By Tia Lynn Ivey
Newcomers to Morgan County, Tony and Rosa Rivera, have relocated to Buckhead, establishing a new home base for 20-plus-year ministry, Homes of Refuge International, dedicated to caring for orphans across South America.
Tony, 74, and Rosa, 68, are currently venturing out to Peru, where they will expand the scope of their ministry to orphans this coming week. The couple travels out of the country about once a month to oversee their various ministerial projects. Back in the 1990s, Tony Rivera, was compelled to give up his business and dedicate his life to improving the lives of struggling orphans, believing God was calling him to care for the world’s most vulnerable and in need.
“I believe the Lord called me to do this work,” said Tony. “When I was in Venezuela and I saw the needs of the kids myself—kids dying, sick, naked and hungry—and it inspired me to do whatever I could with whatever I have to help them…it makes me so happy to get them off the streets That is what inspires me and that is what keeps me going.”
“The Lord gave this work to us,” said Rosa. “What inspires me to do this is the love of God that is in our hearts and the vision the Lord has given to us.
The Riveras’ monthly newsletters are filled with inspiring stories of children who were living on the street, starving, and headed toward a life of crime being given shelter, food, and transformation. Children who could not imagine bright futures when they first arrived at Home of Refuge are now aspiring to be doctors, nurses, and other career paths to better themselves and their communities.
Peru is next of the horizon for Tony and Rosa, as the couple hopes to continue spreading their ministry across South America.
“Having spent a number of years rescuing children in both Venezuela and Honduras, and raising up orphanages in both countries, today the Rivera’s are branching into Peru where they are strengthening the hands of those who have orphanages and minister to children in impoverished areas,” explained Genel Rivera, the couple’s daughter-in-law. “They share a burning vision in their hearts to impact the world they live in with the transforming love of Jesus Christ and have seen God move powerfully through them to heal and deliver many people.”
Tony and Rosa began their ministry work in Venezuela in 1994, where the couple provided food, shelter, education and aid for orphans over the course of 14 years.
“They ministered to thousands of children and families. The Lord enabled them to build two separate homes, one for 60 girls and the remaining home for 40 boys,” said Genel Rivera, the couple’s daughter-in-law. “Additionally, they were instrumental in educating many children in their own private school on the premises, serving children not only from their orphanage, but also from the community that lived around it. It was to this same surrounding community that they regularly supplied food for widows and needy families, as well as offering them many needed medicines.”
Tony and Rosa expanded their vision to Honduras in 2005, replicating much of the same kind of work they had successfully done in Venezuela.
“They built a home for 60 children, concentrating on supplying for the children’s physical, emotional, spiritual, and educational needs,” said Genel Rivera. “As had been their practice with the Venezuelan orphanage, in Honduras they utilized the land and the opportunities it afforded them to not only help sustain the orphanage with regards to food, but to also provide the children with a rich opportunity to develop an understanding of agriculture and stewardship. All in all, they ministered to approximately 400 children and families, supplying whatever needs they could and sharing with them the love of Jesus Christ in word and in deed.”
Tony and Rosa also engage in public speaking to raise awareness about the plight of orphans and to secure funding to continue their work. According to Genel, Tony and Rosa share “a message of compassion for the unloved. Hearts are touched as he tells the incredible story of how God moved upon him to give up everything in order to save children from the infested dumps of Maracay and the violence-stricken streets of Venezuela and Honduras, or how today God is still willing to reach into the hearts of poor children across the earth and bring them hope through anyone who is willing to truly care.”
“We would like the community to know about what we do, so others can catch this vision and help us in it,” said Rosa.
“In this work we are doing—rescuing kids—it takes a lot of effort and a lot of money, a lot of everything, everything you have. It’s been good and sometimes real low. I want the community to know in Madison and Morgan County that we need help to continue to do this,” said Tony. “I would love for people to help us because I believe what we are doing is noble.”
To find out more about Tony and Rosa Rivera and the work they do with orphans, visit: www.homeofrefuge.org. To donate to their ministry, send offerings to Home of Refuge International, Inc.
P O. Box 68, Buckhead, GA 30625.