A chance meeting with a man at school, led this girl to meet her dad who had abandoned her 20 years ago. The girl was raised by her grandparents in Nicaragua, after her mother was pregnant with her at 16, and even though they did not have the means, they still raised her with love.
Ileana Quintanilla, 21, often asked about her father but the topic was avoided at home. She still got to know that his name was “Ernesto” and he lived in La Tejana. It was her faith and upbringing which made Ileana want to help other children in need, and so she began volunteering with Food for the Hungry Nicaragua and became a staff member, helping children and sharing her Christian values.
During a time of staff Bible studies, the topic of forgiveness cropped up. “I thought that there is someone that I need to forgive in my heart,” she said. “My father.” She had a goal of meeting her father and embracing him, without any agenda to name or shame him for what he did to her. She said one day while working at the Tejana School, she met a kid with the same last name as her, and when she asked his father’s name, she realized he was her brother.
So she jotted down her name on his arm to show his father, and as he went home, he asked him, “Papa, do you have a daughter?” and showed him his arm. “I asked the Lord for strength to help me know how to talk to her,” Ernesto said. “The only thing I wanted to ask her, ‘Forgive me.'”
The next day a man met her at the school, who asked him who he was looking for. “My daughter,” he said. She answered him and told him that she was his daughter. The father and daughter cried and hugged and they reunited after 20 long years. “In that moment, I knew deep in my heart that I forgave my father but didn’t want to tell him. I knew in my heart that something new was going to happen,” she said. “Everything happens with a plan and a purpose. And each one of us has a story, a story written by God.”
Ileana is now in touch with her father, his wife and their children. She still works for Food for the Hungry as a staff with child sponsorship. What an inspiration this young girl is to her generation, through her Christ-like behavior and attitude of forgiveness, she has won our hearts.
Watch: Ileana Quintanilla’s moving story