Colombia is dear to my heart. It was the first country I visited with the sole purpose of meeting with fellow Christians. I had so many expectations. None of them were met. It was perfect. You can see what I wrote for Open Doors by clicking here, but I thought I’d share the story of one of the Christians I met while serving in Colombia. For certain reasons I can’t share specifics, but know that this is one of our Brothers in Christ.
Though it’s two in the afternoon, an unexpected storm rolling through the mountains has given the air a crisp bite and the light dims beyond the clouds. We smell the rain before it reaches us, and curtain of water suddenly separates us from the surrounding jungle as we gather round and wait. We are told a special visitor is coming to see the group today.“I sleep in the forest.” The translator overlaps the guests words with his own. It becomes a round robin of who can continue talking without taking a breath. It’s easy to be distracted by the words I understand and miss the connection behind this echo. I set myself on tracing this mans face with my eyes, as all artists are trained to do. A contour line of his jaw here, following up to a wrinkle on the corner of his eye there…handsome in his own way.Time, nature and circumstance have shaped this man. He was in a guerrilla, pushing out the indigenous people, the Christians, the government…but he heard the voice of God while he was kneeling at the base of a tree while Para military were moving to kill them.He was afraid. He prayed. He was captured.He was interrogated, intimidated by the smell of death and black bags lined up on the floor behind him.“The man said if I told the truth I wouldn’t die and it seemed as if Jesus was telling me to speak truth.” His release was conditional and for a time he was under Para Military surveillance. He learned and grew in faith and longed to go back and preach to the guerrilla what he had found in Christ, peace.“It’s not safe for me, but because I was honest with him and I bring the radios I am granted access by the guerrilla Commander.” He holds a small green box in his hand and turns it over. “They recharge with the sun and preach the Gospel in the fields as the men go walking.”Meeting with us was a risk. He asks for our help, not in money as we are accustomed, but in prayer. He explains that it is hard for the churches in Colombia to understand this request, to pray for the guerrilla, when they are constantly being threatened.“Pray the Lord sends more people to preach to the guerrillas in the field, I am not getting younger.” He looks at me and smiles, this moment etching itself into my brain. His weary face, his willingness to speak truth in the midst of death. “My decision was not just to accept Jesus, but accept dying for Jesus.” His words are solid and unwavering. Although I’ve just met him I know I will not forget this man with no name.
Colombia is a country stigmatized by drugs and war. We look in without really knowing the struggles of those effected by all that is happening. You don’t see the young children waking at 5:30am to do chores before attending their Bible study and then going to school. Prayer is the most important gift we can give to this country.
That being said I was recently made aware that FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) or the People’s Army and the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos were able to come to a peace agreement in late 2016. It is reported that FARC members have begun moving into areas where they are turning over firearms and artillery. While some are skeptical of this move on both groups part, let us pray that this is a step closer to peace in Colombia.