Last year, HOI kicked off a new youth ministry led by Ranch pastor Wilmer Padilla. This spring God will continue working in the lives of teens in the Agalta Valley through Vida Joven, the Central American branch of Young Life, as HOI and Vida Joven begin a partnership based at Rancho el Paraiso.
Michael Aguilar and Daniela Terez Perez, a young newlywed couple from Nicaragua, will move to the Ranch in April to begin their ministry. Both Michael and Daniela are passionate about sharing the Gospel and have been personally impacted by Vida Joven.
Michael, 26, is from Matagalpa, Nicaragua. His mother passed away in an accident when he was only six years old, and he went to live with his grandmother, who struggled to provide for him. His father was not involved in his life.
Michael says, “Since my mother died and I had no parents, I became depressed. This was the loneliest time of my life. However, I put a lot of effort into my classes to honor my mother, and I was always a good student. I dreamed of being an architect and painter. In my family there is not a lot of affection, and this drove me to drink, almost every night, and go to parties and use marijuana. It was a very crazy time. After I left high school I realized that in spite of being a good student, I could not go to university because of my lack of resources.
“Around that time Vida Joven invited me to a camp. This camp was special; I could see so much love, like I had always yearned for. The talks didn’t impact me as much as the love that the Vida Joven leaders had for me did. When they asked me about my decision, I didn’t doubt what it was going to be, because I wanted to feel loved and special forever and not go back to feeling alone. I accepted God on December 19th, 2005, and went through a long process of leaving behind smoking, drinking, and my old friendships. My mentor helped me a lot. After 2 years of serving in the ministry, I received a global scholarship to study in the university. I felt so loved by God in that moment, and I dedicated myself to studying and loving the youth. I’m now married and graduating as an architect, and never again have I felt alone since God entered my heart. Now I dream of serving and bringing other youth to Christ and having a relationship with my Father.”
Daniela, 22, is also from Matagalpa. Her parents separated when she was 5 years old, and she went to live with her grandparents. Although they loved her deeply, as a teen she returned to Matagalpa to live with her mother. She then suffered abuse from a cousin, and in her pain and confusion began to rebel. She stopped going to class and began drinking and smoking.
The first sign of change came when she was 14 and was invited to a Vida Joven camp. “The camp was incredible for me,” Daniela says. “I accepted Jesus in my heart and felt love for my parents, and forgave them.” She started dating Michael, who was also involved in Vida Joven.
Her grandmother was always a source of support, but when Daniela was in college, her grandmother became sick with stomach cancer and passed away after 6 months. “When she died, my world fell. I began to resent God, and felt alone, without direction or protection. I could not continue studying and returned to my old life. God began to help me slowly, but I kept smoking and drinking.
“My relationship with Michael became distant, but he began to talk to me about God and gave me Christian books to borrow. I was so resentful towards God, because it felt unfair to take my grandmother from me, but I kept persevering and went to another camp. In this camp God spoke to me for the first time. He was real in my life, and I realized that day that nothing could separate me from His love. I don’t think there are words to describe my reunion with God. From that moment I have wanted to truly serve my Father, without seeking my own benefit. I have served in Vida Joven for 8 years, and I love the youth. I am passionate about introducing young women to Jesus, girls who have no interests, no wishes, no opportunities, with difficult lives. I feel useful showing them the love of God that my Father has given me, and I am truly happy. My relationship with my parents improved, and now I am blessed to be married to Michael. We both love Jesus, and so we can share in the call of God to bring more youth to Jesus.”
Over the next month, Michael and Daniela will be preparing for their move to Honduras. Please join us in praying for them in this transition and in their ministry to reach young people in the Agalta Valley!