And then he told them, "Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned." — Mark 15:15-16
In gridiron football in America, the term "Red Zone" is the area of the field between the 20-yard line and the goal line. It is said to be a place where the chances of scoring are statistically higher.
In Colombia, South America, however, the term "Red Zone" (see map below), refers to those mostly rural areas and villages outside of the capital city of Bogota, that are controlled by illegal paramilitary groups and cartels like FARC, Colombia's largest rebel group and the armed wing of the Communist Party there and ELN, a competing group with identical Marxist ideology.
Both were established in 1964 and commit indiscriminate murders of those that they find useless — those who won't join their ranks or buy drugs to fund their guerrilla warfare — usually, Christians. The following story from Voice of the Martyrs illustrates the danger of many Front Line workers.
Every time Pastor Mauricio travels to nearby villages for ministry work, his wife, Dena, knows it could be the last time she sees him alive. Yet she is convinced that the Lord has called them to minister in a Colombian Red Zone — together.
In order to visit a church outside their village, Mauricio and Dena must get 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 home or even killed. Visiting the 15 churches Mauricio and Dena oversee is a constant challenge.
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.
Transportation isn't the only danger they face. While leading a church service in one area, 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 the 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."
Mauricio and Dena trust fully in God's plan for their lives. They ask only for prayer. "It's not easy to minister under those conditions," Mauricio said. "So we need to pray, and we ask the brothers and sisters living in safer places to pray for us. I will tell the brothers and sisters that are not living under persecution that it is worth it to serve the Lord. It is worth it to follow Jesus. It is worth it to totally surrender." — Maranatha!