Colombia’s left-wing FARC rebels are using a variety of new strategies to try to halt the spread of the Gospel in their country. In one instance four months ago, Pastor Juan Rodriguez* miraculously survived an attempted poisoning.
Open Doors representatives visited Pastor Juan and his wife Paulina* in the Meta region of southeastern Colombia last week. Paulina confirmed that her husband had been poisoned at a dinner prepared by a cook who was related to some guerrillas. After eating the poisoned food, Pastor Juan had to be carried to the nearest health center to remove the poison from his body. Meanwhile, church members fasted for the health of their leader. Paulina said that God did a miracle, because Pastor Rodriguez is still alive and leading worship and the activities of his church.
In a separate attack, Paulina said, a lady has started coming to the church in recent weeks claiming to be “sent by God.” Holding a Bible in her hands, the woman tried to win people over and baptize them. But she made no mention of the basic Christian doctrines, such as repentance, forgiveness of sins and the saving work of Jesus. “She opens the Bible, but she doesn’t know it, and when she is confronted, she becomes angry and starts cursing,” Paulina told Open Doors. The congregation’s response to this intrusion has been to turn to prayer and fasting.
Pastors Juan and Paulina have led the Pan-American Mission Church for 20 years. For 16 of those years, they have faced direct persecution from two guerrilla fronts and paramilitary groups. Repeatedly, at least 40 times, they have been ordered to close their chapel, stop preaching and teaching the Word, or have even been banned altogether. Although ordered to work with the guerrillas in an activity which the insurgents called a “civic day,” they refused.
During one seven year period, their church was forced to close its doors, but the members continued to congregate in private homes. But recently the new strategies being used by the guerrillas have subjected them to people who are verbally abusive, using foul language and even trying to attack them physically.
Similar episodes were related by Pilar Jaramillo,* a member of the World Missionary Movement (WMM) in the village of Costa Rica, in the Meta region. She confirmed that the pastor of her congregation had been injured several times by a witch in the area who once almost dealt a blow to his face. The church has also been buffeted by the guerrillas for continuing to minister in this village, since the local rebel group had ordered it to close last year.
Other churches have been ordered to close their doors as well. They were told not to preach the gospel and speak out against the injustices committed by the guerrillas against the civilian population. Some of these churches have been allowed to resume meeting in small groups in rural areas, but, as of this writing, sites have not been established and many in the church remain fearful.
The inhabitants of these villages have learned to live with the fear that accompanies their ongoing persecution, demonstrating their bravery by continuing in fasting and prayer, as well as the study of the Word.
*Names changed for security of the victims.
Father we join these pastors and church leaders as they pray for strength, wisdom and discernment. As guerrillas infiltrate their services to monitor what is being preached, open their ears to Your gospel. Soften their hearts to turn to Christ. Overrule to allow Your Word to be preached in power and authority in Colombia. And, as the church members pray and fast, turn any fear into courage, and any anger into compassion and wisdom. Give them boldness to worship in truth so that this country might be redeemed to bring glory to Your name. In the name of Christ who turns the darkness into light. Amen.