Inside Story for Friday 24th of November 2023
By Andrew McChesney
Only five families were at home when gunmen descended on a cluster of nine houses occupied by Seventh-day Adventist pastoral families in Venezuela. Waving weapons, the attackers forced the families into a single house where they separated the men, women, and children. Police arrived and surrounded the house, leading to a standoff that ended peacefully ten hours later when, at 3:00 a.m., the gunmen fled into a forest behind the house.
The wives and children of the nine pastoral families were relocated after the 2016 attack. The pastors worked alone for several months as they waited for new placements. Several moved to other countries to serve as pastors.
Luis Paiva, who had served as a pastor for about decade, wasn’t sure what to do. Life had been difficult in economically volatile Venezuela before the attack. Money was tight, and food was scarce. For three years, he had been struggling to pay off a loan. But he couldn’t even keep up with interest payments, and the debt had swelled to US$1,000.
The hostage-taking was the breaking point for Luis’s wife. The family of five had not been at home at the time of the attack. But his wife was left traumatized, and she didn’t want to live in Venezuela anymore. Luis agreed that the country wasn’t safe, but he didn’t feel right about leaving an unpaid debt.
Luis prayed for a sign. He didn’t usually ask for signs because he believed that God could lead without them. But he didn’t know what else to do.
“Lord, if You work a miracle and help me pay this debt, that will be the sign for me to leave Venezuela,” he prayed.
The gunmen had stolen things from all nine houses, including Luis’s. Being robbed was not unusual. Luis’s home had been broken into many times over the past year, but he had not filed any insurance claims. Usually the thefts were too small to make them worth pursuing a claim. But after the last theft, church leaders offered compensation for everything stolen over the past year if Luis obtained a stamped police report confirming the latest theft.
None of the other pastors were able to get the police report. But Luis happened to have friends in the police force, and he secured the document.
Two months later, the insurance company deposited $1,000 into his bank account. It was the exact amount needed to pay the debt.
“I didn’t benefit from that money,” said Luis, who is a missionary in Spain today. “But I understood that God sent the money so I could pay off the debt. I knew that God also would bless the plan to leave the country.”
Thank you for your Sabbath School mission offering that helps support missionaries around the world. Read next week about how Luis flew from Mexico to Spain.