During 30 years of internal war in Colombia, the nation's churches have had their leaders murdered, their buildings ruined, and their members kidnapped. But their pastors show no signs of quitting.
"You think of Colombia as so shaken by wars, drugs, and earthquakes," said Isaías Gutiérrez, Colombia's United Methodist bishop, during a recent U.S. visit. "But there is a Methodist community emerging with so much strength and reflecting the new face of the gospel [that] other churches are watching to see this new way of doing church."
Gutiérrez is investing high hope in his denomination's regionwide program, Encounter with Christ. It helps churches couple evangelism with outreach to needy Colombians. For example, in Cali, infamous for its cocaine cartel, a Methodist church with 350 members has pooled its resources and launched a school that now serves more than 300 local children.
Up to 17,000 guerrillas, well-armed from illicit fees paid by drug traffickers, carry out raids and reprisals across Colombia. Sometimes, murders occur for no discernible reason.
Political violence claimed the life of another minister on April 23, the day after Easter Sunday. Unknown assailants forced Jorge Aldana out of bed at 1:30 a.m. and took him away into the night. The body of the 28-year-old pastor of the Inter-American Church of Colombia congregation in Nueva Antioquia, Turbo, was discovered the next day. Investigators believe the murderers shot Aldana to death sometime around 4:30 a.m. Aldana leaves behind his wife, Orpha, a 9-year-old daughter, and a 7-year-old son.
Dozens of pastors have been killed in Colombia in the past year, according to Hector Pardo, pastor of Bogot's Tabernáculo del Fe (Faith Tabernácle), one of the city's ...1
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