, and her faith is growing. Valentina even received surgery for a heart condition. And Francisco, her father, has peace of mind. “We felt sad to send our little daughter so far away where we couldn’t see her,” he said. “But we are happy knowing she isn’t in danger anymore.”
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” - Luke 2:10
Across the world, Open Doors protects and provides for children affected by persecution, and strengthens their faith. Right now, there’s an urgent and ongoing need for education, Christian books and Bibles, and communal events like camps. Families need to be strengthened through micro-loans and trauma healing support.
“We can also pray,” says Open Doors researcher Helene Fisher. “Jesus said he loved the children and God is with every one of them. He hears their prayers, and he hears ours.”
Valentina with her younger sister, whom she will also be leaving after Christmas.
Like so many children impacted by persecution, Valentina will endure the pain of separation again this Christmas. She worries constantly for the safety of her family. But Valentina has hope; “I’ve always understood that everything in life has a purpose,” she says.
"Even if we die, they remain to preach the word of God.”
Persecution rips children like Valentina from their homes – and it shapes their whole lives. Your ongoing support and prayers help families hold onto Jesus, in even the hardest times. “My children are being prepared not just academically but also biblically,” says Francisco. “They are getting closer to God – and that’s good for them and us. Even if we die, they remain to preach the word of God.”
For Valentina’s faith, her family and her future.
For Valentina’s father, Francisco, for protection and perseverance.
That persecuted children around the world will know the presence and peace of their saviour this Christmas.
A GIFT FOR A PERSECUTED CHILD
Will you give hope to persecuted children this Christmas?
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.