“When I was in jail, I always had to keep God in my mind. I suffered my family’s rejection because they discriminated against me because I’m a believer. I began to see that my dreams to provide for them were broken,” the 25-year-old indigenous man from Colombia’s Arhuaco community told Open Doors.
Pedro’s (not his real name) future was determined at birth. According to the beliefs of the indigenous community, he was destined to be a sorcerer when his head was caught in his mother’s umbilical cord. However, God began to draw Pedro’s heart even as a child.
An adult now, he recognizes that he had always felt a vacancy in his heart that was never filled until one of his siblings shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with him, and brought him to a pastor to learn the Bible.
When Pedro was 14, he began studying with his pastor and a great passion to learn about Jesus grew in him. He was so excited that he caught fireflies and kept them in a bottle to have enough light to complete his Bible study homework at night.
After Pedro completed his studies with the pastor, he decided that the time had come to share his beliefs with his family. He was excited to share his joy, but his family rejected him and local authorities accused him of breaking into their sanctuaries. For this alleged crime, Pedro was imprisoned for 4 months.
The authorities then accused him of saying “Christians believe that wealth belongs to God,” a statement considered disrespectful to the indigenous belief that money belongs to the community. Because of this, they sought to imprison him for 36 years, but God touched their hearts. Recognizing that their accusations were false, they let him go. But afterwards his father, an indigenous authority, thought that Pedro must be taken to the spiritual authorities in order to obtain an explanation for his behavior.
As Pedro grew older he began to have accidents; the worst occurred when he was in the forest cutting wood and a tree fell on his back. Pedro was taken to the hospital where doctors speculated that he might lose his legs and no longer to be able to walk without proper medical intervention.
Initially the authorities would not allow Pedro to receive the necessary medical treatment. Local authorities frequently deny Christians in indigenous villages’ rights to healthcare, job opportunities, and education. In addition, they may face the confiscation of their homes and expulsion from their territories. The authorities say that when they become Christians, they lose their identities as indigenous people. In spite of their opposition, Pedro was eventually allowed to have several surgeries for his leg and back. By God’s grace, he did not lose his legs, and is now able to walk with a cane.
Pedro was convinced that it was God who had healed him. So after his recovery, Pedro dedicated his life to follow Jesus. He fled from his community, and began to study theology in the Biblical Institute for Indigenous people where he shared his story with Open Doors.
Pedro now wishes to improve his studies in order to assist in translating the Bible into his native language. He also wants to study law in order to help his Christian brothers who are suffering persecution. Though he is grateful for the miracles God has performed in his life, he says, “If you are looking for a miracle, you will find it easily here, because in my community sorcerers also can do miracles. The authorities know about the supernatural power in the spiritual world. I do not want a miracle. I want to know the God of miracles.”
How we praise You, Father, for Pedro’s faith and determination to serve You no matter what. It is You, and You alone, who has drawn him into salvation and faith. Guide him, Lord, and strengthen him to translate the Bible and biblical books into his language, and empower him to stand on behalf of those who are persecuted for their faith in Christ. We pray for believers in the La Palestina community and others who have been displaced by the authorities for turning to Christ. Provide for their needs, Lord, and hold them close. And, Father, we pray for the indigenous authorities in Colombia who oppose the preaching of the gospel. Consume their hearts. Redeem them and redeem their culture that they might retain all its goodness even as they turn together to worship You who created them, who knows them through and through. In the name of Jesus who is calling out a people in Colombia to be called by His name, Amen.