Colombian tribal couple share their faith even after losing jobs and receiving death threats

Rodrigo lost his job after converting to Christianity. (Photo: Open Doors International)

Luisa's* home was a mess. Not physically, but emotionally.

The young woman from the indigenous Wounaan tribe in San Juan, Colombia, did not see her husband much: he worked long hours and after work, looked for women and drinks.

Dispirited and broken, Luisa found refuge in the company of a missionary family visiting her town. Hearing their preaching by chance, Luisa found a whole new world opening up to her.

She invited them to her house. Their visits continued and Luisa became a Christian.

Her tribal community and her husband did not accept her conversion. Luisa, a teacher at her local school, started experiencing problems with colleagues: they started spreading lies about her, criticised her openly and made jokes at her expense. It did not frighten Luisa.

Meanwhile, her husband, Rodrigo*, continued with his lifestyle. Until he got sick...

He underwent two bouts of surgery and was unable to work. During that time, Luisa started talking to him about her new faith and encouraged him to find out more about Christianity. Rodrigo agreed, and the more he learned, the more interested he became. Finally, he too converted to Christianity and even became a pastor for the community.

When he informed the local Wounaan council of his decision to "end his journey" with them, the members threatened him with punishment.

Rodrigo found himself unemployed and with no prospects. The council held a meeting where they announced that if the couple did not deny their Christian faith, Luisa, the only teacher with a university degree in her school, would lose her job. This happened almost instantly.

The pressure on the family increased even further, to the couple's three children. They reported physical and verbal aggression from their peers, with no teachers willing to intervene. The two youngest children were held back by a year, even though they had grades high enough to advance.

"At the school, they treated my daughter badly," Rodrigo told the Christian anti-persecution charity Open Doors. "When she came home from the school, she would tell me, 'Dad, I do the homework, but the teacher doesn't assess me. How am I going to pass the year?' And she didn't. The only reason was her faith."

As Rodrigo continued preaching, he started receiving death threats.

"They were telling me that they were going to kill me and my children," Rodrigo said. "If they wouldn't kill me, they would kill my children, my father, and they would take my wife away, they said."

When he filed a complaint with the police, the police officers said they would protect him within a radius of 500 meters from the police station and no further.

With both Luisa and Rodrigo out of work, the family began to struggle, using just 20 dollars a month from their savings and growing whatever food they could.

At this point, one of their missionary friends contacted Open Doors, which provided food for the family and helped them start a small business selling petrol.

Soon they achieved financial stability. Their eldest child received a scholarship from Open Doors to attend a college.

Luisa and Rodrigo now travel with the missionary family to preach to indigenous people throughout the region.

"There is a total of 36 communities in San Juan," Rodrigo says. "And we are preaching from one end to the other in this area. I feel strengthened, I'm alive."

*names changed for security reasons

Zara Sarvarian works for Open Doors UK & Ireland, part of Open Doors International, a global NGO network which has supported and strengthened persecuted Christians for over 60 years and works in over 60 countries. In 2020, it raised £42 million to provide practical support to persecuted Christians such as food, medicines, trauma care, legal assistance, safe houses and schools, as well as spiritual support through Christian literature, training and resources. Open Doors UK & Ireland raised about £16 million.

Re-published from Christian Today UK.