Jeremy and Ana Van Beelen
Serving at Pan de Vida.
I am 39 years old and I have two brothers and two sisters. My one brother is my twin. I was raised in a Christian home and went to a private Christian school for my schooling. When I was 18, I professed my faith and made the commitment to follow the Lord in all that I would do so I became a member of the Canadian Reformed Church in Langley, BC. I knew that by His grace He would help me in this. Since then, there have been many ups and downs in my life story but the Lord was continually by my side through it all. In 2000 I met Duane Visscher who talked about a ministry in Mexico with children. I thought this was very important and the Lord put it a desire in my heart to go there. At this point, I had been involved in mission work with the Indigenous Peoples near Smithers, BC. The Lord was using this to prepare me for ministry in Mexico. I didn’t go to Mexico until January 2004 because I was studying at the University of British Columbia for a degree in Forest Operations and I wanted to finish this degree before I went down. I thought it wouldn’t be responsible if I didn’t.
While on the plane to Mexico, with Duane Visscher and another friend, I prayed that the Lord would use me however He saw fit. When arriving in Mexico, it was a huge shock to suddenly be in a culture where you could not communicate with people, but the love of the Lord has no boundaries! My initial plan was to volunteer for two months in the construction projects at the Pan de Vida orphanage in Queretaro. I learned how to tile and Duane and I tiled almost all of the bottom floor of the girl’s dorm at Pan de Vida. In these two months I met a girl that I was interested in and so extended my stay for two more months. This girl’s name was Ana. After the four months, January to May 2004, I returned to Canada to work in Forestry to save funds. I needed to return to Canada also to have time away from the ministry of Pan de Vida to clear my mind of the culture and feelings so that I could pray about what the Lord’s will was for my life. After much prayer and Bible reading, I decided to return to Pan de Vida, Mexico in December 2004. I knew that when I returned to Mexico that it would be for whatever time the Lord wanted me to stay. I continued in the construction work, taught English for a few months, and Ana and I took our relationship to a new level. We were engaged in April 2005 and we were married on December 22, 2005. There have been many changes in our lives since: I have been working in Mexico now for fourteen years at different children’s homes, with over 7 years working at Dulce Refugio and moving to Pan de Vida orphanage in September 2013, and Ana and I became the General Directors of Pan de Vida orphanage in June 2015. Besides my responsibilities at Pan de Vida, I am the father to Benjamin, Mateo, Samuel and Emma. God has been with us every step of the way and we trust the plan He has for us. We are doing our best to live in His path and let Him lead us for His purpose that He has set out for us from the creation of the world.
I am the oldest of six siblings. I was born in Queretaro Mexico. I lived at the Pan de Vida orphanage for about 11 years. The reason why I lived at Pan de Vida was because my family did not stay together. My father was an alcoholic and my mother was a victim of my father’s abuse. Before my father became an alcoholic he used to be a very good jeweller. We used to have what we wanted. We talked a lot about material things because it was a very good paying job for my dad. But then my father started having economic problems. He could not pay some of our expenses. My dad was getting really desperate about it. The problem got worse and my dad found the only answers to those problems in alcohol. He started drinking very often and every time he got drunk he would beat my mother up. He started getting drunk every weekend and then he would be drunk for a month at a time. Sometimes my dad had some money, which with we would by food, but my dad spent a lot of it on alcohol. My mother couldn’t handle my dad’s beatings and his negligence towards us. My mother decided to leave my father. She took my two little brothers and my little sister and left us to be with our dad. I was 10 years old.
A year later my dad stopped drinking and took back my brothers and sister from my mom. My dad was happy having the other half of the family with him. He was doing really great for six months. He got a job, not a good one in fact. A job that didn’t give us enough for food, but at least we were taken care of. It was good. The big load of feeding 6 kids, clothing them, schooling them was not easy for my dad. I could see my dad getting frustrated and feeling as if life was the worst thing that could have happened to him. Well, I went through that situation with him before so it seemed familiar to me. I knew what was next. My dad started drinking again but this time for five months straight. This time my mom was not there to take care of the situation so I had to. I was just 10 years old and I had to take care of my brothers and sisters, with my little brother being 2 years old. I had to go out and ask people for something to do like cleaning or other things so we could have some money for food. Sometimes my brother and sister would help me to clean up houses and collect newspapers to sell so that we could have some money to get through the day. It never bothered me to take care of my brothers and sisters. I really love them. Anyways, I didn’t know anything different.
My dad’s return to alcohol kept happening for the next 3 years. My dad could not have a stable job or own a house. We had to jump from place to place. I stopped going to school because the responsibility that I had did not let me do things that I really wished to do. It was okay until one day when I was 13, I found my dad in one of the rooms in the house inhaling some sort of glue. It really scared me. My little brother was inside the room as well. I took my brothers and sisters and I went to ask for help from one of my neighbours. I asked my neighbour to take me to the government social services office so I could talk to them about our situation so that they could take us to a place where we could be safe. I asked her that because somebody told me about those offices before. The next day she took us and I told the officials about our lives. It was really hard for me to leave my dad. I didn’t want to do what my mom did to him but I felt that I had to. I took my brothers and sisters with me and I was not going to let anybody separate us. Because of my persistence in this the social services officials took us to Pan de Vida, an orphanage that promotes the family structure and accepts families into its home. This happened to be a Christian orphanage as well. It has been a different story ever since.
When we arrived at Pan de Vida I thought everyone was crazy. Everyone was smiling and doing things that I never saw people do before in my life. Some people were playing tambourines with very weird Christian music. Some were doing dramas for the kids that talked about somebody that gave his life to rescue us from our sins. All that stuff was really new to my life. I thought,”oh man! I don’t know where I ended up now!” Then I got the opportunity to be in one of the praise and worship services. I really liked the singing because I felt peace in my heart. I wanted more of this. I wanted this for the rest of my life. After that service the director of Pan de Vida asked me if he could talk with me. We sat down and started talking about my life and how it could change with the knowledge of Jesus Christ and his love for us. We talked for an hour or more. I really wanted what the director was talking about. I asked him why so many people do not know about all that he was saying. He just told me that it was our mission in life to go and tell people about the Lord and that he loves us more than we can even imagine.
From that day on my life has changed. Before my heart was full of frustration and anger but now God was showed me his great love. That made me see life as a gift that we should be thankful for. He never left me along. I thought I was the one taking care of my brothers and sisters. I know now that it was not me but it was God with his great and awesome love guiding us to where he wanted us to go.
I do not have anything against my parents because I understand that nobody is perfect and that God gave me the parents I have for a reason. Everything I have been through in this life was a reason and every reason for God’s glory.
Now I just want to serve the Lord with my life because it is the only thing that is real and the only thing that makes me feel complete. I want to tell people about his love, about Jesus’ love. I want to become a teacher and use it for his glory. God is the only one that deserves our love and glory. Without him we are nothing. He is gracious and loving and the desire of my heart is to live for his glory.
This is a testimony of what the Christian children’s ministry in Mexico has done for me and we continue to pray that many more children will be blessed in the same way. Currently, I am working at the Pan de Vida orphanage as the General Director. Besides taking care of my four children, Benjamin, Mateo, Samuel, and Emma, I deal with all the child related issues of the 68 children who call Pan de Vida home. It is a blessing to now be helping run this home after being raised at Pan de Vida. Although my responsibility at Pan de Vida is tough, God is the One who give me strength to do this work, day in and day out.
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