Colombia’s tribes transformed by gospelcomment (0)
November 20, 2008
Sweat dripped from Dut’s short, slender body as she hollowed out a grave in the floor of the Colombian rain forest.
Only minutes earlier the Nu Indian woman had given birth to her ninth child, a boy, but something was wrong. The baby’s head was misshapen, pointed — a temporary defect doctors would recognize as the result of an intense labor.
But there were no doctors here. Dut was ignorant and alone, save for several of her young children who had tagged along with their mother as she ventured into the bush that day.
They watched as Dut laid their brother’s tiny body in a shallow hole and began to cover him with dirt. The newborn shrieked in protest, his arms and legs struggling against the handfuls of cool, damp soil that pressed against his skin.
His cries weakened as a wave of earth washed across his face, followed by another and another. Abruptly the jungle fell silent. Without pause Dut stood, brushed the caked blood and grime from her hands and turned toward home.
Lee Rojas felt sick to her stomach. Watching her own 2-year-old daughter, Grace, playing with friends in the Nu village, the Colombian missionary struggled to comprehend the cruelty described in Dut’s macabre confession.
What Lee didn’t know was that the Lord would use these brutal sins to transform Dut’s life. Through Lee’s witness, Dut would soon be one of the first Nu to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ. The resulting change in her life is a glimpse of the mighty way God is making His Son’s name known among Colombia’s indigenous, a group of more than 100 native tribes scattered across a nation nearly twice the size of Texas.
Spearheading that effort are Southern Baptist representatives Fernando and Brenda Larzabal. Born in Argentina, Fernando began his ministry career as a missionary pilot. He met Brenda, a teacher from Saranac, Mich., on a missions trip to Belize. Four boys and 22 years of marriage later, the Larzabals are charged with mobilizing Colombian churches to take the gospel to every indigenous tribe.
“Our problem is that the average Colombian Christian has the perception that missions belongs to somebody else,” Fernando said. “But missions belongs to the local church.
“The gospel has been in Colombia for more than 150 years. We believe it’s time that what has traditionally been considered a missions field turns into a missionary force.”
Lee and her husband, John, are among a growing number of Colombian missionaries who’ve accepted that call. It’s a big job and there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. Each tribe has a distinct language, culture and worldview.
What they have in common is their need for Christ. Of the 100-plus indigenous tribes, at least 60 have no gospel witness. Most are animists, spirit-worshippers who live in fear of gods they can neither know nor love.
“The overwhelming need of these people is to be delivered from the fear of Satan,” Fernando said. “Without Christ there is fear and that’s what they breathe day in and day out.”
To raise awareness, the Larzabals spend much of their time criss-crossing the country visiting churches. At Berea Baptist in the city of Pereira, Pastor Eliecer Henao has invited Fernando to preach a missions sermon to help educate and inspire his congregation.
“My dream is to come to a point where one of our own families would be sent as a missionary and would be supported by us 100 percent,” Eliecer said. “We need prayers on our behalf so the church will wake up and understand that the missions responsibility is theirs.”
Editor’s Note — Some names have been changed for security reasons. (IMB)