Who We Serve Mauricio and Dena of Colombia

When Dena’s husband, Mauricio, travels to surrounding villages for ministry work, Dena and her three daughters, ages 10, 7 and 5, are left vulnerable. She also knows that each time he leaves could be the last time she sees him. Yet she is convinced that the Lord has called them to minister in one of Colombia’s red zones where the paramilitary and guerrilla groups inflict terror on Christians.

“I’m a little afraid, but I’m trusting the Lord and praying always,” Dena said. “We put our hands in His.”

In order to visit a church outside their village, they must obtain permission to leave from the paramilitary and then get permission to enter another village. If caught trying to leave without permission, they could be sent back home or even killed. Visiting the 15 churches that Mauricio and Dena oversee is a challenge, and even the type of transportation they use can put them at risk.

“Usually people [paramilitary or guerrillas] who are involved in the conflict use [motorcycles],” Mauricio said. “A person can have whatever motorcycle they want. But if there is a need, it will probably be taken away by people in the conflict.”

Owning a car is also a problem. “When someone begins to acquire stuff, he becomes a target for criminal organizations … or people inside the conflict,” Mauricio explained. “If a person is starting to have a better standard of living … then the paramilitary or guerrillas will start asking you for contributions to sustain their conflict.”

These contributions are called “vaccines.” They “immunize” Christians and other villagers against further trouble from the paramilitaries and guerrillas. “If you pay one, you must continue paying them until they decide that you don’t have to pay anymore,” Dena said.

To avoid drawing too much attention to themselves, Mauricio and Dena travel to other villages in the back of a large truck that looks like a military transport vehicle. They cram into the back with more than a dozen other people as well as sacks of grain and chickens. “There have been accidents,” Mauricio said. “They turn, and people have flown out of the vehicle. So it’s a problem. But that’s how we get around.”

Transportation isn’t the only danger they face. While leading a church service in an area where they used to live, Mauricio and Dena were caught in a shoot-out. “We had to lie flat on the floor because bullets were passing over our heads,” Mauricio said.

Despite being surrounded by danger, Mauricio and Dena have an eternal perspective. “Yes, we are afraid, but we do it,” Mauricio said. “It’s true sometimes we preach and we know that in the group we may have paramilitary members. So we get in where we are supposed to preach about Jesus and we preach about Jesus.”

Dena is equally committed to sharing Christ in dangerous areas. “We like expanding the kingdom because sharing the gospel is not an option — it’s a command,” she said. “And He said to share the gospel to every creature. Pray for us because the situation is not easy. But we know that in Christ we are more than conquerors.”

VOM supports more than 40,000 front-line workers like Mauricio and Dena by providing them with the tools they need to advance the kingdom. That also includes conferences where pastors and their wives receive biblical teaching and encouragement.