The mountains of northern Colombia are a broad and rough terrain of approximately 2,300 square miles, occupied mostly by indigenous communities who see Christianity as one of the greatest threats to their culture and religion. In defense of their customs, the indigenous communities of the highlands have radically prohibited the expression of Christianity within their territories under penalty of imprisonment, torture, deprivation of fundamental rights, exile, and in some cases, death. “There is no exception—within traditional indigenous law, to be Christian is not tolerated because it goes against their very principles; this is very deep in indigenous tradition,” says Javier*, a missionary in indigenous communities in Colombia. It is for this reason that evangelizing in the mountains is increasingly difficult and dangerous. Despite this, one brave woman has decided to go to the most remote areas of the mountains, walking in the middle of the night so as not to be discovered.
Ernestina* has been a missionary in her community for six years, during which she has managed to reach the most remote and persecuted communities in the mountains of northern Colombia. Her work is a stealthy practice, the places and mountains often being monitored by traditional authorities who violently persecute indigenous Christians. Ernestina carries out her evangelistic work clothed in the darkness of the night, crossing enormous mountains on foot for more than 10 hours. This missionary work is backed by Javier. The pair has witnessed the provision of God in reaching more than 200 indigenous Christians in the mountains, almost all of whom experienced persecution.
Far from being removed from the problem, Ernestina and her family are part of the large and growing group of persecuted natives of the mountains. In recent months, she has received threats of being expelled from her house and land due to her status as a Christian. She has been deprived of liberty on several occasions because of her faith, but this does not prevent Ernestina from moving forward with her mission. “The Bible says our faith will be tested,” she says during an interview with Open Doors. “No matter what happens, I will continue to carry the truth of the Lord to all of the communities because the indigenous need to know God.” Ernestina is not alone in her efforts. She counts on the collaboration and support of her husband Eustaquio Ríos* — who is her companion on the long nocturnal walks — and their son Enrique*, who has managed to get in touch with persecuted communities suffering from confinement and torture.
Open Doors has been a great help in the ministry of Ernestina. She has received financial support for her travels, and her 14 and 15 year-old children have been accepted into the OD project “La Casita” which offers a safe haven for persecuted indigenous children and instructs them in the Christian faith. “I am very happy that my children are there,” shares Ernestina. “I know they are being taken care of and are being formed in the love of Christ.”
Persecution in this region affects all ages and genders. Christian children often grow up in a tense environment, knowing they might be persecuted at any time for their faith. Persecution in the mountains of northern Colombia is increasing. The traditional authorities are showing hostility toward the growth of Christianity via intimidation techniques. Fortunately, the evangelistic work of missionaries, such as Ernestina, continue to bear fruit amidst persecution. Strong indigenous Christian communities are being formed in faith and are producing believers who are willing to give their lives for the truth of Christ.
*Names changed for security reasons
We encourage our supporters to write letters of encouragement to Ernestina*.
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Open Doors USA
PO Box 27001
Santa Ana, CA 9279