Angie Rodriguez was born in Colombia and lived much of her life there, but, unexpectedly, she found Jesus across the world in New Zealand.
“As a child I was a lonely girl with a single mother. My father was married to another woman and couldn’t take care of me, so I was raised by my grandmother, who taught me good values. I always had a deep love for God, who took the role of Father, Mother, Brother, and all that I lacked. I don’t know at what point in my life I turned away from God, but [at some stage] I didn’t open the door of my heart, I ignored His call.”
Despite this admission from Angie, it wasn’t reciprocated and God did not let go of her. She fell in love and got married, but eventually things went very wrong in the marriage. Angie ended up as a divorced mother having to look after both her daughter and her own mother. Finances were meagre. She still had a belief in God, so she prayed and promised to tithe (to give 10% to the church) if he blessed her financially. To her amazement, God did just what she asked! She says,
“…now I know it was not the right way, expecting God to give to me before I gave to Him, but He did still bless me. I was out of work. What happened next was not what I had in mind that He would do, but I trusted and He did it, He took me to a much better job where I obtained financial blessings and managed to fulfil all the material dreams that I had.”
Angie expected that her career success would make her feel fulfilled as a woman, as a daughter, as a mother, and as a professional. But the emptiness inside only grew worse. She asked herself whether there was anything else to life.
A Long Journey
Then, in 2014, Angie’s mother died. This began to raise more difficult questions and she decided it was time to search for her father.
“I did not understand who the Person of Jesus Christ was and why He was the only way to the Father, however in 2016, I returned to the Christian church in Bogotá, Colombia. With passion I began to obey God and He began to move supernaturally in my life.”
Then one day when she did not expect it, she received a message through social media.
“A woman contacted and told me that she was my half -sister, the daughter of my father, and that two months ago she had heard about me! Through her I learned that my father was still alive, now aged 90. I also learned that I have 4 brothers and 7 nephews, and that this sister lives in New Zealand. God used her to bring me to this distant land. I did not even know where it was located on the map!”
A New Life!
Angie arrived with her daughter in New Zealand in November 2016. God had already answered many prayers and she decided that she wanted to attend a church where she could feel part of a Christian ‘family’ and have a sense of belonging. Her sister wasn’t a churchgoer, but she suggested that Angie could try the church just around the corner from where they were living. Something dramatic happened the very first day she went to the church,
“Despite not speaking English I visited and the Holy Spirit used a woman who spoke to me about Jesus and I understood [for the first time] who He really is, about His work on the cross, why He is the Son of God, and how He is the only way to the Father. All this was revealed to me in English, even when I did not understand even when the people said to me ‘What is your name?”’
“That day I left the church shouting for joy like crazy, jumping, and trying to tell my daughter what happened, I only managed to say ‘I know Who Jesus is, I understood! I understood why he is the Son of God, I understood why he died on the cross, I understood why he is the only way to the Father, I know who Jesus is, he is my Lord and my Saviour!’ — I still cry when I remember that moment.”
There was something truly miraculous about that day for Angie. All of this was revealed to her in English, even though she had not yet learned to speak the language. She started attending the church the very next weekend and also went to a midweek group. Angie knew right away that she was home, both in finding Jesus and in moving to New Zealand. But there was a huge hurdle to cross as far as immigration was concerned. Angie says,
“Now I had begun to walk in faith and found myself at the point of no return where I would no longer know what to do without Him by my side. Jesus has trained me, used me and ‘opened doors that no one can close’ as it says inRevelation 3: 8. Eight times my application to stay in the country was declined, but I kept believing in the promise of God. The Bible says, ‘God has brought you into the land He promised…’ (Deuteronomy 6: 10-12 – see passage below). God is the one who has the last word and here I continue, walking in faith. I din’t give up and applied for my permanent residency time and again. I knew that the approval of permanent residency can only now come from God.”
Four Years and Eight Applications
Angie knew that they would not be safe if they returned to Columbia. She also knew that she had been divinely led to a country that was to become her new home so, later in 2017, she applied for permanent residency in New Zealand for her daughter and herself. The process can take many months, even years, and can often lead to rejection. But just as Angie and her daughter were travelling to Auckland to see their lawyer on 30th January 2018, she heard God say in her heart, “Yes!”
Excited, she was expecting the lawyer to tell her that the application had been approved. But the answer from the Immigration Department was “No.” Angie was sure that she had heard from God and so she asked the lawyer to make an appeal. The lawyer was not willing to do so but referred her to another lawyer who agreed to take on their case. They appealed the decision, but a resounding “No” came back from Immigration. Angie was so sure that she had truly heard from God, so she asked for a new lawyer to take up her case. She says,
“I knew the “yes” would come, so, without being discouraged we appealed. A second “no” came. We applied for a Humanitarian Visa, a third “no”. The lawyer dropped the case because there was nothing else to do.”
Angie spoke to her friend Stephany, a fellow Columbian who attended her church. Stephany advised using a new lawyer. This lawyer was very sincere and ‘realistic’ about her case saying that they had no case for appeal because the previous lawyer had omitted to send through some important documents and it could not be appealed to the High Court due to the error being on the applicant side. Angie was devastated. She says,
“My friend Stephany, my daughter, and I all cried in the attorney’s office, but I was still praying in my mind. I asked God, “Lord, tell me what to do?” He replied, “Don’t give up, keep going to the end!” So I told the lawyer to try to appeal.”
A Resounding “No”
The lawyer insisted that the case was lost, but agreed that if Angie was prepared to pay him to continue, he would try. She says,
“We appealed to the Minister of Immigration, who ruled a fourth “no”, saying: “I warn you that I am not willing to intervene in this case.”
The Minister added that Angie and her daughter were not able to apply for any further visas any class or type. He said that they had a week to leave New Zealand.
This was serious. She did not want to be in the position of an ‘overstayer’ as this could often lead to forced repatriation with no opportunity for any more applications or appeals.
“We had a week to leave the country, a week to sell cars, warn that we were going to breach the lease of the house, buy tickets to Columbia, and abandon our cat. All this without counting the sadness of leaving the physical and spiritual family behind.”
Despite the hopelessness of the situation, Angie was sure that God had spoken to her and sure that He would keep His promise. The question was how and when. Despite the stern warning, Angie was sure that she had truly heard from God and that they should not leave.
“The lawyer gave us a light of hope. He started the process from scratch in June 2019 and delegated the case to a colleague. A Fifth “no” came, but God was with me to encourage me from the Bible,
‘Because the revelation speaks of an appointed time; it speaks of the end and it will not be false, even if it takes time, wait for it, it will surely calm and it will not be delayed.’ ” (Habakkuk 2:3)
A Glimmer of Hope
So they appealed again. A sixth “no“came back, but only for Angie. Her daughter would be allowed to stay In New Zealand! It was not what they had hoped for. Angie’s daughter cried. She did not want to stay without her mother. Angie knew that God would not abandon them with only half an answer. Angie prayed and had another message from God who gave her two passages from the Bible;
“Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” (Job 2:10)
“So the Lord gave to Israel all the land he had promised to give their ancestors… not one of the Lord’s promises to Israel failed.” (Joshua 21:43-45)
Angie knew that God was going to make possible the impossible. By now she had received seven rejections from New Zealand Immigration. But, this third lawyer was different. She told Angie that she would not give up and that she would keep trying every avenue of possibility! That was what Angie wanted to hear.
For the eighth time Angie made her appeal. She included support letters from a number of people including her Pastors from Acts Church, the Minister of the Anglican Church (where Acts Church held their services), the local MP, the leader of a Catholic group for persecuted Christians, and a letter from the Waikato Refugee Whanau Reunification Trust.
Five days before the final letter arrived from the Immigration Department, God spoke to Angie’s heart encouraging her not to give up. Angie was at peace inside, knowing that God was in control no matter what the answer. The letter finally arrived and the Associate Minister for Immigration finally granted Angie permanent residency! After four years and eight appeals, Angie would be allowed to reside in New Zealand. She was overjoyed. Again, God showed her a passage in the Bible,
“Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40)
To the Ends of the Earth
Angie stays busy with a number of activities. She works in Children’s Holiday Programmes, teaches Spanish, hosts a Spanish speaking FM radio program called “Arritmia” (UK translation ‘rhythm’), and she uses her skills as a Life Coach to help other people to discover a hope and a future just as she has done. One of the Bible verses Angie has been given says precisely that;
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
“The Holy Spirit has placed a desire in my heart expressed in Acts 1: 8, ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”’
Angie adds that through the Arritmia Radio Program,
“I am able to fulfil God’s purpose for my life and to use my knowledge as a Professional Ontological Coach to help the Spanish-speaking people of the world… I desire to see people unearth and fulfil their dreams and, above all, to lead a life driven by purpose.”
Another plan in Angie’s heart is to develop a cafe-style concept which she is calling ‘Tea With God’. The idea is to have an environment where people can sit down over a cup of tea or coffee and ask questions. She says,
The Bible says, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” (Luke 5:10) and and “Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.” (Psalm 2:8.)
And here she is, literally at the ‘ends of the earth’ as far as populated civilisation is concerned. Angie says,
“Christian Counselling is the tool that allows me to help and minister both to Christian believers who would never go to a Psychologist, and to non-believers who would never approach a Pastor. I want to help people [to see that] the daily problems and challenges that we have to face can be managed far better when we share them with others and when we learn to trust in God.
One of Angie’s favourite verses in the Bible is Matthew 11:28,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Angie came to New Zealand knowing nobody other than a half-sister she had only met on Social Media. She wants to help others to get through the challenges she had adapting to a totally new life, a new culture, a new language, new relationships and a very different lifestyle. She soon realised that many people face these daunting changes and she wants to help them. Angie believes that this is the main reason God brought her to New Zealand.
God gave her a specific verse from the Bible to help her to integrate into a new culture. It is a verse with the same challenge God gave to the Israelites 3,000 years ago;
“When the Lord your God has brought you into the land he promised your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and when he has given you great cities full of good things — cities you didn’t build, wells you didn’t dig, and vineyards and olive trees you didn’t plant — and when you have eaten until you can hold no more, then beware lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the land of slavery.” (Deuteronomy 6: 10-12)
The western nations were built upon Christianity, God’s goodness. But so many in those nations have forgotten Him and have turned away, just as the people of Israel did. But God has not forgotten New Zealand. He has brought a steady stream of His people into the country, including Angie and many in her church. Through their words and their example, God will draw many more people back to Himself.
Angie attends Acts Church in Hamilton.
Story by Ralph Burden
Photo supplied by Angie Rodriguez