Phone: (786) 845-9985

The History of Home of Refuge!

In November of 1994, Tony went to Venezuela as one of three invited speakers at a church in the city of Maracay. Having been scheduled to speak on a Saturday night, he decided to walk the streets of the city by day as he prayed and sought the Lord for guidance as to what he should share with the body of believers there. To his amazement, he noticed that there were many children begging. Others he saw were either all or partially naked. He inquired about those children to a man in the street whose response was, “Those are the future criminals of our society. They are disposable.”

He immediately knew that he was supposed to do something about it. After the preaching conference ended, Tony returned to the States, still with the faces of those children unforgettably recorded in his memory. Back at home; he saw the faces of his grown children and his little grandchildren, many of who were the exact sizes and ages of those same street children in Venezuela. Having seen the need, he was resolved that he must act in the same manner he would if those children were his own children and grandchildren. For when he had seen their faces he could not close his eyes without seeing the faces of his own loved ones. “What if his children and grandchildren were on those streets?” he thought.

Together with his wife, Tony sold the family business and returned to Venezuela to buy a 45-acre tract of land near the countryside of the city of Valencia. It was the beginning of 1995. He spent the next year and a half clearing the land and completing the immense paperwork to register the ministry. Those days were difficult days, and good help was scarce. He was able to hire only two other men, and together with them he cleared the land by hand, using a machete, a pick and a shovel. He still remembers the educating experience he had with a plant on the land called “pica-pica” (“itchy-itchy”). Worse than fiberglass, this plant was eating up his entire body. Cut, itching and bleeding, Tony could not find relief through showers or powders of any sort. It was not until he covered his body in dirt, at the advice of a native Venezuelan Indian, that he experienced some relief from the painful condition. Because finances were also scarce, Tony would work long and hard in Venezuela until he ran out of money, usually a month’s time. Then, he would return to the United States to work whatever jobs he could find in order to raise enough money to go again to Venezuela and continue on the project. While in Venezuela, Tony cooked over a fire. But most days he was too exhausted to even do that. It was common for him to drink nothing more than coffee and then retire for the night. Each time he would return from Venezuela Rosa would notice how much thinner he looked. The average weight he lost each trip to Venezuela was 25 pounds. During his stays in the U.S., Rosa felt it especially important to “fatten him up” before his next departure.

By the middle of 1996, Tony was ready to begin construction on the property. With nothing more than the home church’s blessing, he planned to build with the limited funds that he had. After having organized a local Venezuelan church volunteer group of over 75 men, construction was set to begin. To Tony’s demise, on the first day of construction not one volunteer showed! That left him all alone to begin the construction. He worked 12 hours a day under the hot sun. When the sun would set Tony would retire to a tin shack with a dirt floor located on the property to spend some time before the Lord, and then to bed. This shack he called his “hotel.” Day after day he spent hours toiling in the 100 plus degree weather preparing the footer to lay the concrete. He did this for 1-½ years, throughout which time he traveled back home whenever it became necessary to raise more funds before continuing to build.

1996 was a year of great progress. During the summertime the first missionary team came to the site where the Home of Refuge was being constructed. During their visit, Tony had extra hands to help him along with the tremendous task of preparing the footer.

One Monday, shortly after a return from the States, Tony worked until he could give no more. His body had become stiff and his hand bled because the terrible blisters had burst earlier that day. All that was left was his raw flesh. He felt a piercing pain throughout his whole body and was unable to move anymore. As he lay in bed, he was only able to pray, “Jesus, heal me.” Within minutes he was asleep. All night long he had a vision and saw Jesus caressing his face and weary body. When he awoke he was completely healed. It was a miracle in the night. In the days to follow, Tony laid 4,000 concrete blocks before returning to the United States, all of the labor completely pain free!

Perhaps one of the most significant moments in 1996 was when the Lord showed Tony where the future well was to be dug. Though construction had already begun, there was no running water on the property. Whenever water was needed for concrete, Tony had to walk to the nearby lake and bring back buckets of water. When potable water was needed, he had to either walk four miles to the closest city to get it and then carry it back the four miles to the property, or arrange for a truck or taxi to deliver the water. He decided it was time to begin planning for a well to be dug. He hired a man to investigate where it would be best to drill for water. However, the man informed Tony that there was no water to be found on the mountain where he was located. He could not do the job. Tony remembers feeling very discouraged and asking the Lord, with tears, why He had led him to this place if there was no water. During that prayer, he saw a vision of a water fountain shooting high into the air, located in the very spot where he was praying. In that moment faith rose in his heart and he knew that there was water there.

Not having the money to pay for the well at the time, Tony had to wait until 1999 before the well became a reality. God brought him into contact with a man named Rafael Hernandez. Rafael’s business was well digging, and they soon became good friends. He was greatly touched by Tony’s dedication and sacrifice and promised that he would dig a well for the Home of Refuge. He sent one of his men out to find the most appropriate spot where the well should be dug. But the man, after investigating the property, told Tony that he could not bring the equipment out for the job because there was no water in that place. A Muslim man, he must have been very amused when Tony showed him the very spot where God had revealed the vision of water. Tony told him that he was to dig at that spot because God had shown him there was water there. The Muslim man laughed and said that Tony was crazy. Rafael persuaded his worker to dig anyway, in respect of Tony’s faith, and so he began drilling. At 46 meters deep they not only found water, they discovered a stream of potable water. Completely amazed, the Muslim told Tony, “I have to accept everything that you say, because it was true.”

During late 1996, the Lord also brought help from the United States, a couple who partnered with Tony and Rosa in raising funds to see the work move forward. Quite miraculously, during a trip to Colorado, Tony and Rosa were introduced to them in Denver and they became (and continue to be) key people in the Home of Refuge. Derin Carmack, along with his wife, Barbara, host a daily live radio talk show called “Derin Live.” They began to interview Tony, and people from all over Colorado caught the vision. That same week finances came through that ministry to help the mission go on in Venezuela. Every week Derin and Barbara’s faithful radio listeners sent support. Tony could count on a check in the mail every week—checks that got the ministry through the years to follow. To this day the support from “Derin Live” has faithfully come in. They and their listeners have spent over six years of weekly sowing into the lives of children.

During 1997 more key people were introduced to Tony and Rosa—people that made a large difference in the Home of Refuge and that were passionate about helping Tony prepare a home for children. A couple of brothers from Colorado, Randy and Bob Worley, came for short-term missions. During their visits they laid blocks, built walls and wired the entire home for electricity (though it was not even available in that area yet). They were a tremendous help to the ministry!

One month in ‘97, a teenager from Colorado came to spend the entire month on the property with Tony, working and building the home. Dominic Sanchez learned to do the work of a true missionary as he sacrificed himself on behalf of the children that would one day live in the Home of Refuge. He probably still remembers his time there with Tony…especially since he and Tony ate nothing for dinner but spaghetti for the entire month (it is easy to fix!).

By the middle of 1998, with no electricity yet in the Home of Refuge, there were already 18 children living in the orphanage. Tony knew it was vital to get electricity, and thanks to the Worley brothers, the Home was already wired for it. However, the electric company would not do anything to help Tony get the mountain prepared to receive the electricity. But that did not stop him. With his own hands and no tools except his jeep and a pulley, Tony himself set 14 poles up throughout the mountain. Next, he and eight other men carried over their shoulders all of the wiring needed to get electricity up the mountain and to the Home of Refuge. The entire way up the mountain they hauled the wires. When later asked about that, Tony replied, “When a man sets his mind to do something, with God’s help, he will do it!” The electric company would not even hook the wires up to the main line, so Tony hired an electrician to do it for him, and the Home of Refuge received electricity. Praise the Lord, because of all the work that Tony did to bring electricity to the mountain, the Home of Refuge has received free electricity up to this day.

By October of 1998, the orphanage was experiencing some changes that would greatly affect the ministry for numerous years to come. In dire need of good workers, Tony hired Nancy Sosa that month to be the official cook. Though she was not a Christian, both Tony and Rosa felt directed of the Lord that she was to work for the Home of Refuge. Little did they understand just how much of a role this young lady would play and how God would use the opportunity to change her entire direction in life. Each time Nancy would come to work, she would witness the transforming love of God at work through Tony and Rosa. Within a few short weeks of working at the orphanage, Rosa was able to lead Nancy to Christ. As they prayed, she was miraculously healed of lung disease and felt that she was to continue serving in the orphanage as a missionary to the children. From that day until this, Nancy has continued to work hard. She is now the Director of Children and is largely responsible for how the Home of Refuge functions on a day-to-day basis. When Tony is traveling, she is the one who stays with the children 24/7. She has become a tremendous blessing and an integral part of all that goes on in the orphanage.

There is much more that could be said of the Home of Refuge. There are many more stories to tell, testimonies to write, trials and sufferings to relate, and victories to share. But all of them would only suffice to accomplish one thing, really. And that is to magnify and declare the awesomeness and might of the God that is responsible for the work itself. He is the one that has begun this tremendous ministry that rescues children and snatches them from the horrors of darkness. He is the one that gives the grace needed to carry on a work such as this, and to keep going when everything seems to be coming against it on all sides. It is His powerful love that compels Tony and Rosa and so many others that have participated in this important task. And it is His healing hand that has brought restoration to numerous young lives that were once torn by the effects of a sin-filled world. Many more stories could be shared, but they all seem to relay the same message. It is a message about what happens when you refuse to close your eyes to the needs of people around you. When you, instead, choose to allow Christ to spend your life on behalf of others, consuming you with the same compassion that moved Jesus to touch the crowds and die for the world. It is a message of what “true religion” is, and of what can happen when a man sets his mind to do something. It is a message that compels you to get involved in this great task. Dare to open your ears to the desperate cries of tiny babies and young children who are dying in the country of Venezuela. Peer under the bridges with Tony, and into the trash piles of the Maracay Dump. Take hands with him as he reaches out to the parasite-infested body of a two year old covered with scabies and sores, who does not know what it means to eat even one good meal a day. Choose to do something!

You can be a part of the ministry of the Home of Refuge through your prayers, through your financial giving, and in other ways. Your involvement is crucial. Please consider how you can get involved today.


Tony and Rosa are very faithful, reliable, honest people.  They are the hardest workers we have ever seen; their leadership qualities have encouraged many people to help others.  Whatever Tony and Rosa decide to do, they do with excellence and perseverance. They are great people and we are privileged to know them.

Ed and Mona Shirley
Mountain High Christian Center
Conifer, Co.