I Finally Found the Real Proverbs 31 Woman
I’ve been following God and studying his Word for nearly thirty years, yet somehow I thought the Proverbs 31 woman was a mythological creature or worse—I thought she was a weapon spiritual leaders use to make all of us ordinary Christian women feel bad about ourselves.
But then I met a real Proverbs 31 woman in person.
They say the wife of noble character is hard to find, and it’s true. But I finally found her, tucked away in the mountains north of Bogotá, Colombia. And having met her, I became convinced that becoming the woman God wants me to be, the woman he described in Proverbs 31, is not an impossible dream. It’s the only goal worthy of my life’s devotion.
I had been invited to Colombia to speak at a conference for Christian leaders from throughout Latin America. Afterward my host, Hector Torres of Hispanic International Ministries, invited me to spend a few days with his family at his aunt’s home at the base of the Andes Mountains. I didn’t know quite what to expect. The bookstore didn’t have a travel guide on Colombia. The book they had on Latin America didn’t even devote a chapter to the country, which has been torn by civil war and drug trafficking for the last three decades. It simply said: It’s too dangerous; don’t go there. The mountains, in particular, are known for guerilla activity. I was somewhat apprehensive, to say the least.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived at Hector’s aunt’s home and stepped into the most peaceful paradise I’d ever experienced anywhere in the world. Our hostess, Beatriz Duenas, was the picture of beauty, elegance, and ease as she welcomed us, showed us to our rooms, and then gave us a tour of the breathtaking grounds. We walked and talked amid trees bursting with avocados, bananas, blackberries, guavas, oranges, papayas, plantains, and tangerines. She showed us her chicken coops, trout pond, coffee crop, and even her worm farm. Every inch of her property is productive; it’s a reflection of a woman who embodies energy, creativity, and productivity.
Breakfast the next morning featured a variety of fresh-squeezed juices, eggs scrambled with tomatoes, peppers, and onions, and freshly grown coffee—and every item on the menu was produced right on the property. Our morning walk took us to her favorite place: a small stone and wrought iron chapel with wooden benches that looked centuries old. Beatriz exuded quiet God-confidence as she explained that she has spent many hours praying, reading, and meditating in this open-air sanctuary. I knew I was standing on holy ground. Here was the real Proverbs 31 woman right before my eyes!
In the early afternoon, following our three-hour horseback ride through lightly tamed jungle that featured every conceivable shade of green, we sat by an open-fire woodstove, eating steak from a nearby cattle ranch along with freshly grown and grilled vegetables. I marveled at the self-sufficiency of this beautiful place and the beautiful woman who oversaw it all.
But Beatriz’s story doesn’t begin in this beautiful paradise. Later that night her story unfolded. In 1950, at the age of sixteen, Beatriz married a handsome nineteen-year-old, Jose, whom she had met at a relative’s wedding two years earlier. A year later she had their first child and three more daughters followed in fairly quick succession. She worked side by side with her husband in an auto parts store they began together with borrowed money. Although still a teenager, Beatriz had a knack for business. The couple began to prosper. Soon they had a successful corporation, complete with employees and multiple store locations. They were business partners and best friends. They were inseparable.
Then on January 23, 1984, at 6:30 p.m., Jose was driving home from work when his car was surrounded by six kidnappers who seized him and, two months later, demanded the outrageous sum of thirty million dollars for his release. On March 19 Beatriz paid her husband’s captors one million dollars.
She never saw her beloved husband again.
Through the pain of that ordeal, Beatriz began seeking God and learned to walk by faith. She started attending a little church where she found Christians who comforted, encouraged, and sustained her. The believers gave her the strength she needed to make one of the most diffi cult decisions of her life: to remain in the mountain home her husband loved so much and to continue tending the gardens that brought him such joy.
Slowly she began planting money-producing fruit trees, using funds that came in from rental properties in which her husband had wisely invested. She was learning to make it on her own. Her first major business venture was building four massive chicken coops, which now house forty-eight thousand chickens. She has no regrets about taking out a second mortgage on the house to start this business, because it now generates a very steady income for her and will continue doing so for many years to come.
Then Beatriz began taking classes to learn how the coffee industry operated. Today her coffee harvest fills in the income gap when fruit is out of season and there are no chickens ready to send to market. Somewhere along the line, she started a worm farm—she’s quite proud of it, although I bypassed that part of the tour! About six years ago, she added a grouper pond. “It hasn’t succeeded yet,” she admits, “but time will tell.” Given her track record, it’s bound to become another success. At age seventy-three, Beatriz still works three to four days a week, energetically managing her business affairs.
But what I will always remember about Beatriz is not her thriving enterprises and the wisdom God gave her to develop multiple streams of income. What I will always remember is the overwhelming peace that permeated her countenance, her home, and her entire surroundings. I’ll always remember her as one of the most capable, dignified women I’ve ever met. In a word, she is altogether lovely. There was not an ounce of bitterness or self-pity in her voice as she recounted her losses. There was only gratitude for the goodness of God. I asked her for her secret. “Forgiveness,” she answered immediately. “It took me a long time to completely forgive the people who kidnapped my husband and robbed me of all that could have been. But the moment I did, the peace of God overcame me and it has never left.”
As a real Proverbs 31 woman, Beatriz Duenas personifies the peace that passes understanding. It’s a peace that’s returning to these mountains. “The guerillas used to be active in this area, raiding farms and cattle ranches, destroying people’s livelihoods and trying to intimidate everyone,” she recalls. “But I refused to live controlled by fear. I refused to be intimidated and driven out of my own home. Now there are cattle on the hills again.”
There were tears of both pride and joy in her eyes as she spoke that last miraculous sentence. She knew she had outlasted the guerillas. Even the developer who decided to build a discotheque in her peaceful mountain town didn’t stand a chance against her prayers. Day after day she sat in her small chapel, praying for God to intervene. And he did. The disco never opened. The developer did all the work, then sold it to a group of Christians who turned it into a church instead.
Beatriz can laugh at the days to come, not because the days before were so easy, but because she knows her God. And because she is a real Proverbs 31 woman! Her parting words to me were, “Tell the women they must come to full confidence and assurance that what God has done for me, he can do for them also.” Just two short days in the presence of a genuine Proverbs 31 woman gave me that assurance. It’s the assurance I pray you’ll find on the pages of my book, inspired by Beatriz, a real Proverbs 31 woman. It’s entitled Becoming the Woman God Wants Me to Be: A 90-Day Guide to Living the Proverbs 31 Life.
Have you ever met a woman you felt personified the real Proverbs 31 woman? I’d love to hear about her!