Did your parents impose a curfew on you as a teenager?
In some remote areas of Chile’s world renowned mountain range, the “Andes,” an unofficial curfew still exists, imposed on all persons regardless of age.
Because anyone entering or leaving these remote indigenous territories after dark risks being attacked, robbed, or even killed. As a result, soldiers are a constant presence in the region, patrolling the borders of the territory in an attempt to maintain some amount of peace.
Pastor Bernardo, a leader from one of our Chilean church partners, is only able to travel in and out of the territory while accompanied by a fellow local pastor. A frequent visitor to the community, Pastor Bernado has become a trusted person, sharing the gospel each time using the Esperanza (Hope) magazines along with other Scripture resources.
But during one particular visit, Pastor Bernardo lost track of time. At risk of breaking the curfew, and out of fear for his safety, the fellow pastor and congregation asked him to leave right away.
Taking their advice, he packed up and started down the narrow dirt mountain road, where he quickly came upon a military checkpoint. Suddenly, eleven soldiers surrounded his vehicle, ordering him to pull over.
Weapons engaged and ready to shoot, the soldiers bombarded Pastor Bernardo with questions.
“Who are you?”
“Why did you come to this dangerous area?”
“What were you doing there?”
“Why did you return so late?”
The soldiers had every reason to ask those questions. Arsonists had set fire to nearby homes and vehicles, leaving raging wildfires in their wake. Given that the suspects were still at large, the soldiers were on high alert. And a mysterious man driving after dark in this area raised multiple red flags.
Pastor Bernardo tried to explain, but the soldiers couldn’t be swayed. They searched his truck, convinced he was smuggling either drugs or ammunition, or both. But all they could find were stacks upon stacks of Esperanza magazines and Bibles.
While the soldiers were investigating the boxes of magazines, Pastor Bernardo experienced an inexplicable peace and boldness, an inner strength he knew could only be from the Holy Spirit. He knew this was an opportunity he couldn't miss—an opportunity to share the love of Christ. As the pastor shared the gospel message among the eleven soldiers standing around him with guns raised, something began to happen. The Lord began to work in the heart of the lieutenant. He asked that they continue the conversation closer to a nearby city.
Once they were in a safer location, the soldiers finally let their guard down. They took off their helmets in reverence to God as they listened to the Good News. Pastor Bernardo shared with each of them the Esperanza magazines, the Bibles, and the hope they can have in a relationship with Jesus.
One by one, the soldiers opened up about their struggles with anxiety and depression. Tears streamed down their faces as they spoke of the risks that came with their job. They didn't know if they'd make it back home each day.
But they felt an inner peace as Pastor Bernardo ministered. Discovering God was watching over them and that He cared for their well-being gave them hope. He prayed with them as they all gave their lives to Jesus.
Pastor Bernardo felt God’s hand in this moment, and walked through the open door God gave him to extend his ministry to members of the military. The lieutenant, moved by the Spirit through the conversation with the pastor, accepted Pastor Bernardo’s request to provide Scriptures and spiritual support for the rest of the troops.
For Pastor Bernardo, this incident affirmed something he already knew. God still reaches and touches the hearts of people in the most difficult situations. Even in the midst of conflict, the light of the gospel breaks.