A Legacy of Truth
Impact of the Courses in Colombia
by Ian Taylor, former missionary to Colombia, current Emmaus International board president
“Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1)
What can one man do to change the world? Feliz Duarte lived in the jungles of Colombia. In the 1970s, two missionaries came to his farm and brought the gospel with them. One of these missionaries is now the current chairman of the Emmaus International board. During visits over several years they gave the couple Bibles and 20 Emmaus Bible study courses. Through these evangelistic opportunities, Feliz and his wife Maria, both found hope in Christ.
The Duarte family lived in the isolated jungle north of Cúcuta. Cúcuta, officially known as San Jose de Cúcuta, is a dynamic international city on the border of Venezuela. Feliz owned a farm where he planned to raise his children and build a family. After the missionaries opened his eyes to God’s truth, he determined that not only did his heart belong to God, but now his family did also. He decided to raise his family in the truth he had found in the Bible. Psalm 119:111-112 says, “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.” Feliz chose to see God’s Word as a heritage given to him. Feliz’s name is the Spanish word for “happy” or “joyful.” He had found true joy in Christ. Not only did Feliz and his family rejoice in the truth, but they also set their hearts on following God’s principles and living out His love.
During the following years, Feliz trained each of his thirteen children in the gospel. He carefully used and reused the Emmaus courses. He went on to use the same courses to teach his thirty-five grandchildren and some of the great grandchildren. The extended Duarte family, which now numbers over fifty people, meets consistently as a home church.
The Duarte family cherished the Emmaus books, treating them with great care and preserving the pages for almost half a century as they continued to teach again and again the truth found within those books. They did not know whether they would ever have the chance to own new study courses, so they protected the ones they had.
What can one man do to change the world? He can establish a legacy of truth in the family he builds. Because of Feliz’s dedication to teaching God’s truth, each member of the Duarte family found personal peace through the salvation of Christ. Psalm 103:17 promises “But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children.” God blessed the prayers of Feliz and Maria. In the early 1980s, the revolutionary guerrillas forced the family to flee, leaving their farm and seeking refuge in the northern city of Barranquilla. God used their commitment to the gospel to influence not only the many members of their family, but also to influence Colombia itself.
In October 2017, the Emmaus office in Barranquilla contacted us to say that Yorly Duarte had unexpectedly found the Emmaus office. She was very excited to know that the courses which had influenced their family over the years were readily available along with additional courses. Renewed contact with the two missionaries was made!
The need in Colombia remains great. Trends of violence in the young people often traces back to violence in the home. Children openly disrespect their abusive parents. Loveless marriages disintegrate. Teenagers continually turn to drugs and sex to escape the chaos found at home. But nothing the world offers fills the void in their hearts. Yorly Gil Duarte, the youngest daughter of Feliz Duarte, saw this great need and decided to do something about it. She works from Barranquilla, the city known as the Golden Gate of Colombia. For years, Yorly taught Bible classes in several high schools. Then she pursued a degree in psychology, which led her to start a ministry that directly targets the youth of Colombia.
Yorly and her husband Harold established a legal foundation called Fundación Generación Juvenil Sin Límites, which translates as the “Foundation Generation Youth Without Limits.” Yorly and Harold, along with their two sons, Santiago and Juan Pablo, minister at high schools throughout Colombia. The Duartes teach young people that with Christ there is no limit to what they can do or how far they can go in this life. Their past can no longer tie them down nor can fear hold them back. This ministry was started from a passion for the future of these lost young people. Yorly also meets with the parents together with their students to help bring reconciliation and piece together broken families.
Yorly often travels to the main cities of Colombia to speak to hundreds of high school students. In 2016, the Barranquilla soccer stadium, usually reserved for world cup playoffs, was packed not with soccer fans, but with 20,000 Colombian youth. These teenagers and young adults gather to listen to the words of the gospel shared by Yorly and her team.
Standing in front of thousands of teenagers, Yorly boldly addresses the rising abuse of sex and drugs by teenagers. She challenges them to stop looking for love in casual sex and drugs, but to turn to the only One who can truly love and fulfill them. Tears fill their eyes as hundreds of teenagers bow their heads in a crowded stadium. One by one, their hands lift as these kids confess their failures and sins, and dedicate their hurting hearts to God. Yorly shares with these hurting kids the truth of the gospel. She knows a better way for them to live—a way to find hope in the hopelessness through the saving love of Jesus Christ.
Whether meeting in a soccer stadium or in a high school auditorium, Yorly’s message brings tears of repentance to the eyes of her listeners. Young adults dedicate their lives to Jesus Christ, despite the darkness they’ve encountered. Or perhaps because of it. God is using Yorly and her team to impact the lives of thousands of teenagers and hundreds of parents. But God laid the foundation for her ministry years before, by leading two missionaries into the jungles of Colombia. When Feliz determined in his heart to raise his family in truth, he did not know how far that influence would spread, or how many hurting hearts would turn to Jesus because of it. God used His Word and the Emmaus courses to bring a great harvest (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).
God can use the decisions and choices of one man to change a family. And He can use a family to change the world.
The Duarte family in 2016.
Duarte family living in the jungle of Colombia, studying Emmaus Bible courses
The Duarte family now numbers over 50 people who are serving and following the Lord.
Father and Daughter
Feliz Duarte and his youngest daughter Yorley Gil Duarte.
Fruitfulness of the Courses
Yorley learned about God through the faithfulness of her father's teaching from the Emmaus Bible Courses.
Courses used by Felix Duarte to disciple his children.