Abandoned as a baby, she met her father and forgave him in an emotional reunion 'written by God'

It was an emotional reunion 20 years in the making and a story "written by God."

Ileana Quintanilla, 21, was abandoned as a baby and raised by her grandparents in Nicaragua. Her mother was pregnant with her at 16 but her grandparents raised her with love, despite having little means.

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Ileana often asked who her father was and what he was like but they avoided the topic. She learned that his name was "Ernesto" and that he lived in the community of La Tejana.

Ileana Quintanilla is on staff with Food for the Hungry Nicaragua helping with child sponsorship. 

Ileana Quintanilla is on staff with Food for the Hungry Nicaragua helping with child sponsorship.  (Photos by Katie Rae Bode, FH.org)

Because of her faith and upbringing, Ileana wanted to help other children in need, so she started volunteering with Food for the Hungry Nicaragua and quickly became a staff member, helping children and sharing Christian values.

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During one of the staff Bible studies, the topic of forgiveness came up.

"I thought that there is someone that I need to forgive in my heart," she said. "My father."

Ileana Quintanilla forgave her father, Ernesto, a year before she met him while working for Food for the Hungry Nicaragua.

Ileana Quintanilla forgave her father, Ernesto, a year before she met him while working for Food for the Hungry Nicaragua. (Photos by Katie Rae Bode, FH.org)

At that point, her dream was to meet her father and embrace him, not blame or shame him for leaving her at such a young age.

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One day, she said, she was working at the Tejana School helping kids write to their sponsors when a boy approached her who had the same last name as her, and when she asked his father's name, she knew in her heart it was her brother.

So she wrote her name on his arm to show his father.

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The boy ran home and said: "Papa, do you have a daughter?" and showed him his arm.

Ileana Quintanilla and her brother who connected her to her father.

Ileana Quintanilla and her brother who connected her to her father. (Photos by Katie Rae Bode, FH.org)

"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.'"

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When he arrived at the school, he was met by Ileana, who asked him who he was looking for.

"My daughter," he said.

She replied," I am your daughter."

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Through tears and hugs, the father and daughter reunited after 20 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."

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Today, Ileana keeps in touch with her father, his wife and her little brothers and sisters, and she continues to work for Food for the Hungry on staff with child sponsorship.

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