“Renounce Your Faith or Be Killed!”
I don’t know if I could do it or not. I’d like to think I could, but when it comes right down to it, it would be the most difficult decision that I could make. I met Pastor Juan in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountain on the northeastern coast of Colombia. The snowcapped mountains are the highest elevation along the Caribbean Sea. Somewhere around 13,000 Kogi live in 29 communities in those mountains. They are a traditional people who do not want to have contact with those they call “younger brother.”
Pastor Juan grew up in one of the Kogi communities and, when he was a boy, he met two missionaries who shared the gospel with him. It was transformational and everyone in the community saw it. Later, Juan attended a school where he decided to become a pastor so that he could take the gospel back to his people.
After completing school, he returned. People noticed that he was different and when he was asked what happened, he explained that Jesus had changed his life. Slowly, others began to want what Juan had and eventually about 60 Kogi converted to Christ.
Not long after their conversion, community leaders began to feel threatened by Christianity and feared it would change their traditions. They began to persecute the new Christians and finally gave them an ultimatum: either renounce your faith or be killed!
Juan and the other Christians fled their homes. They left everything: fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, and all their earthly possessions to start a new community.
The community has not grown much, but they have a desire to reach their people with the gospel. Over the years, Pastor Juan has translated the New Testament in Kogi for both written and audio forms, and is now working on the Old Testament. Occasionally, he has contact with his people, but as we sat at a home near the trailhead of the four-day trek through the Colombia jungle to reach the Kogi, he became excited by the opportunity to partner together to reach his kinsmen.
The Kogi are one of 16 people groups in Colombia who currently do not have a Christian worker among them. Together with our International Needs Colombia staff, we are developing a plan to engage these groups. It will not be an easy task, but it is one God is leading us to do. Please pray that we will faithfully follow Him.
Michael T. Cooper, PhD
President and CEO