The Apostolic Vicariate of Mitú in Colombia covers 2,000 square miles, making it larger than Belgium, the Netherlands, or Switzerland. This is wild country, and the pastoral work here is mostly of a missionary nature. Mitú is also where a lone ACN benefactor lives out his faith, as an example of the community that helps sustain the Church.

Mitú is the capital of the department of Vaupés in eastern Colombia. With a population of 50,000, it is a small city that resembles an island amid the “sea” of the Amazon jungle, near the border with Brazil. It was recently visited by a delegation from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). During this trip, the local bishop, Medardo de Jesús Henao, spotted a man on the street and greeted him enthusiastically, telling him that he was with ACN representatives.

The man’s face lit up. “I am an ACN donor,” he said. Indeed, the delegation recognized the rosary on his left wrist: carved out of wood by Christians in Bethlehem, it can be worn as a bracelet and is distributed by ACN Colombia as part of an initiative to support Christians in the Holy Land.

Martín Alberto Peña, 47, was born in Mitú and is ACN’s only donor in the entire region. He told the foundation that he is sustained by the power of prayer, because “with God, anything is possible,” as he repeated several times. The purchase of the rosary was his first step in becoming a donor; he learned of the initiative through the foundation’s social media and made a donation. When he received the rosary, which was carved from olive wood by Christian craftsmen in the Holy Land, he understood that he was getting much more than a simple prayer object. He felt that he was somehow spiritually united with these Christians.

He then began to receive ACN’s weekly news bulletins, and this sparked more of an interest in the lives of suffering Christians. He also realized that the foundation’s mission goes beyond financial aid.


Little by little, he developed a deeper concern, until one day he read about a missionary – he can’t remember in which country – who ate nothing but peanuts and water, and he felt inspired to go a step further and make a regular donation. He thought, “What this missionary in some other part of the world experiences could be the same as what many priests in my own country go through.”

This is what Church communion is all about, and it explains why we can find donors like Martín in the middle of the Colombian jungle, hundreds of miles from an ACN office.

Martín is an active businessman who uses his professional experience to help the Church, including with catechesis and retreats. He is glad to serve in this way, following the example of priests and consecrated laypeople in the vicariate. “Here in Mitú, the priests are always willing to help and listen. From the bishop, all the way down, everybody is available, and this is an example that inspires us all,” he said.

As is the case in many similar regions, donor support is crucial to the pastoral work in Mitú. Bishop Henao used this encounter with Martín to share and encourage ACN donors all over the world to “never give up on “the joy of helping us evangelize.”

That is what Martín Peña does. This simple man in the jungle is one of 360,000 donors, a global family that supports the Church’s work in distant places. “When you give, you have already received a blessing,” Martin says. “To give from the heart really is the best.” And this blessing works both ways. Thanks to the generosity of people like Martín, aid also returns to Mitú in the form of Mass stipends, vehicles, and financial support, which allow the members of the local Church to meet and spread the Good News.