Exploratory trip- La Guajira, Colombia
La Guajira, a desert land known by its inhabitants as the “Wayuu Nation” is a land without borders. There is no Colombian Guajira or Venezuelan Guajira it is all one nation.
This summer our local staff members in Maracaibo went on an exploratory trip to Colombia to meet with other local pastors and churches about working with Bread of Hope. It was truly an eye-opening experience as we learned more about the Wayuu culture and the great physical and spiritual needs that they have in Colombia. There were several places and experiences that really touched our hearts and we would like to share a few of them with you.
In the Guajira desert, the temperature is between 105 – 115 degrees Fahrenheit. There are cacti and “Rancherias” small settlements where the Wayuu people live with their families. These “Rancherias” are made out of wood sticks and a tin roof. Many families often use asbestos for their roof, which many of you know is a prohibited material in most parts of the world because it causes cancer.
You would think in 115 degree weather that water would not be a luxury, but a necessity. However, for the Wayuu living in these “Rancherias” water is every bit of a luxury good. An average day of work for someone in this region is 15,000 pesos, which is about $7. For those who live in larger towns a whole barrel of water, about 25 gallons, is 20,000 pesos or $10. For those that live in the “rancherias” the price doubles. Many families cannot afford a constant supply of water. It’s not common to see people walking around the “Rancherias” during the day. People would rather stay at home resting so that they don’t get thirsty.
After the Guajira desert, we got to Manaure, a city on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean known for its salt mines. In Manaure, we were welcomed by Pastor Juan Nafer. He is the pastor of Manaure First Baptist Church. The church was founded in 1975 by the Colombian Baptist Convention in alliance with North American ministries. The temple looks deteriorated, due to the sea salt which corrodes the metal and most buildings in the area. Planting trees seems like something out of a fairy tale because the land’s high salt content is not suitable for any type of agriculture. Therefore, most children have only seen fruit trees in their text books.
We also met with another Pastor, Fidel Epiayu and talked with him about Bread of Hope sharing our vision and our work with local churches. He expressed to us the importance and the need that these communities have for training. Pastor Fidel attends a school program for Bible translators in Peru twice a year and is in charge of Bible revisions for the Old Testament.
Pastor Fidel is very similar to Pastor Jose in Maracaibo. They share the same vision and passion for the Wayuu. This is one of our favorite quotes from him:
“We don’t want pesos or bolivares, we want training in order to connect with people through projects that not only feed the spirit but also give the Wayuu people a reason to live so that they don’t have to perish without knowing their value”
This church is part of an organization that has 49 churches throughout La Guajira. They are working on starting a project to build an elementary school in their region.
After talking with Pastor Fidel, we have agreed to help with chorological bible study training and we are going to start alliances with churches in the area assisting them in starting community development programs.
– We contacted 3 churches that will soon receive chronological Bible training.
– One of these churches has 49 churches in its network (Samaria Church).
– One has 6 other churches and missions in its network (Ebenezer Baptist Church).
We are very excited about the doors that God is opening for Bread of Hope in Colombia.
We ask that you continue to support us in prayer as we move in obedience to reach the Wayuu for God’s glory.
– Please pray for the pastors and churches that we met on our trip. Pray that God will guide us and lead us to build strong relationships in order to meet the deep needs that are found in their communities.
– Please pray for a lady from one of these churches. She is going through a hardship in her family. Her husband’s life is in danger. Her husband is a Christian and we do ask that you pray for his protection.
– Please continue to pray for Pastor Jose and his family as they are grieving the loss of his Father. Please pray for strength and peace as they go through this difficult time together.