Story of Hope: Pastor Rubén
Maybe you can't relate to stories of serious, 180° shifts in your life, but there's a good chance you've offered a friendly smile or a genuine hug to someone in the midst of such a transition in their life. It may have seemed simple to you in the moment, but you'll never know the true impact on that person. In a recent story from Open Doors, we read about Rubén* and were inspired by his transition from 7-year-old child soldier with the Columbian guerrilla army to 15-year-old Pastor on the run. The part of his story that really stood out though, was the incredible support he received along they way from Christians who were simply living out their everyday lives with love and intentionality.
After growing up with emotional and physical abuse in a dysfunctional, impoverished Columbian family, Rubén felt like he had nowhere to turn. “You go to the guerrillas because it seems to be the only option,” said Rubén. “You want respect from people, which is why it is easy to be deceived by guns, uniforms and camaraderie. You don’t realize the deception until it is too late.”
At the age of 7, Rubén received men's combat training. By the time he was 10, he was in a position of leadership over 80 men in arms. By the age of 12, he was a guerrilla spy in the nearby town for targeting people to kidnap and extort. The whole time though, he often had memories of going to church with his grandfather and came in contact with friendly Christians who offered smiles and genuine hugs. “These things amazed me,” remembered Rubén. “This showed me that not all people were bad and that the guerrillas were not always painting an accurate picture of people.”
Rubén's curiosity for spiritual topics grew, so he began attending the Sunday services of some local pastors. Soon after, in a guerrilla-related kidnapping Rubén was responsible for carrying out, a major gun battle ensued. The Army began shooting at Rubén and his companions, taking them out one by one. Although injured, Rubén's life was spared when guerrillas rescued him and overtook the Army that day. “My comrades told me that I had been saved by the ‘spirit of the revolution,’ but I knew that God had saved me because he loves me and wants something different for me.”
According to Open Doors' story, "Rubén’s life changed radically in that moment. Everything he had believed suddenly vanished. The ideals of the revolution, the hatred towards the wealthy, the use of weapons and violence—all of these seemed suddenly empty and meaningless. God’s love had changed him. He decided to give his life to Christ and begin congregating with other Christians regularly."
That decision for Christ, in addition to completely renouncing his involvement with the guerrillas, made things even more difficult for Rubén, but it didn't stop him from making a difference. Even while facing persecution (including death threats) from the guerrillas and allegations for his past crimes, he still went on to become a Pastor at the age of 15. He has been an inspiration to everyone he has met since then, including many guerrillas who were looking for answers. "I want them to know God’s heart for them. It is my hope that they will want to seek God and pursue true life.” Rubén's powerful messages of peace and reconciliation have made a great impact. While on the run for his safety, many people supported him and respected him.
There are so many more amazing layers and details to Rubén's story that we believe you will be blessed and encouraged by reading. Please, check out the full story from Open Doors here.
Stories like these are made possible by the prayers and support Open Doors receives through their ministry—and through you. 20% of every purchase through our Hope Delivered® store is donated to Open Doors to support persecuted Christians worldwide, building courage and hope into real people just like Rubén.
*Representative name and photo used to protect identity