Colombia is the oldest continual democracy in Latin America. It is a country with 44 million inhabitants. It is staunchly Roman Catholic country. The country runs from the sun kissed white sand beaches of the Caribbean through the imposing Andes mountain range with equatorial snow capped volcanoes right into the lush rain forest of the Amazon basin.
Despite its religious background, 1 in 4 of all teenage girls fall pregnant, nearly all of them out of wedlock. It’s a country roughly twice the size of Texas, (or Portugal, Spain, and France combined) that is incredibly rich in natural resources, but millions live below the poverty line.
It has the best prepared armed forces in Latin America, but still fights a 60 year old civil war against 25,000 guerillas that refuse to bow to the pressure of the millions of law abiding citizens who don’t want them or their war. It has the fourth largest and most stable economy in Latin America yet has one of the highest unemployment rates and the most kidnapings in the world per year. It is the leading emerald producer in the world, and one of the leading coffee growing nations, but is also the world’s leading cocaine producer.
It has the highest quality of private healthcare in Latin America, yet the leading cause of death for adults is violent death. It has eight international and over 30 major national airports and a modern efficient air transport system linking the whole country, yet the road system is antiquated and inadequate. That is Colombia, a paradox, a place where extremes and surprises are the norm.
Millions of Colombians have never heard the gospel. It is new for them. However, decades of living at the doorstep of death have hardened them, leaving them to literally eat, drink, and be merry in case they die tomorrow. The country generally has a party atmosphere, another contrast!
Assembly work is relatively new in Colombia, with the first assembly having been planted in the 1950’s, but with little further progress until the end of the 1960’s. The country was a closed door to the gospel (the denominations as well) with a nation to nation treaty with the Vatican (Concordat) whereby Roman Catholicism was the only legally recognized religion. The Lord however, had other plans and the door began to slowly open toward the end of the 1960’s and beginning of the 1970’s.
In 1973, my parents, Geoff and Gail Thomson were commended to the Lord’s work in Colombia. As missionaries they moved here with us (4 small children) from Australia. My father was used greatly by the Lord to see a number of assemblies planted in the very heart of the coffee growing region, as well as in the north. He passed away 7 years ago, here in Colombia. My mother continues on here by herself.
When it comes to assembly testimony, 16 of the 32 Departments (i.e. states or provinces) have never had an assembly testimony. Many of the Departmental Capital Cities with populations of up to 600,000 inhabitants have never had an assembly either. There are only a handful of national and foreign full time workers in the country at present. There are about 70 assemblies, but many are weak or small. They tend to be spread out and can easily be a 20 to 24 hour drive away. We get very few visitors from assemblies abroad who wish to come to help.
The violence and danger of kidnapping has gradually diminished since 2002 making travel easier and safer. However, there is a vast lack of workers for such a large country. Please pray for the assemblies for there is a great need for godly elders, teachers, and preachers.
But problems such as these have never stopped the Lord! His work continues on slowly but steadfastly and souls are being saved and assemblies planted. It has been a joy the last few years to see an assembly planted in Villavicencio, capital of the Department of Meta. A new assembly was also formed in Cali (population 2.5 million), the third largest city in the country. Other assemblies continue to grow as well. There are a handful of very capable young men in their late twenties and early thirties who have, since their teenage years, like Daniel, purposed in their hearts not to defile themselves with the king’s meat. Please pray for them: men like Jairo Gallo, Piter Rodriguez, Carlos Castano, Julian Toro, and others. The Lord is beginning to use them more. They are gifted, exercised, and continue to prepare themselves before the Lord to serve Him.
I was brought up in Colombia and have been serving the Lord here full time for 12 years now, commended by my local assembly in Armenia, Colombia. I am often asked if I feel in danger here. The first lesson one learns in serving the Lord is that when one is in the Lord’s will, national boundaries do nothing to increase or decrease one’s safety. Jonah had to learn that lesson the hard way.
There are still many challenges in the country. Immorality threatens all assemblies. It pervades and affects the country as a whole. Believers tend to be poor, many unemployed or sub-employed. Making ends meet and coming to meetings is not an easy task for most. There is a hunger for the Word amongst believers, but few are available to teach them. These are just some of the challenges we face.
We pray for those the Lord continues to call to spread the gospel. Will they be called from abroad or from Colombia? There are millions ripe for the harvest here. As you read this article, may I ask you to remember that the coffee you enjoy and may be drinking now is possibly Colombian? Please take the time, when you have a cup of coffee, to remember to pray for Colombia.