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Bruce Olson, a legendary missionary who has served in Colombia for the past 55 years, spoke at a recent TMS Global event. Read his story and discover the amazing ways he has seen God at work among the Motilone Indians.

As a new believer in Jesus, I felt drawn to South America to share the gospel with the people there. I wanted others to know that Christ can live in your heart, change your priorities, and put you into fellowship with the Great Creator.

In 1961, when I was 19 years old, I bought a one-way ticket to Venezuela. I left with only $70 in my pocket. The people who were supposed to meet me at the airport never showed up, and I sat alone in the airport for two days. A priest noticed me and I spoke to him in Latin. The airport authorities put me in a hotel room. I was confused, but God’s Spirit told me that I had done the right thing at the right time.

While in Venezuela I heard about the Motilone Indians who lived on the border of Venezuela and Colombia. They had been in the news because they had injured more than 500 oil company employees. I knew that God was calling me to go to the Motilone.

I had been living with the Yukpa Indians for some time. I had learned their language and was content to stay with them. But God urged me to persevere to go to the Motilone. Several Yukpas agreed to guide me to the Motilone territory. We had been walking for six days, only drinking water, when we came to Motilone land. I could see a communal home in which more than 250 people lived.

Suddenly, Motilone warriors jumped out and shot at us with five-and-a-half-foot arrows. My guides ran, and I ran as well. But an arrow pierced my leg, and I fell.

Eight Motilones surrounded me. I spoke to them in several different languages, but they did not understand me. They pulled the arrow out of my leg and forced me to walk to their village. Arabadoyka, the chief, kept the others in the group from killing me. God, in His mercy, spared my life.

The next morning, the chief’s son, Bobarishora, brought me some worms to eat. They tasted like liquefied bacon and eggs. He also brought me some bananas, which I enjoyed.

I remained with the Motilones for the next four years. By that time I had learned their language, but I was growing restless and wanted to leave the jungle.

One day, I was walking with the Motilones when we came to a fallen log over a precipice. The Motilones walked easily over the log, but I kept slipping. Arabadoyka told me to plant my feet firmly in the moss and focus on the back of his head. When I did, I could balance and walk across the log. Yet, I looked down and slipped. Arabadoyka swung around and grabbed me, pulling me back on the log.

After that, I decided to stay with the Motilones. They had saved my life, taught me their language, and I would live with them.

During the next few years, I translated the New Testament into the Motilone language. The Motilone people believe that life is like trails through the jungles. They believe that God lives beyond the horizon and we have been deceived into walking on the wrong path, so that we cannot reach Him.

I told the Motilones about Jesus and how He became incarnate to reach us. This made sense to them, and they believed in Jesus. Over time, the Motilone decided that murder was wrong. The government of Colombia could see a difference in the Motilone and asked to meet with them.

The president of the Congress of Community Development asked Arabadoyka what had changed the Motilone people. Arabadoyka responded, “We walk in the footsteps of a new leader. We walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ."

Over time, we developed a means of trade so we could finance community development in the village. We began growing cacao and sold it to chocolate producers in the city. With the money, we have been able to build 48 schools, more than 20 health clinics, a dozen farming cooperatives, and underwrite scholarships for Motilones to attend high schools and universities.

Children are taught the Motilone language and Spanish. Books have now been published in the Motilone language. At this time, 450 Motilone have graduated local universities and trained as doctors, lawyers, nurses, and other professions. Nearly all of them have returned to the jungle to help their people.

In 1988, some Motilone and I were getting out of a canoe when 15 National Liberation Army guerillas began shooting submachine guns at our feet. They tied my hands behind my back and kidnapped me.

I spent the next three or four months chained to a palm tree. I was very ill and no one cared for me, but I survived.

I discovered that the guerillas were illiterate. One of the leaders wanted me to teach a group of men to read and write. I remember a big man with his machine gun across his lap, tracing my letters in the sand. He wrote, “Amo me mama,” which means, “I love my mother.”

Later, they gave me my New Testament. I taught it to the men. Many of the guerillas came to believe in Jesus.

I became very ill and the guerillas decided to give me a blood transfusion. A guerilla named Camilo volunteered to give me some of his blood, and I received the transfusion that day. Early the next morning, Camilo woke me and said, “When I was three years old, my father committed suicide. The Motilones gave food to my mother for three years, not charging a cent to keep us alive. You saved my life. Now, I save your life.”

Months later, the guerillas determined that I would not join them nor would I convince the Motilones to join them. They decided to execute me. I stood, chained to a tree while five guerillas aimed at me and counted down. They shot blanks at me, and I lived.

Two months later I was released after nine months of captivity. I rejoined the Motilones.

I'm now 78 years old. I have lost a lot of my strength, but still speak 14 languages and teach at the local university in Bogota when I'm there. I have made contact with 30 other tribal groups and shared the gospel with them. Through it all, God has been lifted up and the Motilones have been faithful.

The Joshua Project estimates that 70% of the Motilone people follow Jesus.