A Genuine Faith Community Transformed Jose’s Life

Jose and Viva Youth

At five years old, Jose left his home to escape his dad’s beatings. After a season in the streets, he ended up under state care in Bogotá, Colombia’s largest and most populous city. Despite the rough start, Jose emerged as a gentle-mannered, sweet, cheerful young man. A talented soccer player, he once had the chance to play in a European championship, only to be denied by bureaucratic barriers — a frustratingly common tale for many youth in state care.

In 2018, a social worker’s recommendation brought Jose to our doors at Viva Youth, a Christ-centered organization providing crucial support to at-risk youth exiting Colombia’s state care system. With us, they aren’t just individuals; they’re family, referred to as “Primos” or cousins, finding solace and an opportunity to heal emotionally while learning essential life skills.

Jose never finished high school, which was the responsibility of the orphan care institution. His communication and academic skills were deficient. Despite efforts to uncover any potential learning disabilities, no conclusive answers were found. After completing Viva Youth’s main life-skills training program, Jose still found himself on and off the streets. He would get on public transportation with a speaker and dance to hip-hop music for coins.

Over the years, our team at Viva Youth helped Jose find jobs, but only a few weeks later, he would come back, telling us that he was in the streets again. We built a  “Jose Handbook” to prepare for his next visit. In our staff meetings, we discussed new and more creative approaches to getting him off the streets. Jose does not use drugs, does not drink, he is not violent. But stability remained elusive.

Then, in July 2022, a transformative moment arrived — Jose embraced faith and was baptized. The following six months saw both triumphs and challenges, yet a newfound openness to guidance emerged. Jose began seeking advice from Viva Youth, signaling a significant shift.

At another pivotal point in February 2023, bolstered by positive changes, we recommended Jose again to an employer. This time, he not only retained his job but excelled, becoming the gatekeeper at a clinical lab on a 1.5-acre property housing the Viva Youth non-profit. Ten months of steady employment shattered previous records, propelling him from a rented room to his furnished apartment.

Jose’s deep connections with the community of kids who exit state care in Bogota (the ones we call Primos) have made him crucial to our work. When Jose finds out that one of them needs help, he refers them to our Resource Center. When they are homeless, Jose’s apartment becomes transitional housing for them. When they hide from us, Jose keeps us updated on their whereabouts and personal situation.

Viva Youth’s 22-week program, while significant, required five years to witness Jose’s remarkable progress. The recurring lesson was clear—beyond programs, youth like Jose need a genuine community of faith that they can call family. Amidst a revolving door of social workers and psychologists, Viva Youth strives to provide enduring connections.

Pray for Jose as he pursues a high school diploma and technical certifications. His story, a witness to the transformative power of faith, community, and education, stands as a living testament to God’s love and Viva Youth’s unwavering support.


Jose Baptism + Viva Youth



When you give to SAM ministries, SAM missionaries, and/or the Vision Fund, you support outreaches like Viva Youth in Colombia. SAM remains dedicated to our Christ-centered vision of Redeemed Lives, Beautiful Churches, and Transformed Communities. We are on mission together. Would you join us? Your donation is tax-deductible. DONATE TODAY!


Viva Youth and Jose



Creating Space: Casa Wájaro Update

Casa Wajaro Keys Jan2023

Bogotá, Colombia – In the previous Casa Wájaro Creating Space blog post, we mentioned that part of Wájaro’s mission is to create space for Indigenous voices at the table… any table to which we have access. From its inception, the dream for Casa Wájaro has been to do just that. To create space in the heart of Colombia’s capital for our Indigenous sisters and brothers to have a place of their own when they are away from home. Casa Wájaro is a space for those who want to see the Indigenous church grow. To see Indigenous communities flourish. And to equip Indigenous leaders who are God-breathed agents of change in their communities and throughout Colombia.

More than just a new and bigger office for our team, we dream of equipping Casa Wájaro with dorms, office space, a full kitchen, artisan shop, and plenty of space for collaborating, working, resting comfortably, and building community together. Many of the Christian Indigenous leaders that we work with fill many roles. They are pastors, artisans, advocates, missionaries, translators, legal representatives, directors, teachers, human rights activists, environmentalists, students, mothers, fathers, friends. They often travel like the radical disciples we’re called to be in Luke 9, trusting that God will provide along the way. Casa Wájaro is the “welcoming place, where people can stay until they leave the town.” 

Like many God-sized dreams, the process took far longer than we anticipated. Never in a million years did we think that it would take so uncomfortably long to find the right house after God miraculously provided the money. We were trudging through ever-changing housing regulations, red tape, a pandemic, and countless numbers of professionals telling us contradictory stories about how to do things the right way. We often felt like we were lost or the house was simply hidden from plain sight. Like feeling our way through a dark room– we held on to the promise that God could see what we could not, so we trusted that there was light even when we felt totally blind.

Diligently, we saw every possibility through to the end, sometimes going back to houses six, seven, and eight times with different professionals. Anxiously, we often felt that we were probably wasting our precious time. Though frustrating and disappointing, it was not wasted. His hand was guiding us, His Spirit was teaching… speaking to us along the way. “The road is difficult, but the gift is good.” “Walk. Don’t run.” “Wait on Me.” “I will be faithful to do what I have started.” “Keep surrendering.” 

He led us. He provided. We have the keys to the house he could see all along. We closed on January 27. When we say that Casa Wájaro will offer a seat at the table for Indigenous voices, we mean it very literally. The next day, four of the main leaders of RELIEC (Evangelical Indigenous Leaders of Colombia), who happened to be in Bogotá at the time, came to see the house and their new office! The timing was perfect. Together, we dedicated the house to the Lord and asked for God to continue providing the resources that are necessary for us to complete the vision!

Casa Wájaro

Casa Wajaro

Keys in hand, the Wájaro team quickly got to work: changing locks, installing security systems, replacing broken windows, planning a volunteer work day, and prepping the house for workers and moving in. On February 25, we hosted a volunteer work day, which brought together a beautifully diverse group of enthusiastic workers! Folks from churches, partner organizations, and different communities worked and celebrated with us. Several times I fought back tears as the doorbell rang. “This is really happening! We’re finally opening the door to Casa Wájaro! 

RELIEC purchased flights for two of our dear friends, Alba Jeny and Eeniith (from the Misak and Nasa communities respectively), to work with us that day. They spent ten hours cleaning the kitchen alone. That gives you some idea of the kind of work this house needs. While pausing for lunch, Jeny and Eeniith shared their dreams for Casa Wájaro. They prayed for the space in Namtrik and Nasa Yuwe. In moments like these, it is clear that we are in this together. It was a gift for our Bogotá community to witness the vision of Wájaro and the purpose of Casa Wájaro. We are so thankful for what God is doing and how he’s invited us to participate. We feel so honored to partake in building the kingdom with Indigenous communities. Working, praying, and praising God together in four languages that day is only the beginning… He’s got so much more in store for us. 

The Wájaro team is loving our new office space, working hard with the communities and the projects we have under-way. We’re also painting, cleaning, and improving the house as we have the time, as well as doing our best to search for funding in order to remodel and supply Casa Wájaro with the furniture, office supplies, bedding, kitchen supplies, etc. that it needs. When the dream began, we set out with a carefully calculated financial goal (cost of a property, cost to remodel/supply it, including a normal rate of inflation). We could not foresee the extreme inflation and exponential housing costs that have been felt around the world. Praise God we still had enough to make the purchase, but we’re humbled to be functioning and faithful with a bare-bones bank account. We trust that just like God provided miraculously in 2021 to get us to our matching grant goal, he will see us through to the final touch of Casa Wájaro. Pray with us that we will also have the resources to fund new projects in Indigenous communities this year!   

Thank you for walking with us, for praying, and for giving sacrificially to this project. We are so grateful. Please continue praying for us to steward this gift wisely and that God will provide. We invite you to follow The Wájaro Foundation on Facebook and Instagram to learn more about Casa Wájaro, the communities we work with, and how you can get involved. Wájaro means “Let’s go together” in Eduria, a small Indigenous language, and we mean it. You’re invited!

Set the table with us and get hungry for heaven.


Lauren Jones is co-founder of The Wájaro Foundation with her husband, Jake. They have served as SAM missionaries since 2017. She is also a photographer, women’s health educator, outdoors expert, social worker, and mother of four. Lauren is passionate about living in authentic community with others and caring for populations that mainstream society tends to overlook.


Faces of Wajáro
“We live in the midst of an armed conflict and illicit drug cultivation. The majority choose the easy job and the good money of marijuana and coca. My crop has always been coffee, corn, and bananas. Now we are working on a laying hens project with Wájaro. We thank God for Wájaro and how together, we have been able to advance!”
Victor Hurtado, Nasa Community, Sustainable Economic Development, Income Generation, Agriculture
Victor is a Nasa Indigenous Christian who lives in Toribio, Colombia. He and his family have witnessed a lifetime of violence. Today, when you mention Toribio, the common Colombian will shutter, not only because of its bloody past, but because the fertile soil of this region continues to fuel the illicit drug trade where armed groups continue to be the boss of the land.
The last time our team visited this community, our educational workshops were interrupted with the sound of automatic rifles and the classroom shook from a bomb in the nearby “vereda” (neighboring settlement). For our students, this was nearly background noise, a familiar beat on the soundtrack of their lives.
The darkness of night is interrupted by thousands of white lights; beautiful as they may seem on the surface, these lights illuminate illicit marijuana crops, kept lit through the night for warmth. To fight against this difficult reality, the Coopahobelén Cooperative was founded, with hope to provide alternative economic resources for the community. However, this small community has decided that, although much harder, they will follow the ethical path.
They grow coffee on their land and with your generous donations, Wájaro began a chicken/egg shed project with the cooperative, with the hopes of becoming the largest provider in the region. The chickens had just arrived the week prior to our trip. Wájaro and Coopahobelén also have dreams of working together with their coffee in the future, if we have the resources to do so.
Join us as we continue to work with communities like the Nasa and create projects for peace in 2023.
FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN for 2023 ends on January 5
Goal: $130,000
$100,000 For 2023 Projects
$30,000 For Casa Wájaro Remodel
Your Donation Will
Support projects in 2023
• Community Organizing Support
• Cooperative/Association Development
• Literacy, Education & Spiritual Formation
• Sustainable Economic Development & Income Generation
• Sustainable Agriculture
• Women & Youth Leadership Development
• Cultural Preservation
• Peace & Reconciliation Initiatives
Support Casa Wájaro
• Provide Crucial Funding For Casa Wájaro Remodel

Creating Space

Wajaro Full Table

Having the Wájaro office in our home for the past 5 years has been a messy, but beautiful season of shared space and mutual growth. It has served to shape us into the Wájaro community that we are. The Wájaro team has graciously stepped over toys, ignored the sibling rivalry, looked away from piles of laundry, and tolerated us Joneses when we got up on the wrong side of the bed.

There have also been seasons of burnout, times where I, Lauren, opened my front door to our team in the morning, still in my pajamas, with a severe lack of that “joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.” It can be exhausting to constantly share living space with guests and co-workers. But even in seasons of being “hospitalitied out” as I call it, I feel a renewed sense of purpose when we’re able to host our extended team of Indigenous leaders from near and far. Creating more room in my home, and in my heart, for my Indigenous sisters and brothers feels sacred. It feels sacred to provide hospitality to those who must defend their faith, who must fight for their communities, and who carry a generational cross of weariness.

It’s a sacred “yes”, echoing all the way back to when Jesus mentions “I was a stranger and you invited me in.”

It is a sacred “yes” to breaking bread around my dining room table with the “nations and tribes and people and languages.”

A sacred “yes” to the chorus of prayers lifted in multiple languages as we break bread —my family, intermingled around the table, listening intently, not understanding their words — all of us being nourished by this taste of what heaven will be like.

A sacred “yes” to the wonder of it all. How did I get so lucky to participate in something so heavenly, in such a broken world?

Wájaro At The Table


Yet, it is this brokenness that brings us together, compelling us to pull up another chair at the table for Indigenous communities in Colombia who have long been pushed to the margins, who bear the scars of war and wave the flag of peace and hope for a reconciled future. We gather around my dining room table, bellies full of hope that our communion together will bear fruit and make an impact at the eternal banquet table. We work together so that communities can taste that sacred meal of fellowship in the here and now and the yet to come.

Creating space at the table for more diverse perspectives — voices from different ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds and levels of education — is a lifelong mission of mine. It is also part of Wájaro’s mission – to create space for the Indigenous voice at the table – at the table when the Church is meeting, when mission organizations are meeting, when governments and NGOs are meeting. Indigenous voices must be present when peace processes are underway and any time decisions are being made about Indigenous communities and the Indigenous church.  This table we refer to, however, is often suspended in a theoretical space.

Casa Wájaro is our effort to bring this theoretical table into physical reality. Wájaro’s vision is to create a space in the heart of Colombia for our Indigenous sisters and brothers. In this space, we can welcome people from the Church, mission organizations, politicians, NGOs, and volunteers to do real work around a real table together. We already do this work together in the deserts and mountains and jungles. Now, we need to create a permanent space in Bogotá, the nation’s capital, that is visible within the community where the Wajaro team is laying down roots. We need more room at the table for all those working together to see the Indigenous church grow and Indigenous communities flourish.

Wájaro Staying in Hammocks

We often travel to communities and work together in their homes – sleeping in their hammocks, eating the fish caught in their rivers, warming ourselves over the fires built with the kindling they have gathered. We also host Indigenous leaders in our homes when they are traveling to Bogotá – sleeping in our beds, eating our waffles, and warming their tired bodies with our jackets and extra blankets. We love this interchange of hospitality and will continue to do it through Casa Wájaro!

More than an office, Casa Wájaro will feel like their home away from home in Bogotá with dorms, a fully equipped kitchen, and plenty of space for building community. Casa Wájaro will start with a co-working space, a center for hospitality, a space to collaborate and dream. The possibilities are endless, yet the goal remains the same, to support Indigenous leaders and the Indigenous church, to see them thrive and equipped to be agents of change in their communities and throughout Colombia.

In a time where most of the developed world has settled into a rhythm of virtual life, those living on the margins have white-knuckled the last bit of inner strength to continue on in the face of an insurmountable struggle, the daily struggle to survive. For the Indigenous communities we work with, the pandemic, food insecurity, makeshift medical care, civil unrest, armed groups stealing their land and massacring their people has demonstrated now more than ever their depth of faith, resiliency, innovation, and perseverance. Casa Wájaro is the vision God gave us for such a time as this. Having a safe haven, a physical space to be together, has become more crucial than ever for those working for peace, reconciliation, and the Indigenous church here in Colombia. We need Casa Wájaro. And we need your help to get there! Please consider taking advantage of this incredible matching grant opportunity and invest now:


Set the table with us.


Lauren Jones is co-founder of The Wájaro Foundation with her husband, Jake. They have served as SAM missionaries since 2017. She is also an artist, women’s health educator, outdoors expert, social worker, and mother of four. Lauren is passionate about living in authentic community with others and caring for populations that mainstream society tends to overlook.




Hope in a time of Crisis

Hope in Crisis COVID-19

Dear South America Mission friends and co-laborers,

We hold unswervingly to hope despite the chaos of the times we are living. God kindles our hope through the prophetic voices of Israel’s exile. Zechariah proclaimed that God would “come and dwell in [our] midst” (Zech 2:10). I understand if those who heard his prophecy were doubtful or weary; God’s promise to “dwell among Israel and not forsake [his] people” when the temple was first built 400 years before (1 Kings 6:13) was likely unimaginable at the time of exile.

And we yet have hope today—we see in the life of Christ a fulfillment of those promises and can know for certain that God is among us.

He dwells among us now and we wait with eager anticipation for the day we dwell in His presence. It is in this promise and His faithfulness that we anchor ourselves. This is my message to our missionary team and what I most want you to hear from me today.

I am grateful for each of you supporting the work of SAM missionaries and ministries. Even as these hectic times shift our daily routines and roles, we stand in solidarity with you. It would be our honor to hear from you, to know how you are doing and how we can pray for you specifically in these circumstances.

Our missionary team is developing a “new normal” for being on-mission in these times and in the geography where God has called us.

We’re in countries where the borders have closed and where country-wide quarantines are in effect. The health infrastructure in many places does not have the capacity to manage critical cases. The informal economies in several countries mean that a substantial portion of the population receives their income through public interaction. Please be in prayer for the millions in Latin America who will face these realities. And pray for wisdom for our team, for eyes to see redemptive possibilities that offer peace and hope to neighbors in despair.

Crisis Response Fund

I’ve established a Crisis Response fund at South America Mission to equip and care for missionaries in the coming months. Donations to this fund will be distributed to our missionary team for their use as the gospel compels. They will have freedom to respond to needs that arise, whether within missionary families or in the communities where they serve. Know that your gifts to this effort will directly benefit our missionary team and moreover, mobilize them to be agents of mercy and peace. We realize economic hardship has reached many of you, so we make this ask with great sensitivity. Please give only as you are able and as the Lord leads.

To mobilize Crisis Response funds quickly, the best way to give is online at www.southamericamission.org/crisisresponse.

I encourage you to visit and bookmark this web page even if you decide not to give, because there we will update the content regularly as news and prayer needs develop from our fields of ministry. You can also mail in a check made out to South America Mission with “Crisis Response” written in the memo line (1021 Maxwell Mill Rd, Ste B, Fort Mill, SC 29708).

The directness about the reality before us is paired with our unswerving holding to the hope we profess in the confidence that He who promised is faithful. God is at work as He shakes the nations.

By Grace,

Kirk Ogden, Executive Director, South America Mission

La Cueva, a Beacon of Hope

La Cueva, Bogotá

Amidst the dark landscape of cyclical abandonment and the resulting orphan crisis shines a beacon of hope in a house called La Cueva. 

The group lets out a whoop of praise and the soft-spoken girl in the corner blushes crimson with unmistakable delight. She repeats her announcement that prompted the praise, making sure the right person gets the credit: “Gracias a Dios—thanks to God, I found a job.” Congratulatory hugs and songs of worship follow—a celebration of God’s provision for Cristal, a sister in Christ.

Cristal is one of the countless twenty-somethings growing up in Colombia without parents. Abandoned as a child and having spent the majority of her adolescent years in the Colombian child welfare system, Cristal now navigates the murky waters of adulthood—except she doesn’t do it alone.

Amidst the dark landscape of cyclical abandonment and the resulting orphan crisis shines a beacon of hope in a house called La Cueva.

La Cueva is a refuge located in the heart of Bogotá for orphans who have aged out of government care and are making the difficult transition into adulthood.

Those accepted into the house gain immediate access to a support network that normally would not be available to them: job opportunities, university loans, affordable rent, spiritual mentors and most importantly, a faith community. The latter is what makes this program so special.

Every Tuesday evening, upwards of 20 people arrive at La Cueva and pull together a hodgepodge of chairs and couches before settling in to a night of worship, prayer, Bible study, and of course, Colombian empanadas.

During this particular gathering, Cristal shares her news of having found a job. The announcement bears so much weight because her group of friends knows where Cristal has been.

Cristal’s Story

Cristal came to La Cueva when she had nowhere else to turn. She spent almost two years battling a life-threatening brain tumor without help or support from relatives. Though doctors feared she wouldn’t survive, Cristal overcame the odds. While searching for employment, Cristal faced rejection and disappointment because of a physical disability resulting from her illness. Yet God provided—not only a job but a community to celebrate it with.

Cristal’s faith community is just one in a larger movement of house churches called Ciudad Corazón (“Heart City”) spreading throughout the greater Bogotá area. The Ciudad Corazón movement, under the leadership of Jorge Enciso, seeks to see the city, country, and continent transformed by the power of the gospel. While the movement comprises small groups of believers and nonbelievers alike who meet in the context of a living room, the impact goes beyond the four walls of a residence. That’s where programs like La Cueva come into play.

La Cueva is just one facet of Fundación Comunidad Viva—a Christian community development foundation (founded by Enciso) that works to empower the local church to be an agent of change in broken neighborhoods through opening community centers and initiating tutoring programs, Bible clubs, sustainable agriculture projects, and Vacation Bible Schools. The house church movement and foundation work together to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the communities across the city.


Fundación Comunidad Viva

The momentum of Ciudad Corazón and La Cueva shows no sign of slowing down. The house churches continue to multiply and every month come together from all over the city to celebrate the work God is doing. And there is much to celebrate. Cristal’s story is one of many that gives testimony to lives being shaped and transformed by the gospel manifested through the local church.

View the April edition of FrontPage, in which this article originally appeared.