Profile Source: Liebenzell Mission USA
Introduction / History
The Awa have had to flee or to adapt themselves to the influx of outside influences for hundreds of years. Most who have studied them believe that they were pushed into the mountainous areas as the Spanish settlers moved into the lowlands. Through the centuries, the Awa have been forcibly influenced in regards to dress and manners. Because of a long history of abuse, they have tended to fear and distrust outsiders, though that is changing some now.
Where are they Located?
The Awa people live in the southwestern part of Colombia, with a smaller group living in northwestern Ecuador. Some estimates have placed the tribal population as high as 25,000 people, while others have gone as low as 8,000. Making an accurate census is very difficult due both to the geographical features of the land and the lifestyle of the Awa people. The area in which they live is large; covering approximately 3,500 square kilometers, and it is very mountainous and rugged. Many areas are inaccessible even on horseback, and the constant rainfall makes the trails very muddy and difficult for travel.
What are Their Lives Like?
The Awa people are subsistence farmers who work very hard growing their crops on the steep mountainsides cleared from the tropical rain forest. Plantains are the staple crop as they will grow in poor soil and wet climates, though the Awa also grow some corn, beans, yucca, and sugar cane. With roads being built, they are now able to grow some marketable fruits to supplement their income. The availability of medical care and basic education has improved during the past 15 years, but still remains a challenge.
What are Their Beliefs?
Western style dress and a superficial acceptance of infant baptism has caused some to suppose that today their beliefs are essentially Roman Catholic. However, after spending many years getting to know them better, we have found that they are still an animistic society. As animists, they believe in powers both within nature and the spirit world which control their lives. They in turn try to manipulate and control those powers to their advantage.
What are Their Needs?
Their greatest need is for the small, isolated groups of Awa Christians to live out their faith in a consistent and loving witness to those around them.
* Pray for the Awa church leaders and their families, that their marriages and families will be strong.
* Pray that they will be able to work together well in leading the Awa church, and that they will have wisdom and grow in their leadership and teaching abilities.