Yanira with younger sister Jacky.
"I did forgive them, because God taught me that every little thing in our lives has a purpose," Yanira, a project worker for a partner church in El Salvador, said with confidence and courage. This statement is very admirable coming from a 19-year-old girl who has suffered tremendously from gangs. In El Salvador, gang members range in age from 7 to 30 years old and, according to the police, as many as 20,000 young people are involved in different gangs all over the country. Gangs control prostitution, crime and vandalism, and are responsible for 75 percent of all crimes in this country.
"It was great when my little sister started attending the Compassion project; I remember she loved everything about it. We were a Christian family then, but in the project we found a place where she could freely develop all her skills and gifts. That's why I decided to join the work of Compassion and I became the project's sponsorship coordinator - there I could witness firsthand that the project's mission was to love and to bless children," Yanira remembers.
One day, gang members kidnapped Yanira while she was returning home from the project. The entire church family began praying for her since no one knew where she was and what would happen to her. Her mother and little sister were horrified because Yanira was a fundamental part of their fatherless family; the sponsored children and the partner church were also saddened. As Christians, they knew the power of prayer; however, as Salvadoreans, they were aware that Yanira's life was in danger.
Compassion employees worldwide, Salvadorean partner churches, and country staff prayed intensely for Yanira, and after one week she was released with only a few scratches. Yanira said she was under drug effects during that week and can only recall part of her ordeal. However, she does remember that she prayed, and that her kidnappers stated that the fact she was a Christian saved her life.
Since Yanira is the sister of a sponsored child, she was able to receive medical examinations and psychological assistance, which Compassion gives to families that have suffered similar tragedies.
After the kidnapping, Yanira became deeply depressed; however, her love for children helped free her. "I kept wondering 'Why me? Why did it happen to me?' But then I began to understand God's purpose since I realized that around me there were a lot of children who suffer violence, abuse and brutality at their own homes," Yanira explained.
It did not take long for Yanira to return to the project. "I missed my kids a lot; I needed to see them again. And about the people who kidnapped me ... I forgive them. I understand that they don't know Jesus and they are full of anger and bitterness. God has even helped me to pray for them. Besides, I have found that God has a purpose for everything, because now when I talk to sponsored children that have been abused, I can say that God can heal their wounds as he has healed mine," Yanira affirmed.
God is certainly using this young Salvadorean woman to minister to the lives of sponsored children. "Sometimes the girls ask me about how is possible to forgive those who have done awful things to you. I tell them that God has a purpose for everything, and if I can forgive those who have hurt me, they can do it also."
Yanira is a living testimony of forgiveness and love. She received Compassion assistance because the traumatic situation she faced, assistance that helped her and her family to overcome their calamity. Now this project worker provides an example of compassion and courage, which comforts hundreds of children from her community.
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