Amerindians suffer oppression and discrimination. Colombians often disregard their contribution to culture and society. Most are poor, less educated, and vulnerable to violent conflict and land abuses. Some of the 94 groups have strong, well-led churches that work together and send out missionaries to others. 37 Amerindian languages do not have a New Testament, and 25 have no Scripture at all. Violent groups kidnapped or killed some Bible translators. Some groups persecute Amerindian Christians and force them to return to their former religious practices. 15 of the 94 Amerindian groups remain isolated and unevangelized. Pray for each of these precious groups to find the gospel before they disappear forever.
The upheaval from political and drug-related violence has had a terrible human cost. Tens of thousands have died, producing many orphans and widows. Colombia has the world's second-highest number of internally displaced people (three million). These desplazados are pushed from rural into urban areas, where there is little work or shelter, but much exploitation. Former guerrillas and paramilitaries who have disarmed under amnesty conditions find themselves ill-equipped to re-enter civilian life. Three million more Colombians who have fled the country exist largely in conditions of poverty and a precarious immigration status. Pray for all who suffer from loss, that the Lord might meet their needs and that they might find in their Creator hope and restoration.
The Roman Catholic Church has seen its role and influence greatly decrease since the 1991 constitution ensured the religious freedom of other groups. The great increase of evangelicals has been at the expense of Catholicism, especially among the poor. The majority of Catholics are strongly traditional, but widely nominal; only 25% practice their faith. There is a very strong charismatic element among those who are active in the Church. Many of the faithful have opposed violence and structural sin - and paid dearly for such commitment. Pray for renewal within Catholicism that awakens and purifies the Church.
Evangelical growth has been significant. In 1933, there were only 15,000 evangelicals. In 2010, they numbered 3.5 million. Some claim numbers as high as five million. Local, citywide and national evangelistic outreaches have resulted in large increases in numbers of congregations and believers. Some churches have grown 1,000-fold over the last two decades! Amanacer Colombia is a vision seeking to see 18,000 more evangelical churches planted. Pray for solutions in:
- The challenge of violence. The work of evangelicals among the poor and disenfranchised is a good testimony to all and the engine for church growth. Ministry to the suffering directs people away from violent alternatives. The conversion of guerrillas and paramilitaries to Christ leads them to quit the fighting, which in turn makes the churches a target. As a result, many pastors have been assassinated or have left the country.
- The challenge of leadership intensifies with the growth of churches and with pastors being murdered or fleeing. There are more than 20 theological training institutions, most of them packed with students, but they are desperate for qualified teachers. The role of TEE is crucial, with CIPEP coordinating such training for over 3,500 every year.
- The challenge of unity. The diversity of Colombia's churches can become a stumbling block or a strength, depending on how well they work together. The prayer nights in Cali and Medellin, attracting more than 45,000 people each, are examples of Church unity. CEDECOL, the Evangelical Confederation of Colombia, links over 50 evangelical denominations and coordinates interchurch action. A formal statement by CEDECOL members against violence and outlining a peace process will raise the profile of the Church, encouraging cooperation but making evangelicals more of a target than ever.
Missionaries are targets for the enemies of the gospel, both physical and spiritual. They live under constant threats of kidnapping, murder and extortion. Many areas miss out on vital ministry, since workers are forced to withdraw. Pray for courage and faithfulness for both native and expatriate missionaries. The complex scene of denominational and church-mission relations requires patience, humility and grace. Major mission agencies: YWAM, CB/CMML, AoG, NTM, ABWE, AI, LAM.
Colombian missionary vision is growing. Several Amerindian peoples are closed to foreigners, but Colombians are increasingly reaching them. The large majority of Colombian missionaries serve short term within their own country. A small but growing number of Colombians have gone to other lands, but church support is limited. Pray for the ongoing ministries of COMIBAM as well as Centro Cristiano de Misiones Mundiales in inspiring Christians to be involved in mission.
Unreached peoples. Pray specifically for:
- The thousands of gamines, or street urchins, in the cities. Bogotá has one of the highest numbers of street children of any Latin America city. YWAM, LAM, Tearfund and several new local ministries provide food, shelter and preparation for a life off the streets.
- The wealthier classes are small in number but control most of the economy. White rather than mestizo, they are overwhelmingly Catholic (although often very nominal) and generally isolated from evangelicals, who focus on the poor. Their wealth and ties to the circles of political and ecclesiastical power make them objects of resentment.
- The Muslim community numbers around 35,000 of Syrian, Lebanese or Palestinian background.
- Student and youth work is slow and hard. The history on campuses of Marxist ideology and then post-modern individualism hinders interest in serving others and seeking God. With more than half of the population under age 25, reaching the younger generation is crucial. Campus and youth ministries and even youth-oriented prayer movements such as Tribal Generation are all growing. Pray for their work to be creative, passionate and fruitful.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.