Colombian churches counteract gang violence, open new ministries to local children
GRANTHAM, Pa. (Dec. 11, 2009)—As first reported in October, the rapid escalation of violence in the Colombian city of Medellín has impacted the Brethren in Christ Church in that community. In recent months, according to a recent report from Trevor Main, a BIC missionary in Bogotá, Colombia, the situation has significantly deteriorated, forcing some BIC families to leave the area and others to face the realities of continued violence and family estrangement.
Several students at a BIC “soccer school”—an afterschool program for young boys sponsored by the BIC Church in Medellín—have been directly affected by this rise in violence and gang activity, according to Main’s report:
A mother of one of the boys in soccer school and her son had to leave the neighborhood because one of the gangs that operate in the area was demanding payment [in exchange for gang protection]. The mother protested to one of the gang members and, as a result, they had to leave the area for fear the gang would kill her son.
Another one of the boys in the soccer school was threatened [by gang members]. This mother lives in constant fear that at any time her son might be killed.
Another mother is facing the same situation with one of her older sons who has become involved with a gang. A little while ago he was caught with marijuana, and his relationship with his mother has deteriorated greatly. The mother is in anguish and thinks she is losing her son, who doesn’t want anything to do with her. He just wants to hang out with the gang.
Another boy who is a member of the soccer school has been threatened by a gang that functions in the area around his home. His mother reported the threat to the police but now fears for the safety of her son. He isn’t allowed out of his house unless he is accompanied by someone else. This boy still comes to soccer school when he can get someone to come with him.
Main has requested further prayer for the situation, and for these families in particular.
Bringing hope to the community
In another communiqué with the BIC Church in North America, Main reports that the Colombian Church continues to reach out to its neighbors despite the evident danger.
In the Medellín neighborhood of La Divisa, a children’s club called “Navigators” has been operating since July, in conjunction with two similar programs in the nearby cities of Girardot and Rio Negro.
“In the children’s club, Navigators, we have seen numerous significant stories—stories of children that have been introduced to the Gospel and who have, in turn, shared the Gospel with their parents,” adds Main.
Attendance at the La Divisa club meetings averages 30, and meetings in Girardot and Rio Negro average 30 and 25, respectively,bringing the total average number of attendees to 85.
In addition, shares Main, the Girardot BIC Church has been able to support a seminary student to coordinate the program, train teachers, and lead small groups at the three clubs.
During the past year, children studied a curriculum called “Constructores de Paz” (“Peace Builders”). During the class, says Main, “The plan of salvation was presented to all the children, and 30 gave their lives to Jesus.”
The club program also sponsored “three workshops for parents that will help them raise their children, and 30 different parents took part in them,” according to Main.