I, Gary, had the opportunity two weeks ago to once again visit the Epeiyu Pushaina community that the Covenant Wayuu CWR project is partnering with. The purpose of the trip was to accompany the Epeiyu Pushaina family leader, Yalexi, and project director, Jader Ochoa, as they visited another Wayuu community, the Jiisentira community, that they had met through a soccer tournament, (which the Jiisentira community won). The awards ceremony of the tournament included a short Christian worship and sharing time. The players and people from the Jiisentira community appeared very comfortable in the Christian worship, which was intriguing. Through further dialog it was discovered that the Jiisentira had a Christian Church in its community and was part of a group of over 60 Churches! That was quite surprising to hear and the Epeiyu family and the Covenant Wayuu project wanted to know more about the Jiisentira and how they might be able to bless each other and work together.
In the growing relationship between the Covenant Wayuu project and the Epeiyu Pushaina family, the Christian faith was often a part of the conversations as the partnering Colombian Covenant entity, the Atlantic Covenant Social Foundation, has included their profession of the Christian faith in their interactions and many of the Epeiyu Pushaina family are Christians. The Christian faith is not a native aspect of the Wayuu culture. Even though the initial contact with the Epeiyu Pushaina community and the project was in a Church, this Church is not native to the Guajira region (it comes from Brazil) and the pastor is not Wayuu, so everything is in Spanish.
As we arrived at the Jiisentira community, we quickly observed that there were two different large gathering areas (that looked like they had been set up for some type of Christian service). We came to find out that over 100 people lived in the community, all of them from the same family clan, and that the head of the clan was 103 years old. His son, however, was the current chieftain. He was also a pastor and the head of the group of more than 60 churches. We came to find out that the chieftain was not present that day because he was at a Bible literacy workshop – they were making improvements to the Wayunaiki Bible that all of their churches were using. Then they told us that the first Wycliffe Bible translators had lived with them in the community as they began to translate the Bible into Wayunaiki!
Living in a Wayuu community in the upper desert of the Guajira region is not easy – and for these Wycliffe translators, almost 50 years ago, there would have been (as it is today) no running water and no sewage or latrine system and cooking over a cactus/wood fire. Add to that, extreme heat, arid conditions and no electricity. Yet, the Bible was translated and has given hope and stability to the community. From that base, and in their own language, a solid, healthy, Bible-based church movement in true Wayuu cultural style was launched and is thriving.