Colombia

By Enoc Iglesias

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Enoc Iglesias Ortega, Ph.D. (University of Montemorelos, Nuevo Leon, Mexico), is an associate professor at the Adventist University of Colombia and editor of the university journal of studies and research. He has written seven books and has co-authored two others besides having written numerous magazine articles. He has worked for the Adventist Church as university president, academic vice president, and general secretary, as well as university director of admissions and records. He is married to Aura Graciela González Arjona and has two adult children.

General Overview and Statistics

Colombia is in an enviable geographical position, at the north end of the South American continent with some territories in North America. Most of its surface area is on the mainland, but it also has an island zone. It is bathed by both the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Its Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains are the highest coastal mountain range in the world.

Colombia has a total area of 440,831 square miles and an estimated population of 49,144,000 (2020 est.). It is divided into six geographical regions: Atlantic Coast, Pacific Coast, Andean Region, Amazon Region, Orinoco Region, and Insular Region.1 It has three mountain ranges, all within the Andes mountain system. Colombia’s capital is Bogotá, Distrito Capital, with 7.8 million inhabitants (2005 est.).2 The country’s other three major cities are Medellín, Cali, and Barranquilla. The three branches of Colombia’s government are the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. The highest government official is the president.3

Colombia’s inhabitants are called Colombians, and for the most part, they speak Spanish, which is Colombia’s official language. In addition, there are sixty-five indigenous languages spoken among more than forty different ethnic groups. Most of the population is of mixed blood, but there are also Caucasians and persons of African descent. In the departments of San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina, surrounded by the sea of seven colors, three languages are spoken: Spanish, English, and Creole.4 On northern Colombia’s Atlantic Coast, Arawak, Carib, and Musica (or Chibcha) lived on the Guajira Peninsula at the time of the Spanish conquest,5 and the area still has a large indigenous population. The predominant religion of Colombia is Roman Catholicism.

Colombia is highly vulnerable to natural disasters. Because Colombia has coastal regions on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, it is at increased risk for hurricanes and tropical storms. Colombia is also part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and of the Andean Volcanic Belt, consequently increasing its risk of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In addition to these risks, Colombia’s Pacific Lowlands are one of the wettest regions in the world, and on the other side of the country, extensive areas of the Caribbean interior are permanently flooded. There are also two monsoon seasons in parts of eastern Colombia, which can create alternate periods of flooding and drought.

Within the country, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is organized into the North Colombia Union Conference and the South Colombia Union Conference, with headquarters in Medellin and Bogotá, respectively.6

Church Origins

The first Seventh-day Adventist to arrive in Colombia was Frank C. Kelly, a North American who was not an employee of the church. He settled in Bogotá in 1895.7 There he sold Adventist literature8 such as El Centinela.9 The fact that the first attempt to share the gospel in Colombia was through the sale of literature shows what an important role it played in evangelization.10 The record shows that American pastor Frank J. Hutchins and Australian medical missionary John Eccles died in Colombia in 1902; so, although they were originally missionaries in Panama, they came to work in Colombia. Also, Samuel Smith, son of Uriah Smith, arrived in San Andrés in 1901, where he worked with Hutchins and Eccles. The first converts to the church in Colombia were baptized in San Andrés.11 Max E. Trummer arrived in Colombia in April of 1921 together with the Bible worker L. V. Cleaves. Trummer had been a successful colporteur in the United States, and his experience there helped him greatly in his missionary work in Colombia.12 Originally, in 1918, when he could not come to Colombia, he had sent a box with Adventist books and pamphlets from Colón, Panama, to Cartagena de Indias. The box came into the hands of a Presbyterian pastor, José Antonio Redondo Bonilla, who became interested in the Adventist work and invited Trummer to come to Colombia.13 There were already other pastors working in the island zone,14 but Trummer was the first Adventist pastor to arrive in mainland Colombia,15 and he baptized the first Adventists there.16

Pioneers

Pastors Carlos and Eugenio Plata and José Martínez, Colombians, were pioneers of the Adventist work in Colombia. In addition, during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, Antonio, Ana María, and Carmen Redondo in Cereté; the Escandón family in Barranquilla and other parts of Colombia; and Ignacio Carrillo in Cartagena de India all worked on behalf of the Church.17 The courage of these and other church members in the face of their enemies bore fruit, especially in Bucaramanga, which—with the passage of time—became the “Adventist Capital of Colombia.” In Bogotá, other church members and their pastors had a positive impact. Then the towns of Manizales, Ibagué, Armenia, and Pereira welcomed Adventist missionaries. When the Adventist message came to Medellín, and first member of the Central church of Medellín was Dolores Rave de Piedrahita; Luis A. Bolívar also became a member of that church.18

In 1921, John Holder travelled with Trummer to several homes along the Atlantic Coast and in the Andean Region, presenting the gospel. In 1924, Jodesto Mayorga (brother of an evangelical pastor), Moisés Valdés, and José Martínez were all baptized in Puerto Colombia, and they became successful colporteurs. Mayorga and Valdés sold books such as Guía Práctica, as well as the magazine El Centinela. In Bucaramanga, Cleaves trained several persons to become colporteurs.19

The Browers arrived in Barranquilla in 1925. As a colporteur, Mr. Brower sold Adventist literature. By then, the Redondo family had returned to Cereté. The Adventist organization then employed the Thurbers as workers for the Atlantic Colombia Mission. E. W. Thurber was superintendent of the mission. Members of the Escandón family, residents of Barranquilla, were converted to Adventism.20 In 1928, D. N. Peralta arrived at the mission from Perú.21

In the early days of the work in Barranquilla, a house was rented to serve as a place for the worship services, administrative offices, and the school. Mrs. Thurber and Mrs. Valdés served as teachers at the school. Victoria Dávila, a Mexican teacher, was also invited to teach at the Adventist school in the Boston neighborhood of Barranquilla at the beginning of 1927. In 1929, Carmen Redondo joined the teaching staff on this campus. Out of that small school came many who would teach the truths of the Bible in Colombia. Jorge Escandón and Luis Larrázabal joined the group of colporteurs in 1928, after having the benefit of an Adventist education. A young man by the last name of Babcock had arrived in Colombia to train colporteurs, but his efforts did not succeed, as he became ill and had to return to British Guiana toward the end of 1928. However, Gabriel Castro was one of the successful colporteurs.22 Sister Lien came from the United States to help with the work of the colporteurs, but she also became ill and returned to her country along with her husband. Another Bible worker, Justina Colón, was brought from Puerto Rico, and Pedro R. González came from Venezuela as director of the colporteurs. He arrived in Barranquilla in January 1930.23

With the passage of time, it became evident that the Adventist work had need of adequate buildings. A property was purchased and buildings were constructed for offices, school, and housing for staff. In 1930, these buildings were put into use. Thurber had to leave his post as superintendent of the Atlantic Colombian Mission and return to the United States with his wife. To take his place, R. W. Stewart and his family were brought from Cuba. Stewart functioned as interim president, and when he left, he was replaced by his son, José. But in 1934, M. H. Manegold, a German, was named president of the mission.24 Meanwhile, the war between Colombia and Perú (1932-1933) made it necessary for the Adventist leader from Perú, D. N. Peralta, to leave Colombia along with his Mexican wife, Victoria Dávila, who had been one of the teachers at the Adventist School.25 About the same time, Manegold was moved to Caracas, and A. V. Larson came to take his place.

Growth of the Work

In 1934, the administrators of the Atlantic Colombia Mission requested the services of Tirso Escandón from the Central Colombia Mission in Medellín, asking him to visit all the groups and churches along the Caribbean coast of the Atlantic Colombia Mission. Tirso Escandón was accompanied by Trummer in carrying out this task.26 In January of 1935, a convocation of Adventist workers was held in Barranquilla, and leaders of the church at different levels were in charge of the meetings. At one of these meetings, Tirso Escandón was officially invited to become a Bible worker for the mission.

Henry E. Baasch, president of the Colombia-Venezuela Union Mission, made a four-month tour of the union in 1936; he was accompanied by Tirso Escandón. Baasch held sessions for the local leaders in several places along the Atlantic coast. Although no evangelistic meetings had been ever held in the territory of the Atlantic Colombia Mission, the membership grew. The largest churches were in Barranquilla, Ciénaga, and Santa Marta. Small groups were meeting on the banks of the Magdalena and Sinú rivers, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the southern part of the La Guajira Peninsula, and on the border with Venezuela.27

In Barranquilla, the Rebolo and Concordia churches were organized, the latter a result of a missionary campaign led by Noel H. Kinzer, who was the superintendent of the Atlantic Colombia Mission. He was aided by Bible worker Aquilino González. Other churches were formed in the north of Santander, and Eugenio Plata worked in Magdalena.28 In another sector of the Atlantic coast, José Martínez continued his work; later he would become a pastor. Several missionaries worked in los Montes de María, and well-recognized churches were established there.29 In Ciénaga, the Adventist message had positive results. In Santa Marta, José Castro, a consecrated and courageous worker, became a successful Bible worker. Alberto Plata helped to preach the Adventist message in Barranquilla, while in Sabanagrande the Adventist church was stoned by locals in an effort to stop worship services and evangelistic meetings. In La Guajira Adventist pioneers were viciously persecuted by enemies of the gospel. Later, a teacher, Narcisa Moreno, was brought in from Barranquilla to start an Adventist school.30 In 1928, there were massacres of the banana workers in the banana-growing zone of Santa Marta, and thousands died. The Adventist members suffered because of this. Several young men worked as professional colporteurs in this part of Colombia.31

In order to extend their missionary work, the members and leaders of the work distributed the book Nuestro Siglo a la Luz Profética. During that period, Redondo used a boat called La Portaluz, which he received from the General Conference. He used it for evangelism along the banks of the Sinú River. In addition, he had three cargo and passenger boats that carried Adventist literature in order to spread the message of the church. Another means of reaching the people was the radio program La Hora Adventista (The Adventist Hour), which was produced under the leadership of Gilberto Bustamante.32

The Adventist message reached the Montería area in 1945. Boat captain Redondo had traveled as far as Tierralta, while he was still a Presbyterian. Pastors José Perreira and José Martínez also carried the message to the area, but the local church suffered some reverses in the 1950s.33 From Montería, members and pastors carried the message to the Alto Sinú.34

In 1927, Trummer arrived in Riosucio in the Andean region where the Adventist message was well received. One of its voices was Brother Bolívar.35 Several missionaries came to Buenaventura on the Pacific coast. The members supported missionaries G. W. Chapman and Camacho. At the first baptism there were forty-two converts. Dozens of members contributed their support to missionaries Trummer, Bolívar, Ismael Rojas, Gilberto Bustamante, Valdés, Rendón, Sixto Tulio González, and many others.36

The distribution of Adventist literature played a big part in the preaching of the gospel during this period. La Hora Decisiva (The Decisive Hour) was a widely distributed book. Because of this book, Palmira, Tuluá, Buenaventura, and other places large and small received the Bible truth. About twenty-eight years after the arrival of Kelley in Bogotá, people there began to accept the Adventist faith. The first baptism in Bogotá was of one person in 1923. In November of that same year, two more individuals were also baptized. There was one more baptized in 1924, and two in 1927. The Adventist work in that region spread through the labor of members who collaborated with leaders appointed by the Adventist church. Among these laymen were Alfredo Ganona, Pedro Garnica, Ramón Maury, Miguel López, and Luis Flórez.37

In 1946, some interested persons in Campoalegre at the south of the Andean Region asked for a visit from Gregorio Laguna. Laguna was not able to respond to the request, but one of these interested persons had received Bible studies from the Presbyterians in 1915. He, together with his wife and son, was baptized. The Adventist church began to grow in that region through the work of pastors like Félix Fernández, José Roa, Ricardo Arjona, Victor Urbina, Juan Cáceres, Luis Almeida, and Tirso Escandón, along with the unfailing support of the members.38

Jorge Rendón began missionary work in 1941.39 Rionegro, Antioquía, was a conservative city, and Tirso Escandón baptized several people there in 1941. Jorge Gallegos, a convert, suffered harassment from his family.40

A Colombian sister baptized in Panama arrived at Golfo de Urabá on the Atlantic coast, and she began sharing the Adventist message. In Turbo, two persons were baptized. The same sister preached in Currulao, and twelve persons wee baptized by Alonso Abdul, who was of indigenous origin and originally from a Muslim family. The first pastor to locate in Turbo in order to tend to the Golfo de Urabá members was Abel Gil (1964). Matilde Amargo, an Adventist teacher in the local public schools, was another person who spread the Adventist message there. Also, Tiro Escandón and Santander Iglesias worked there before the arrival of Gil, but did not live in Turbo. Daniel Quejada came to Turbo from Panama and helped promote the growth of the Adventist work in the region. Between 1951 and 1964, thirty-eight groups were created between Apartadó and Arboletes (Antioquía).41

In the Serranía de Abibe, several congregations were formed. Church members and pastors then came to Dabeiba in the Andean Region where several families contributed to the growth of Adventism. However, the 1980s and 1990s were a period of brutal violence in that region between the leftists, the rightists, and the military forces of the regime. In some places, many church members and pastors were kidnapped, tortured, or expelled from their zones by these groups. It became dangerous to be a pastor in this region, and sometimes there was no pastoral presence in areas such as the Montes de María, the central area of Orinoco Region, the south Amazon Region, and in the southwest and northern areas of the Andean Region. Members could not tithe or give offerings. Several rural churches were sacked by armed forces, who desecrated the items used for the Lord’s Supper, and in some towns outlaw groups obligated members to perform tasks for them on the Sabbath. In some cases, outlaws even notified some of the high-ranking Adventist leaders of decisions they had taken against the work of the Church. There was no peace. In the midst of these circumstances, the departments of religious liberty and community matters approached the governments of Andrés Pastrana Arango, Ernesto Samper Pizano, and Alvaro Uribe Vélez, bringing these issues to their attention and asking that the religious liberty rights of the church be respected.42 They also asked the world church to set aside a day of fasting and prayer, which took place, and conditions improved.

In the Andean Region, the Bucaramanga Central church had some marked successes in the midst of all the hostility. Other cities such as Barrancabermeja, Santa Helena del Opón, Sogamoso, Avachucho, Ocaña, Saravena (in the Orinoco Region), and some other towns received an influx of Adventists, including some members from Venezuela, and new congregations were formed.43 Since the 1970s and the discovery of oil, the Orinoco Region has been plagued with attacks on the infrastructure of the petroleum companies. Nevertheless, in this region the members are courageous, hard-working, and generous missionaries. Pastors John K. Griswell and Marcos Quiñonez were successful missionaries there as was Norberto Carmona, a Bible worker. Hacia la Edad de Oro was a well-sold book, as was The Great Controversy. Membership continued to grow.44

Starting in 1957, there were missionaries in the Orinoco Region. Several local Adventists joined the missionaries, namely Jorge González, Triso Escandón, Avelino Amaya, Joel Manosalva, Gonzalo Pico, and Sixto González. Their purpose was to spread the truths of the Bible. Their hard work and prayers are evident today in the East Los Llanos Conference, with its headquarters in Villavicencio, Meta.45

In El Chocó on the Pacific coast, the Adventists made their presence known in the mid 1950s. Bolívar and a member of the local church were commissioned to travel to Quíbdo, the capital, in 1959. Later they went to El Carmen del Atrato. There the prior colporteur work of Rafael Escandón was fruitful. This lay brother had also colporteured in San Juan. Bolívar paid a lay member out of his own pocket to officially establish the Adventist work in El Chocó, and Samuel Pérez served in this capacity during 1964 and 1965. Leoncio Cardona was the first Adventist in el Chocó, followed by members of the Maturana and Córdoba families.46

Institutions

The Columbia-Venezuela Union Training School was created in 1937 (later renamed the Colombia-Venezuela Union College) from which was born the Colombia Adventist University Corporation. These were institutions in which ministers, educators, musicians, administrators, secretaries, Bible workers, public accountants, nurses, paramedics, technologists, system engineers, and other professionals were educated and trained to serve the Colombian community and the Adventist church. Graduates have greatly contributed to the development of both. The Colombia Adventist University Corporation has expanded as the El Llano Adventist Agricultural Education Institute47 and the Adventist Medical Center, which became IPS Universitaria Adventista (the Adventist University IPS), came under its umbrella.48

Another aid to the Church is the Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), conducting work for which the communities are grateful.49

Administrative Units

In 1895, when the first Adventist arrived in Colombia, the country belonged to the West Caribbean Conference.50 Colombia’s first Seventh-day Adventist church was established in San Andrés with nineteen members. A larger group of members was established in Providencia.51 In 1903, two conferences were created for the islands in the Caribbean. In 1906, the West Indies Union was formed, a name under which it continued until 1912. Mexico was organized as a separate entity.52 “In 1914, the lands north of Central America, Cuba and Haiti were separated from the West Indies Union and together with Mexico formed the Northern Spanish American Missions, dependent directly on the General Conference…”53 “The countries south of the Isthmus, those in the northern part of South American and all of the Antilles to Jamaica continued forming part of the West Indies Union…”54

The dynamic of the work of the Church is evident in the changes to its organizational units. After several adjustments of territory, the West Indies Union and the Northern Spanish American Mission came together to form the Inter-American Division in 1922. All the countries that border the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, with the exception of the United States, were included in that division.55 In 1927, Colombia, Venezuela and the Netherlands Antilles were separated from the West Indies Union to form the Colombia-Venezuela Union Mission.56

The Adventist work continued its progress, and in March of 1989, in Cúcuta, Colombia, the quinquennial congress of the Colombia-Venezuela Union Mission divided the field into two new unions: the Colombia Union Mission and the Venezuela-Antilles Union Mission, with headquarters in Medellín and Caracas respectively.57 The administrative units within the Colombia Union Mission were three missions: the Atlantic Colombia Mission, the East Colombia Mission, and the Colombia Islands Mission.58

The Adventist work in Colombia has seen many changes in territory. Between 1927 and 2019, larger administrative units were formed, such as the Colombia-Venezuela Union Mission, the Colombia Union Mission, the North Colombia Union Conference, and the South Colombia Union Conference. The conferences, missions, and regions (a classification used briefly by the Adventist church) in this area reflect clearly the history of the advances made by missionaries, members, and leaders in taking the message to new places.

In 1952, the islands of Antigua, Providencia, and San Andrés were added to the Colombia Union Mission, giving Colombia three missions: the Atlantic Colombia Mission, the Pacific Colombia Mission, and the Upper Magdalena Mission. In 1955, the Colombia Islands Mission was created.59 In 1960, all four missions are shown.60 A new administrative unit, the East Colombia Mission, was added in 1986 making a total of five missions.61 This composition of fields remained in place through 1989, when the Colombia-Venezuela Union was divided into the Venezuela-Antilles Union Mission and the Colombia Union Mission.62

An important change happened in 1990 when Colombia became a union on its own with two conferences and three missions.63 The Colombia Union Mission became the Colombia Union Conference in 1993.64 The progress of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Colombia Union Conference continued strong. In 1997, the union added the West Central Colombian Mission to the other five fields: the Pacific Colombian Conference, the Upper Magdalena Conference, the East Colombian Conference, the Atlantic Colombian Mission, and the Colombian Islands Mission.65 As work in Colombia progressed, by 2007 church growth necessitated the addition of two more mission fields—the South Colombian Mission and the Caribbean Colombian Mission—for a total of three conferences and five missions.66

The growth continued, as in 2009 there were ten administrative units: the Upper Magdalena, the East Colombian, the Pacific Colombian, the South Colombian, the Atlantic Colombian, and the Northeast Colombian Conferences, as well as the Caribbean Colombian, the Central Colombian, the West Central Colombian, and the Colombian Islands missions.67 A year later, Colombia added the Los Llanos and Boyacá Mission, making a total of 11 administrative units.68

The North Colombian Union Conference was organized in 2010, with the north, northwest, and northeast regions of Colombia. The new union included the Atlantic Colombian, the East Colombian, the Northeast Colombian, and the West Central Colombian conferences, and the missions of Caribbean Colombian and Colombian Islands. Its headquarters were placed in Medellín and it had six administrative units.69 The South Colombia Union Mission was also created in 2010. It covered part of the Andean region, the center of the country, and the Amazon and Orinoquía regions. Its headquarters were located in Bogotá. Its five administrative units were the Pacific Colombian, South Colombian, and Upper Magdalena conferences, and the Central Colombian and East Llanos and Bogotá missions.70

In 2020, the were the administrative units were the North Colombian Union Conference, with the West Central Colombian, the East Central Colombian, the Southwest Colombian, the Atlantic Colombian, the Caribbean Colombian, the East Colombian, and the Northeast Colombian conferences, and the Colombian Islands Mission.71 The South Colombian Union Mission included the Upper Magdalena, the South Bogotá, the South Colombian, the East Los Llanos, the Pacific Colombian, and the Central Colombian conferences, and the South Pacific, the South Andean, and the Northwest Bogotá and Boyacá missions.72 In order to fulfill the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Colombia, the number of administrative units has grown from three in 1927 to seventeen in 2020 (thirteen conferences and four missions).

Important Points Regarding Membership

In 1895, the Adventist Church did not exist in Colombia. The first baptisms were held in San Andrés and Providencia. By 1902, there were more than forty members in two churches.

Although Colombia boasted two churches, there were no denominational administrative units in the country between 1902 and 1926. As a result, church membership decreased during this time.73

Between 1927 and 1989 under the leadership of the Colombia-Venezuela Union Mission, church membership grew steadily until 1960.74 In the 1960s and into the 1970, Bobby Roberts, an evangelist, had great success in his campaigns in Colombia. He was assisted by Samuel Camacho and Gilberto Bustamante. By 1989, the continuing growth of the church was evident.75 At the end of the 1970s and during the 1980s, the strategy for evangelism was to pitch large tents in major cities such as Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, and Bucaramanga. Because of religious intolerance, the meetings were not presented as an activity of the Adventist church. The speaker was not introduced as a pastor, no Christian music was sung, nor was a prayer offered at the beginning of each meeting. After the third week, elements of the religious service would be gradually introduced. Several thousand members were added to the church in this way. José Osorio, a Spaniard, was one of the outstanding speakers.

Events in Colombia in 1985 had a major effect on the church. The coup that took over the Palace of Justice in Bogotá on November 6, 1985, left 100 dead as well as many missing. The Church was affected by this event because Colombia’s government became chaotic. On November 13, 1985, the eruption of the volcano Nevado del Ruiz left between 23,000 and 29,000 dead in Armero, Tolima. Many Adventists died after the Wednesday night prayer meeting. Also, the department of Caldas and Adventist members who lived there suffered in this catastrophe in the Andean Region.

The membership of the Colombia Union Mission was higher in 1990 than in 1989.76 In 1993, when the union mission became a union conference, the membership numbers were higher than those of 1990.77 And in 2010, when the North and South Colombian unions were formed, the membership had again increased.78 Events in the country during this time also affected the church. A demilitarized zone was created by the government on October 14, 1998, in the Amazon Region for the purpose of ending the armed conflict in Colombia. The withdrawal of the government forces left the paramilitary groups in power in this zone, and all civil liberties were abolished. In addition to the political problems, there was an earthquake in the Colombia coffee-growers zone (in the Andean Region), which took place on January 25, 1999, a catastrophe that left 1,185 dead and caused enormous economic loss. Adventists suffered significant losses. ADRA Colombia gave humanitarian aid to the affected communities.

In 2011, there were more members than in 2010,79 and by 2015, membership had risen above 300,000 for the first and only time in the history of the church in Colombia with 319,874 members. At that time there were 1,478 churches.80

In 2016, membership dropped under that of 2015, but the number of churches increased;81 however, by 2019 the number of members had risen again above the membership for 2016. The number of churches also grew.82 These figures show that there has been a sustained growth in membership in Colombia throughout the years, even though there was a temporary drop in membership in 2016. Evangelists such as Alejandro Bullón and others won significant numbers of new members. However, in comparison with the church membership in Peru and Brazil, the membership numbers for Colombia are low.

Nevertheless, during the decades of the 2000s and 2010s, evangelists continued to conduct their work with a high rate of success, a reflection of the maturity of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Colombia. The fact that the majority of church leaders and evangelists at this point were Colombian also marks the maturity of the church in this country. Programs such as health marches, missionary caravans, and the small group ministries have also been successful in winning new members. In the same manner, the visits of presidents and other high dignitaries of the supervising organizations of the church have encouraged members in different areas of their lives. The catastrophic events did not have a negative impact on church membership or the number of churches.

Impact of Political Events

A terrorist attack on an airplane ended the lives of 107 persons in 1989 as the terrorists sought to kill the presidential candidate César Gaviría (although it turned out that he did not travel on that plane). Gaviría was president from 1990 to 1994. His presidency had a major impact on the Adventist work in Colombia, as the Political Constitution passed in 1991 allowed the church to better carry out its activities because it protected liberty of conscience and worship, and allowed equal recognition for different religions and churches. In the same way, Law 133 passed in 1994 expanded religious liberty and freedom of worship provided in the Political Constitution of 1991.

In 1998, Decree 354 contained a provision that was unprecedented for Adventists. Article 1 approved an internal public rights covenant (Number 1 from 1997) between the Colombian State and some non-Catholic Christian religious entities. Its provisions were significant because it excused people from attending classes and exams or going to work on the Sabbath for reasons of conscience, worship, and religion. Government requirements also led the Adventist organization to legally change its name; thus, it officially became the Seventh-day Adventist Church of Colombia (IASDC).

Since the 1950s, as previously mentioned, political violence has been damaging to the Adventist Church. The peace dialogues between government and armed anti-government groups have been recurrent, but during the decades of violence freedom of conscience was threatened and mobility entirely suspended in several parts of Colombia.83 On October 27, 1998, Jair Serrano Camelo, a young minister, was brutally murdered by a lawless group in the Orinoco Region, and his name was added to the list of martyrs who have died since the middle of the twentieth century. Conditions were very difficult at the time, as a rightist group was fighting the leftists. After many dialogues with the Colombian government, the rightist group demobilized in 2006. In 2009, there was unbridled violence. Several departments in the country were attacked by marginalized groups, and some congregations were not able to function normally. In addition, the production and commercialization of illegal narcotic substances rose. In the midst of difficult circumstances, a peace pact was made between the government and the leftist group in 2016, and at the time of writing there is now some hope for more peaceful conditions.84

The Plan de Ordenamiento Territorial (a law dictating specific requirements for construction, urban planning, safety measures, etc.) was passed by Decree 879 in 1998 and has posed a problem for the church as many of its places of worship do not meet these requirements.

The Place of the Adventist Church

The Church in Colombia serves the community through its educational institutions, medical programs, humanitarian aid, and media.

Through both the Colombia-Venezuela Union College and the Colombia Adventist University Corporation, church leaders and missionaries have been trained and represent their church, enabling it to become what it is today. The Colombia-Venezuela Union College was a center where, under special circumstances before the public rights covenant granted freedom of conscience, worship, and religion, state exams could be given for Adventist students throughout the country. The Colombia Adventist University Corporation and the Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty have made it possible for Adventist students to take the high school state exams and the higher education state exams on Sabbath evening and Sunday instead of on Sabbath. The Adventist campuses have excelled in the SABER 11 high school exit exam. Educational institutions headed by the Colombia Adventist University Corporation have been bulwarks for the Adventist church, as many people have studied their high school or professional careers in these centers.85 In 2018, the Colombia Adventist University Corporation ranked 68th among the 187 institutions of higher education in Colombia.86

Various conferences and missions of the Adventist church in Colombia render health services. The Adventist University IPS of the Colombia Adventist University Corporation in Medellín also provides medical care through the university’s faculty of health sciences. The university offers careers in nursing and pre-hospitalization care, the latter taught in Bucaramanga at Colombia Adventist University’s first satellite campus, a major step in the history of the university and of the Adventist church in Colombia.87

For several years, Obra Filantrópica y Asistencia Social Adventista (the Latin-American version of ADRA) established in 1960, operated in the country and built its first center for aid in Ciénaga in order to help persons in need.88 This organization became the Agency for Development and Relief (ADRA Colombia), which has continued humanitarian aid and provided help for the urgent needs in many communities.89

Because of the challenges of distributing religious literature in Colombia, Tirso Escandón came up with the model “Missionary Mailmen,” which had a very positive impact within the Inter-American Division.90 But in the midst of current adverse circumstances due to the Covid pandemic, other strategies are required in order to fulfill the mission.91 The Seventh-day Adventist Church of Colombia understands well the current challenges, and has designed other strategies to carry the Adventist message to the whole country.92 One of these is radio. Consequently, 1470 AM Esperanza Colombia Radio became the first Adventist radio station in the country. It began to air on October 26, 2019.93 The Radio Correspondence School and the Voz de la Esperanza have been other means used by the Adventist church in Colombia.94

Challenges

Daily Bible study, doctrinal soundness in church members’ beliefs, greater focus on the writings of Ellen G. White have all been the focus of attention within the Seventh-day Adventist Church of Colombia.95 At the same time, the training of pastors, ministers, and local leaders in evangelism is another focus.96 Two other concerns are defending religious liberty and the unity of the church, the latter because since the 1980s there have been dissident groups which have affected the wellbeing of the church.97 The Information Technology and Communication education is needed to give members technological training. The Adventist clinic in Medellín is a necessity, as is offering a degree in medicine. More satellite campuses for the university are needed so that more Adventist young people can benefit from higher education. The financial strengthening of the Adventist school campuses is another challenge, as is the need for a television station. There is need for a larger Adventist presence in the municipalities of the country, which number 1,103, because in almost half of them there are no Adventists. The Amazon and Orinoco regions do not have many Adventists. Professional colporteurs are also a greatly needed. Another goal is to bring the places of worship into compliance with the requirements of the Plan de Ordenamiento Territorial.98

Sources

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Duffis, Daniel A. Blessed heritage. The history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on San Andres and Old Providence Islands. Medellín, Colombia: Litografía ICOLVEN, 2000.

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García, Robayna, N. Sin temor al futuro. Venezuela: n. p., 1989.

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Notes

  1. C. Garavito et al., “Colombia,” Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed March 23, 2021, https://www.britannica.com/place/Colombia.

  2. The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, “Bogotá,” Encyclopedia Britannica, October 12, 2018, accessed March 24, 2021, https://www.britannica.com/place/Bogota.

  3. Asamblea Nacional Constituyente. Constitución Política de Colombia (Bogotá: Imprenta Nacional, 1991), 36.

  4. Ibid., 3.

  5. J. M. Henao and G. Arrubla, Historia de Colombia (Bogotá: Biblioteca Nacional de Colombia, 1911), 51-54, 75-104.

  6. “North Colombian Union Conference,” and “South Colombian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2019), 124, 139.

  7. Enoc Iglesias Ortega, Presencia adventista en Colombia (Medellín, Colombia: El Faro Editores, 1996), 8, 16-19.

  8. E. E. Howell, El gran movimiento adventista (Florida, Buenos Aires: Asociación Casa Editora Sudamericana, n. d.), 292.

  9. Rafael Escandón Hernández, Monedas de oro. Reminiscencias de la familia Escandón (Clearlake, CA: Perfect Printers, 2005), 46.

  10. Howell, 282.

  11. Daniel A. Duffis, Blessed Heritage: The history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on San Andres and Old Providence Islands (Medellín, Colombia: Litografía ICOLVEN, 2000), 26, 154.

  12. Escandón Hernández, 64.

  13. Ibid.

  14. Enoc Iglesias Ortega, personal knowledge from research of the Adventist work in Colombia from 1895 to 2019.

  15. M. L. Luna Atuesta, Historia de la Iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Día (Medellín, Colombia: Litografía William Anyhel, 1998), 103.

  16. Iglesias Ortega, Presencia adventista en Colombia, 8.

  17. H. E. Baasch, “Dentro y fuera de Barranquilla,” Mensajero de la División Interamericana (June 1936), in Enoc Iglesias Ortega, Presencia adventista en Colombia (Medellín, Colombia: Faro Editores, 1996), 30.

  18. Ibid.

  19. E. M. Trummer, letter to Tirso Escandón, June 1940, cited in Iglesias Ortega, Presencia adventista en Colombia, 79-82.

  20. Ibid., 81-84.

  21. Ibid.

  22. Ibid.

  23. Ibid.

  24. Ibid.

  25. Ibid.

  26. Ibid., 86-87.

  27. Enoc Iglesias Ortega, personal knowledge from research of the Adventist work in Colombia in from 1895 to 2019.

  28. Trummer, 85-86.

  29. Enoc Iglesias Ortega, personal knowledge from research of the Adventist work in Colombia from 1895 to 2019.

  30. E. M. Trummer, El Mensajero (November 1935), in Enoc Iglesias Ortega, Presencia adventista en Colombia (Medellín, Colombia: El Faro Editores, 1996), 87-88.

  31. Enoc Iglesias Ortega, personal knowledge from research of the Adventist work in Colombia from 1895 to 2019 period.

  32. Cecilia Moreno Garcés, “La hora adventista”. Master’s Thesis, Universidad Simón Bolívar, 1994, in Enoc Iglesias Ortega, Presencia adventista en Colombia (Medellín, Colombia: El Faro Editores, 1996), 102-109.

  33. Iglesias Ortega, 113-114.

  34. Enoc Iglesias Ortega, personal knowledge from research of the Adventist work in Colombia from 1895 to 2019.

  35. Iglesias Ortega, 201-214.

  36. Ibid.

  37. Ibid.

  38. Ibid.

  39. J. Griswell, Inicios del ministerio adventista en Colombia: fuente de inspiración para seguir cumpliendo la misión (Medellín, Colombia: Litografía ICOLVEN, 2017), 5-6, 27, 34, 37-38.

  40. Iglesias Ortega, 60-61.

  41. Ibid., 59-60.

  42. Enoc Iglesias Ortega, personal knowledge from research of the Adventist work in Colombia from 1895 to 2019.

  43. Iglesias Ortega, 146-199.

  44. Ibid.

  45. Ibid., 59-60.

  46. Enoc Iglesias Ortega, Instituto Colombo-Venezolano Corporación Universitaria Adventista Valores y servicio 1937-2000 (Medellín, Colombia: Litografía ICOLVEN, 2004), 1-2.

  47. “Colombian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2010), 119-120.

  48. IPS stands for "Instituciones Prestadoras de Servicio" (Service Provider Institutions). IPS Universitaria Adventista, “Nosotros,” IPS Universitaria Adventista, n. d., accessed September 15, 2020, https://ipsadventista.org/.

  49. Agencia Adventista para el Desarrollo y Recursos Asistenciales, “Acerca de ADRA,” n. d., accessed September 25, 2017, http://www.adracolombia.org/web/acerca_de_adra.

  50. Moreno Garcés, 96.

  51. Escandón Hernández, 47.

  52. N. García Robayna, Sin temor al futuro (Venezuela: n. p., 1989).

  53. Ibid., 6.

  54. Ibid.

  55. Ibid.

  56. Ibid.

  57. Ibid.

  58. “Colombia-Venezuela Union Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1927), 228-229.

  59. “Colombia-Venezuela Union Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1952), 132-134.

  60. “Colombia-Venezuela Union Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1960), 124-126.

  61. “Colombia-Venezuela Union Mission” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1986), 162-166.

  62. “Colombia-Venezuela Union Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1989), 154-158.

  63. “Colombian Union Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1990), 157-160.

  64. “Colombian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1993), 159-161.

  65. “Colombian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1997), 132-135.

  66. “Colombian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2007), 116-120.

  67. “Colombian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2009), 119-123.

  68. “Colombian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2010), 119-124.

  69. “North Colombian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2011), 151-154.

  70. Ibid., 166-169.

  71. Seventh-day Adventist Church, North Colombia Union, “Nuestras Sedes,” Seventh-day Adventist Church, North Colombia Union, 2016, accessed September 16, 2020, https://www.unioncolombiana.org.co/es/sedes.

  72. Seventh-day Adventist Church, South Colombia Union, “Campos,” Seventh-day Adventist Church, South Colombia Union, accessed September 16, 2020, https://unioncolombianadelsur.org/#.

  73. “Colombia Missions,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1926), 216.

  74. “Colombia-Venezuela Union Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1927), 228, 229; “Colombia-Venezuela Union Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1960), 124-126.

  75. “Colombia-Venezuela Union Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1989), 154-158.

  76. “Colombian Union Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1990), 158-160.

  77. “Colombian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1993), 159-161.

  78. “Colombian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2010), 119-124.

  79. “North Colombian Union Conference” and “South Colombian Union Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2011), 151, 166.

  80. “North Colombian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2015), 135, 150.

  81. “North Colombian Union Conference,” and “South Colombian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2016), 143, 158.

  82. “North Colombian Union Conference” and “South Colombian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Adventist Yearbook (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2019), 124, 139.

  83. Enoc Iglesias Ortega, Memoria y verdad históricas, y la confesión adventista del séptimo día de Colombia (Medellín, Colombia: SedUnac, 2021), 3-23. Note: In Press.

  84. Gobierno Nacional y FARC-EP, Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del Conflicto y la Construcción de una Paz Estable y Duradera, 24 de noviembre de 2016, accessed September 16, 2020, https://www.jep.gov.co/Normativa/Paginas/Acuerdo-Final.aspx.

  85. Enoc Iglesias Ortega, En el nuevo milenio: historia de la Corporación Universitaria Adventista 2010-2017, vol. I (Medellín, Colombia: Sello Editorial SedUnac, 2018), 7-9.

  86. Ibid., 380.

  87. Ibid., 331-334.

  88. Moreno Garcés, 101.

  89. Agencia Adventista para el Desarrollo y Recursos Asistenciales, “Acerca de ADRA,” n. d., accessed September 25, 2017, http://www.adracolombia.org/web/acerca_de_adra.

  90. Escandón Hernández, 95.

  91. Samuel Díaz Escandón, Derechos y obligaciones de las iglesias y confesiones religiosas frente a la ley colombiana. Génesis y desarrollo de la libertad religiosa y de cultos en Colombia (Bogotá: Instituto Cristiano de Estudios Sociales y Políticos “Juan Calvino,” 2010), 303.

  92. Enoc Iglesias Ortega, Rumbo al centenario sobreviviendo y progresando en el pos-conflicto y en la pos-historia (Medellín, Colombia: Sello Editorial SedUnac, 2020), 6-9.

  93. Unión Colombiana del Norte, “Iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Día inauguró su primera señal de radio AM en Colombia,” 2016, accessed December 3, 2019, https://www.unioncolombiana.org.co/es/15384/iglesia-adventista-del-septimo-dia-inauguro-su-primera-senal-de-radio-am-en-colo/.

  94. Escandón Hernández, 95.

  95. Seventh-day Adventist Church, South Colombia Union, “Strategic Plan,” Seventh-day Adventist Church, South Colombia Union, n. d., accessed September 16, 2020, https://unioncolombianadelsur.org/index.php/plan-estrategico/.

  96. Seventh-day Adventist Church, North Colombia Union, “Evangelismo,” Seventh-day Adventist Church. North Colombia Union, 2016, accessed September 16, 2020, https://www.unioncolombiana.org.co/es/departamento/17/pr-william-barrero/.

  97. Iglesias Ortega, 2020, 6-9.

  98. Enoc Iglesias Ortega, personal knowledge from research of the Adventist work in Colombia from 1895 to 2019.

×

Iglesias, Enoc. "Colombia." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Accessed September 21, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=5G37.

Iglesias, Enoc. "Colombia." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Date of access September 21, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=5G37.

Iglesias, Enoc (2021, April 28). Colombia. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved September 21, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=5G37.