But instead of planning celebrations, the country is facing fresh conflict. The controversial peace treaty is fraying, as thousands of FARC dissidents and other guerrillas re-group in the mountains of Colombia, where coca fields now stand to produce more of the plant used to make cocaine than ever in Colombia’s history.
The country’s new president, Iván Duque, has said he will revise the peace deal and pursue new measures to curb the production of cocaine—a process watched closely by U.S. officials worried about a recent surge of cocaine-related deaths in the United States.
For Christians living in the Colombian countryside—and for those displaced to other areas of the nation—a different concern arises, particularly for pastors leading churches: How can they best maintain ministry in dangerous conditions—and encourage their congregations to welcome militants now interested in the gospel?
For Pastor Martinez, his own history compels him to continue ministry, despite threats against him and his family. “I share the gospel because the Lord has transformed me,” he says. “I was once a member of those groups too.”
TRANSFORMATION IS A POPULAR THEME in Colombia, a Latin American nation with a burgeoning middle class and modern skyscrapers nestled into verdant valleys surrounded by the Andes Mountains.
In bustling cities like Medellín—once infamous for drug lord Pablo Escobar’s brutally violent cartel—residents stroll city streets, commute in a modern metro system, and sip coffee in upscale shopping malls.
Colombian forces killed Escobar during a 1993 raid at the kingpin’s Medellín hideout, and the crackdown on drug cartels helped improve living conditions in urban areas.