The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship: Our Long Partnership with Native Missionaries in Colombia
We’re republishing this as part of our 25th anniversary series featuring favorite stories from our archives. This story by Matthew Shareff about our partner missionaries in Colombia appeared in ANM’s magazine and on our blog in 2016. Enjoy!
Things were looking bleak for Helman and Rosalba. It was 1993, and the Colombian missionaries had been working among unreached Amazonian tribal groups since 1978, training indigenous missionaries in a small Bible school and evangelizing in remote villages.
Their ministry, Crisalinco, known to Advancing Native Missions as Christ to the Unreached Tribes, was small but strategic. Nobody else was working with these tribes. Helman and Rosalba wanted their ministry to grow and reach more.
We have felt loved and cared for. God has used ANM as the balm to heal our wounds and to strengthen us.
But financial support had decreased in recent years. In fact, Helman and Rosalba had no money for themselves or the pastors they worked with. The national churches of Colombia would have been their most logical source of support, but they were not interested in Crisalinco’s work among the natives. With two young daughters and a home base in the distant Colombian capital of Bogota, the Ocampos faced great adversity.
Days of Struggle
During that year, they resorted to sales work in Bogota, desperately striving to earn enough money to support their ministry. With what they did save, they ventured into the rainforest for two or three months at a time with few supplies, traveling down dangerous rivers without life jackets for themselves or their two small daughters. Often they didn’t have proper clothing to protect them from the heat and cold. At night they slept in holed tents that did not keep them dry when it rained.
“We saw that the need was great in every place, and our heart clung to this,” Helman recalled. “We felt that we couldn’t give up. However, sometimes that was exactly what we wanted to do.”
Their love—Christ’s love—for the unreached gave them strength in their weakness, an endurance which transcended their own will.
Back in Bogota, things weren’t much better. Colombia is one of the most violent countries in the world. Leftist guerrilla movements, right-wing paramilitary groups, and drug-trafficking barons control many areas. Corruption, kidnapping, and murder brutalize society.
Violence was on the rise in the 1990s, forcing Helman and Rosalba to divide their time and efforts between alleviating suffering in their home city and distributing Bibles among the tribal groups, themselves often on the margins of regions controlled by guerrilla and paramilitary groups. Helman and Rosalba were stretched thin.
They renewed a prayer they had prayed since the beginning of their ministry: Lord, could you please send someone to come beside us in the ministry, someone who would partner with us in prayer and finances, and help us accomplish the works that God had called us to do?
ANM brought hope
In 1994 Helman and Rosalba received a telephone call from Advancing Native Missions. Someone had told ANM about their ministry, and the leaders wanted to visit and learn more about them. Intrigued and hopeful, the Ocampos welcomed ANM’s visitors.
Later that year ANM’s Graham Stewart and Danny McAllister visited the Ocampos. Danny recalls, “What impressed me was the Ocampos’ willingness to sacrifice everything—even their lives—to advance the Gospel.”
Danny and Graham expressed ANM’s sincere passion for helping native missionaries to spread the gospel and do the good works of the Lord in their homelands. A new and lasting relationship was quickly formed.
With regular financial support from American donors through ANM, Helman and Rosalba expanded their network of training centers and church planters.
Now they have 20 full-time missionaries, seven part-time missionaries, and eight missionaries in training, along with seven ministry training centers for tribals and five missionary camps. One hundred and ten indigenous pastors have graduated from CUT’s programs, and 20 more are currently in training.
These missionaries have planted many churches among the tribal groups, allowing indigenous pastors to more effectively minister to these previously unreached peoples. Additionally, workers have translated the Bible into 27 of the estimated 70 languages spoken in Colombia, and are currently training indigenous translators to translate the Bible, sermons, and Christian music into their native languages.
A refugee center keeps approximately 100 children safe from guerrilla kidnappings, and provides comfort and aid to widows and their children.
“God has sustained us.”
The hardships, trials, dangers, and challenges of Colombia have not ended. Helman has buried more than 40 pastors. But Helman, Rosalba, and the workers of Christ to the Unreached Tribes have continued to wholeheartedly pursue their call to spread the gospel among, minister to, and aid the unreached tribal groups of Colombia.
ANM stands with them in these trials. Recalling their visits to the ANM office over the years, Helman said, “We have felt loved and cared for. Through the years we have seen them grow, but their love, care, and compassion for the missionaries has not changed. Many times we have arrived at their doors wounded, maltreated, and tired; but, God has used them as the balm to heal our wounds and to strengthen us so we may continue obeying the call of the Lord.”
Through their relationship with ANM, Helman and Osalba have received a committed and consistent spiritual endowment which has helped them to endure through and continue their work.
“God has sustained us,” Helman testifies. “With ANM’s help, the ministry has grown. Our brothers and sisters at ANM continue to help us’ their commitment is real: spiritually, emotionally, and financially.”
Twenty-five years after we started partnering with native ministries like this one to reach the unreached, the work continues, and we are closer than ever to seeing the Gospel proclaimed and lived out among every people group in the world. Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel!
There’s more to be done, and just $25 a month can equip another missionary.
This post was originally published on our blog on June 20, 2016.