I was born in Nicaragua, in Central America, during a period of civil war. Children as young as 13 were sent to fight in the war, never to return home. My parents didn’t know how long this war would last. As they watched their two children grow, they knew that we would soon be considered old enough to fight. It was this fear that led them to make a risky decision that would change our lives forever—they decided to leave Nicaragua in the heat of the conflict and head to neighbouring Costa Rica.
We began walking through the jungle. The 45-day journey came with all kinds of potential dangers—sickness, starvation, getting lost and being found by fighting soldiers. This experience was not easy but it cemented my faith. We lived through many things that we can only attribute to divine intervention.
When we finally made it to Costa Rica, we were taken in as refugees. We had to miss many meals and opportunities were limited but we didn’t care. We were safe.
We found a Seventh-day Adventist church in Costa Rica where we could worship. Friends there told us about a country that would take applications from anyone seeking refugee status. We had no idea where Australia was. We had no idea what Australia would be like. But we were told it was a country of opportunity. And that was what my parents wanted for us.
We decided to apply, just to see what would happen. When we turned up for the application process, we had to join a queue of more than 1000 people, all applying for refugee status in Australia. We waited in line for hours.
A year went by and we had not heard anything further. We thought nothing more of it, until one day there was a knock on the door. The person at the door told us that we needed to go to the public telephone box straight away. Someone urgently needed to speak to us.
There was a woman on the other end of the line. “I’m calling to let you know that you have won the lottery,” she announced. We looked at one other in surprise. What was she talking about? We hadn’t entered any lottery.
“Out of the thousands of people who applied,” she clarified, “you have been selected to go to Australia as refugees.”
The news was both exciting and terrifying. What would it mean to go to a country with a different culture and a different language? How would we manage?
The move to Australia happened faster than we expected. We gave away the few possessions we owned. Literally with only the clothes on our backs, we made our way to the airport and boarded the plane.
When we landed in Australia, our first view was of tall buildings and picturesque scenery. We were amazed by how beautiful this country was. Once again, we knew that God was leading us.
Our parents never let us forget that God had brought us to Australia—this land of opportunity—for a greater purpose. They often reminded us that we were not to waste our chances here. God had not delivered us from the dangers of war and seen us through a 45-day jungle trek in vain.
As I listened to my parents’ reminders, I wondered what greater purpose God might have in store for me. Never did I imagine that it would be to serve Him in full-time ministry as I do today, as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor.
Looking back, it's so clear to me that God had a plan and purpose for my life. And I strongly believe that He has a plan and purpose for you too.
Pastor Luis Bermudez is pastor of Warrnambool, Camperdown and Portland churches in Victoria.