With a population of around 50 million, the Republic of Colombia is one of South America’s most populous nations. Its geography includes deserts, rainforests, grasslands, snow-capped mountains and volcanos, and sandy beaches. Most people live in cities in the northern and western parts of the country. This part of the country also has more opportunities for agriculture and the cultivation of natural resources. By contrast, few people live in the southern and eastern regions of the country. Much of this land is part of the Amazon rainforest. The rest is wide-open grasslands, called “llanos,” where ranchers graze cattle or cash crops are cultivated. More than 80% of Colombian’s are Christian, but more people still need to be reached with the Gospel especially in rural and remote areas.
Since the 1960s, Colombia has experienced political challenges and periods of civil unrest. In the 1990s, conflict escalated between the Colombian government, paramilitary groups, and anti-government insurgents involved with the drug trade. For many years, the ravages of the drug trade riddled society with crime and violence. Many innocent Colombians simply disappeared. Others evacuated because of guerrilla style conflict. This resulted in millions of displaced Colombians who fled either to another part of Colombia or to other countries. The Colombian government attained greater stability after a 2016 peace deal, but social unrest during COVID threatens to unravel its progress. And while the Colombian economy steadily improves, poverty still affects more than 25% of the population.
ICM supports partner ministries in Colombia that are critical to church development. These ministries are deeply rooted in evangelism, humanitarian work, and discipleship. In these Stories of Hope, you’ll hear how your generous investments are developing the church in Colombia.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” ~ Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
Enrique remembers attending Sunday school with his sister, mother, and grandmother from the time he was little. When he got older, he drifted away from the church, but his mother intervened. She took him to another church so that he could hear a clearer presentation of the Gospel. As he absorbed the message, he knew deep inside that he was a sinner. He decided to follow Jesus and accepted him as his savior.
“Through the redemptive and transforming work of Christ, I am a person who continues to struggle with the flesh, but my spirit still bends to the will of God,” Enrique shares. “I am in the process of being transformed each day into the image of Christ. As David sought God at all times, even if I sin, I fall at the feet of God. He helps me every day to depend more on Him.”
Enrique continued to develop his relationship with God, and as he did, he sensed the Holy Spirit calling him to plant churches in Peru. He, his wife, and their son did exactly this for several years before they were invited to work with one of ICM’s partner ministries in Colombia.
Today, Enrique is the lead pastor of an ICM-developed church. Every week the church meets in a small makeshift wooden building for worship. They regularly host a meal, teach Bible lessons, and lead games for about 40 children there. The community also uses the church’s improvised shelter as a meeting place for community committees and boards. In these meetings, they discuss neighborhood improvement campaigns, host workshops, and provide vocational training. But the space lacks security and does not adequately provide shelter from the weather.
“…[T]he building is at the mercy of criminals who can easily enter,” explains Enrique.
The community is joining with the church to raise money for a new church building.
“Our dream is that this space continues to be a place where we can praise and glorify God’s name,” says Enrique. “We want to show His love through this work.”
Pray for God to sustain and encourage Enrique and his family. Pray also for God to quickly provide the community with a permanent church building where they can safely worship the Lord and host community events.
“We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.” Psalm 33:20 (NIV)
From a young age, Alejandro witnessed adults participating in idolatry, witchcraft, and addictions in his home. He lacked the care and support he needed and found it difficult to feel safe with anyone, anywhere. When he was 18, one of Alejandro’s friends invited him to church. Alejandro encountered Jesus and discovered a place and a person that felt like a real refuge from his challenging home life.
Alejandro grew in his relationship with God and wanted to help others find refuge in Jesus like he had. He decided to go to seminary to become a pastor. During his studies, he learned about many theological interpretations and opinions. He passionately discussed and debated these issues because he wanted to understand the Scripture in its entirety. Despite the fact that his argumentative passion often got him into trouble with his professors, Alejandro graduated with a great determination to share the Gospel with others.
“God in his infinite mercy has continued to lift me up,” he says.
Today, Alejandro works with Miguel*, the lead pastor of an ICM-developed church. Like Alejandro, this church has also overcome great challenges. It was founded in the 1980s with a membership of roughly 20 people. After working with the town council purchase a piece of land, they built a small adobe church building.
Then, the lead pastor before Miguel was tragically killed in crossfire between paramilitary groups and the government’s security forces. Devastated and heartbroken, the congregation persevered. They continued to serve their community from their little adobe church.
While they healed from the violence that tore through their community, the structure of their little church began to deteriorate. With support from ICM, the church was rebuilt in 2018, allowing for more people to attend church services. Miguel and Alejandro are now praying for a Hope Center to be built alongside the church.
Alejandro says, “Now we see the need to have a suitable place for children, as participation has increased. Because of the new economic crisis and conflict, it is important to have a place where we can provide aid that benefits the community, such as food, classes for children, and other Christian events.”
Pray for our partners in Colombia and consider giving to support the development of a healthy church. Your gifts and prayers help congregations have the church building they long to share with their communities. They also provide life discipleship materials that lead more people to Christ.
* Names have been changed to protect identities.
Resources: The Joshua Project, CIA World Factbook