A Smuggler’s Son
Mateo’s mother often risked her life to smuggle Bibles to indigenous communities in Colombia. Mateo* would often accompany her on her journey. He would spend many hours trekking across mountains and through the jungle in the cover of night.
He was his mother’s protector, prepared to shield her from wild animals or attackers. Mateo remembers those times as some of the most exciting of his life. He was not afraid. He knew he wanted to serve God.
Controlled And Cut Off
Life within indigenous communities in Colombia is not easy, especially if you are a Christian.
Image: Mateo's home in Colombia
Mateo’s family were often denied access to health services and education. They were regularly harassed and under constant scrutiny.
“In my home community, there was no way to study, since the only schools are those controlled by the indigenous authorities,” Mateo said.
“In those schools you cannot be a Christian, or read the Bible.”
Mateo also had to work in the field from the age of six or seven, to help provide for his family. There are scars on his skin from using a machete.
La Casita Children’s Home
When it became too dangerous for Mateo and his family, Mateo went to live at ‘La Casita Children’s Home’ – a shelter built by Open Doors for children of the persecuted church and indigenous communities in Colombia.
Image: Girls at the centre making the traditional mochila bag.
There are currently 16 children aged between 10-18 staying at La Casita. In the shelter, they are protected from the violence of persecution, including the threat of sexual assault from some tribal leaders.
Mateo takes part in multiple education programs, job skills training, pastoral guidance and musical training.
Mateo is about to finish high school and wants to go to university to study veterinary science and agronomy. He wants to teach his home community how to better care for animals and cultivate the land.
Image: Boys doing Bible study together at the shelter.
“If we can find the ways and means to send Mateo to university, he will be the first indigenous Christian from his tribe to have a degree,” said Javier* who manages the shelter.
“He will be able to break the myth that indigenous Christians can’t go to university, and will be a beautiful example for others within his community.”
Some children have gone on to preach the gospel in other parts of Colombia. The next generation of Christian leaders are being formed.
“I feel very proud of Mateo,” said his mother, “In him, our community and our family have high hopes.”
*Names changed for security purposes.