Major Hurricane Dorian Lacked the Power to Thwart God’s Plans

In late August, plans were well underway for Ken Conway, Missions Coordinator, and Allen Peterson, Outreach Deacon, to travel to Columbia to support the missionaries on the ground there with the Wiwa tribal people. The day they were set to travel, Hurricane Dorian, the first major hurricane of the 2019 Hurricane season packing winds of 185 mph, stopped air travel. Their efforts seemed to have been dashed, but was Dorian simply redirecting the guys as God desired?

On October 21, Ken finally made the long trek to Columbia with colleague Alfonzo Rodriguez, a Colombian pastor who now lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

The storm delay notwithstanding, God’s timing is always perfect. It turned out that their later arrival was perfectly timed to offer support to one of the missionaries, who desperately needed two brothers in Christ to come alongside him in the midst of personal crisis.

Ken and Alfonso split eight days with Ismael Wiwarte and Julian Malo, missionaries The Ridge helps support, who are members of the Wiwa tribe. They first met up in the small town of Atanquez and later in La Tagua, located on opposite sides of the enormous Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a mountain range in northern Columbia.

These two Jesus followers and their families are now stationed at two “points of contact,” both in homes at the crossroads of the mountain passes and provide a “mission of presence,” in addition to their Bible translation work. Their homes offer hospitality to hundreds of Wiwa through-travelers on a monthly basis.

After spending two days in Atanquez, Ken, Alfonso and Ismael packed up Ismael’s household goods and ventured up the west side of the Sierra Nevada, heading for the new outpost on the edge of the reserve, a jungle area estimated to contain about 1,500 of the total tribal population of 6,000 Wiwa. They made a four-hour journey on treacherous roads along precipitous cliffs, to arrive 5,000 feet above sea level in La Tagua.

La Tagua is a small hamlet where Ismael’s mother, Maria Elena, and brother, Francisco, live. Maria Elena, a non-believer who seems on a journey toward Christ, draws people to herself like a magnet. She embodies that “person of peace” that Jesus talked about when he sent out the disciples to find  someone who could offer them hospitality and where they could give their blessings. On any given day, Maria Elena’s small kitchen is filled with adult travelers and many children. Right next door, Ismael is building a modest conventional home, with plenty of guest space of course, so his home also will be open to Wiwa traveler.  He and his wife Karol will live as a mission of presence.

Why does The Ridge support missionaries for the Wiwa in Columbia? Because Jesus commands that we “go to the ends of the earth” to spread the good news and bring people to Christ. These are people with a strong culture that are remotely situated, who are largely illiterate and who haven’t heard the Good News. It’s an area and a people where church plantings, as they might define church, would prove fruitful.

Ridge visitors, (Spanish-speaking) generally don’t evangelize or preach when they travel to Columbia, rather they offer support in the way of prayer and counsel to the Wiwa leaders. They provide strategic guidance on concerns or for near-term decisions that have a spiritual impact.

The primary topic of discussion and prayer throughout the week was how to next advance the Good News to the Wiwa people. Beyond simply having a “presence,” Bible translations are a principal means, since Jesus’ name and hope is unknown. To date, Ismael, Julian, and a small team have completed translations of Luke and Acts into Damana, the tribal language. Printing begins soon.  And because the Wiwa people believe in creation and in a Creator, translating Genesis could be a next logical choice; however, the final decision is God’s, for which they are now praying.

So as the week closed, “We headed home with intimate knowledge of the work underway with the Wiwa, and with a greater appreciation of God’s perfect timing.  Now it’s our responsibility to convey what we learned to our Ridge family,” said Ken. “We, as a church, need to continue to pray for and to support the work of the missionary warriors serving the Wiwa people.”