Lomalinda is a beautiful place and located in the plains of eastern Colombia, however Lomalinda isn't flat. Lomalinda translates to “Beautiful Hill,” an apt name for this land. The rolling hills are a peaceful contrast from the stubbornly flat land it lies between. Sadly, Lomalinda has not seen peace for the last few decades. It has been smack in the middle of the war that has assailed Colombia for the better part of 50 years.
In the late 60's and early 70's, Wycliffe Bible Translators found this hidden paradise. Wycliffe settled there with my grandparents and father and started translating the Word of God into all the different indigenous languages in Colombia.
Wycliffe and other ministries left this land in the 80's and early 90's because the war got so heated. It was abandoned for many years and the once beautiful brick buildings were now just ruins leveled by the madness of war. My dad purchased some houses that were still standing and fixed them up in the late 90's. The Lord inspired him to turn this once linguistic and Bible translating facility into a center where the Word of God would be broadcast to all sides of the war. Not only were we broadcasting to the people in the war, but also our family was in the midst of it.
Lomalinda was our second home. We spent the same amount of time in Lomalinda as in our apartment in Bogota, maybe even more. Almost every month we had new neighbors, either Military, AUC Paramilitary or FARC communists depending on who had won the battles close by. We found favor in each group. I even played soccer with most of them. Volunteers helped us build the transmitter and powerplant sheds. Top broadcasting engineers from around the world set up a very powerful antenna for our shortwave stations. Disney donated one of the most powerful AM transmitters in the world and sent it to us in Colombia. I had never seen anything like it. These powerful behemoths could send out a signal of 50,000 watts and it could be amplified even more by the incredible antenna designs our top engineers invented. Our FM broadcasting tower was the 3rd highest in the country. The FM station's goal was to help the community because it was the only form of communication around. Rural families would use this method of communication to send messages to their family members in distant towns or farms. Families would send messages to their wayward sons and daughters in the FARC, and AUC paramilitary. It was even used to send messages to family members who were kidnapped by those terrorist groups.
It was beautiful. However, suddenly my dad and our family received continuous death-threats. Even people who dared to read our literature, received death threats. We left the area with the radio stations still working and with staff members still in charge. Our constant visits became once in a blue moon event.
The Lord redirected us to Cauca, an area on the other side of Colombia. We met Marco Tulio, a Nasa-Paez Indian who is the leader of a Christian displaced community. With international help, the Lord gave them land and in a year, they were self-sustainable. We came in contact with Guambiano Indians who had the first Christian evangelical church in Colombia. Whole areas of Colombia that were thought to be the most dangerous were now crawling with Christian Indians. We put radio stations in many of these areas. Amazingly, these Christians had the Bible in their language. Long ago missionaries traveled there and some came from the linguistic Bible translating center of Wycliffe in Lomalinda. Some were even sent out by my grandfather. Imagine that!
To our dismay, the radio stations in Lomalinda were robbed and vandalized at the end of 2018. Copper wire worth thousands of dollars were hacked and stolen. A priceless amount of damage to the state-of-the-art transmitters left us disheartened. My dad always told us the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever and that He always likes to make new things. Our Christian Indian brothers in Cauca wanted to help us. When Marco Tulio (the Indian leader) found out that our radio stations were in Lomalinda, he could not contain his joy. When he was just a child he remembers two missionaries who came from Lomalinda to translate the Bible he now uses in his community church. He told us, “We will help! That is where the gospel was sent for us. We have to help.” Now the Native Americans from the opposite side of Colombia are sending missionaries to Lomalinda! They want to maintain and protect what is left of our radio stations. More importantly, they feel inspired to make Lomalinda a center of formation for Christian Indigenous people of all tribes. Lomalinda, the “Beautiful Hill” is continuing to be a place to teach people of God, His Word and tools for manual trade to strengthen the communities.
During August, I had the privilege of traveling with our friends from Finland and our staff from Colombia to Lomalinda, the base of our main shortwave radio station called “The Voice of Your Conscience”. Just as it has been for the past 5 years, we had our usual share of challenges getting there and back including landslides and violence in a town just a couple of hours from our base. We were showing our friends the importance of keeping this shortwave signal on the air since it is the best way to signal the gospel into Venezuela and other hostile areas of Colombia. However, just one day after we returned from the trip, our base was violently attacked by the local cartels and they robbed most of the copper from our radio equipment. This was only the first of several attacks that followed. Sadly, in just a period of two weeks, we had more than seven robberies and we have not been able to stop them. The local police have been useless and we do not have confidence in the local people who have been hard-hearted for the things of God, until now.
In the middle of our desperation, we called our friend Marco Tulio, one of the main leaders of the Christian Paez Indian community in Cuaca. We knew Marco would help us and pray concerning this dire situation. To our surprise, our Indian friends who have suffered persecution and many troubles first-hand were very prepared to not only pray for us, but offered a supportive call to action. That is how a group of ten Christian Paez native men and two women traveled for almost thirteen hours at night from Cauca to Bogota to help us. They picked up Alex and Fernando (our main radio engineers and coworkers) to make an unexpected trip to Lomalinda. Two white trucks were on the move. In the first truck, was Alex, Marco and five Christian Indians. (This truck was donated by HMK Germany, VOM Finland and Colombia a few years ago.) The other vehicle is a very old, but useful bulletproof truck. Fernando and four other friends arrived at Lomalinda. After surveying the area, they stopped at the cemetery where Chet Bitterman and other missionaries who were killed for their faith were buried. They gathered together, lowered their heads and prayed in their native language. When they finished the moving and respectful prayer, Alex asked Marco what they were saying. Marco replied, “We were thanking the LORD for sending these missionaries to Colombia and other countries where they died. And we asked the Lord to help us defend this place not just in the spiritual realm, but also the natural ground we stand on.” Marco explained to Alex and Fernando, how they were just kids when their parents and grandparents used to tell them stories of Lomalinda, a place full of missionaries that were translating the Bible into many native languages. He also said that he always wanted to go to Lomalinda because it was there where the Bible was translated into his language, the Paez - Nasa language. All our Indian friends were very moved and grateful to be able to be there.
On their way back to Bogota, Marco suggested to Russell to protect Lomlinda with a community of persecuted native Christians who will defend the land and protect the shortwave antennas and radio station. Eventually, with their hard work and willingness, the land could even produce self-sustainability through agricultural endeavors for the families; leaving other resources free for the maintenance of the shortwave antennas and keeping the cost down for the radio station. In spite of the difficulties and constant warfare in keeping this radio station on the air in the midst of such a hostile place, we see the potential in partnering with Marco and his community. A ray of light has pierced through the darkness as we see these Indian leaders, who as children were impacted by the Bible translation work done by foreign missionaries at Lomalinda so long ago. These Indians are willing to protect and work this land with a clear vision of the potential and the importance of the message being broadcasted through this station to the unreachable corners of the country and even into Venezuela.
Thank you for partnering with us in keeping the radio stations operating in remote areas of Colombia and Venezuela.
In my recent visit to Colombia, the Lord opened my eyes to faithful unsung heroes of the Christian witness who endured the past few decades of war and persecution. I met Native American mature believers from the Kogi, Guambiano and Paez tribes.
The Kogi tribe population is about 20,000, yet some of the Kogi Christians I met told me there are currently 274 Christian believers. All of them have been kicked out of the tribe and only a few courageous Kogi believers have discreetly moved back into the tribal land and are being a witness for Christ.
During the week, I observed a beautiful anniversary celebration of the Stendal family commemorating 50 years of missionary work with the Kogi tribe. Which included the accomplishment of translating God's Word into the Kogi language. Pat Stendal, Russell's mother, shared with me they have established 12 schools among the Kogi people. Religion classes are required which teaches Christianity. Pat, who is 83 years young, smiled with joy as she told me that generally, the Kogi have been very hard-hearted and stubborn, but the Word of God is being planted in the next generation of tribal people at these schools. Please pray with us for the opportunity of Russell, who is presently working with Pat and some of the Kogi, to set up a radio station for outreach among the Kogi people.
We visited Guambiano Christians in the state of Cauca, Colombia. This state today has one of the highest productions of cocaine, high violence, taking hostages for ransom and vibrant drug cartels. In the midst of all this trouble, God has placed his humble witnesses among the Guambianos. A radio station was established a few years ago from the Colombian staff. Last year, Russell upgraded the station and an antenna was installed on a high mountain so that the FM signal now reaches the whole state of Cauca. The Guambiano Christian in charge of the radio station shared they advertise a cell phone number for Colombians to call and ask for prayers or give testimonies. The staff writes the content of these calls into notebooks. So many Colombians have called in since the beginning of the station and now there is a four-foot tall stack of notebooks. Pray for the radio broadcast to continue to transform lives in this volatile state.
The Paez tribe also has a significant representation in the state of Cauca. The Lord highlighted two Paez Christian refugee camps to Russell in the past few years. The Paez Christians fled their tribal land after years of abuse, which include exclusion of education for their children, discrimination in tribal services and resources. Some have endured threats and have been beaten. The Latin America work has included the help of rebuilding two communities for these persecuted Christians. The most recent project is the El Tablón resettlement community. The witness of these Paez Christians is that they love one another and have a clean heart. In one Paez village, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of an installed radio station. The radio station ran by this group of Paez has become so popular among the 7,500 homes in their valley that the pastor who runs the station was voted vice-governor of their community. This valley is an area where the FARC guerrillas controlled only two years ago.
For years, persecution from the FARC guerrillas was highlighted in much of the media and news reports. Behind the sensational persecution was the faithful witness of tribal Indians in the midst of severe trials and tribulations. They are continuing to grow and mature even through suffering to become powerful agents of change and witnesses of Christ in this region. Please pray with us for the continued funds needed to support the radio stations, programing, maintenance and kingdom needs of the tribal Christians. Thank you for your continued support and prayer as we partner with the tribal Christians in Colombia who are courageously reaching their kindred for Christ.
We send our most sincere appreciation for the help received from our partners, individuals and anonymous friends who continue supporting the tremendous work of God in Colombia. The El Tablón project to help persecuted displaced Paez Christians in Colombia is doing well. A few weeks ago, we inaugurated the new land for a community of 30 families with prayers, songs, speeches and a ribbon cutting celebration. These families are now cleaning and preparing the ground for agriculture and livestock projects. Their plan is to become a self-sustainable community quickly. Twelve acres have been purchased and will be used for the construction of homes. 220 acres are planned for agriculture and currently being leased inexpensively. The dream of these Paez Christians is to purchase the leased land as the Lord provides. Meanwhile, our Christian Paez family is happily laboring in the place they now call “Home.”
I flew with dear friends from VOM Finland to a remote part of Colombia. We rented a vehicle with a driver and began the long journey to El Tablón. After many hours of driving, we stopped at Kelly´s house (Pabel´s widow) so her son Israel (8 years old) and daughter Linda (5 years old) could join us for this mission in helping others, just as their dad, Pabel, used to do often.
The special visit from foreign friends was a perfect excuse for Israel and Linda to have an adventure and escape from a day of school! Frankly, I enjoy the company of these children and their presence always encourages me. The next two hours of unpaved road and winding hills were the most difficult. We prayed for protection against any evil deed or robbery from criminal vandals, drug traffickers, or even radical natives. The almost 50-year-old Toyota we rented worked perfectly. Our usual driver has navigated this area for us many times and we can tell the Lord is tugging on his heart. He is becoming increasingly interested in the development of the community and now the Paez recognize him as well. He kept saying, “Something good is going on here.”
As soon as we arrived, my wife Lisa jumped out of the vehicle with her camera to capture the beautiful mountain landscape from every angle, while I visited Evangelisto and Maria´s home. Their house is simple, made of sticks, mud and plastic. I looked down the hill to the precipice and saw the coffee plants growing beautifully. Knowing it hasn't rained much over the past couple of months and lacked proper irrigation, I asked, “How are these plants growing so well without much water?” Evangelisto lifted up his hands to heaven and said, “We just sow the plants in the dry land and ask the LORD of heaven and earth to let them grow, and there you go…” This trip was short, but an incredible adventure to El Tablón. We cannot accredit ourselves, but to glorify the One who continues to be merciful despite all the difficulties people have endured in our beloved country.
Whether up in the mountains of Huila or in the middle of an illicit crop below or in the splendid hills of Cuaca or in humble houses or even among the most impoverished towns where a CampWater filtration plant is working along the Pacific Coast, seeds are being sown from the Word of God through the radio stations. These seeds have been sown with tears and many troubles, but we are living in the days of its growth. Perhaps not many can see the growth now, but eventually, all will see a bountiful harvest.
Thank you for your continued partnership, prayers and support.
We have been having a field day supplying Bibles to the afflicted people of Venezuela where most people only make a couple dollars a month. The average person has lost more than twenty pounds over the past year because food is extremely expensive and so hard to come by. A kilo of meat costs more than the minimum wage, which is less than two dollars a month. I was astonished to find a number of middle aged ladies that used to be seriously overweight looking trim and fit and thanking the Lord for putting them on an obligatory diet!
There could not be any two human beings who are so different from each other, than my parents. Dad can be alone, working for hours, days and even weeks on end. Mom needs company. Dad likes traveling and talking to new people. Mom would rather stay at home. Dad is the most focused person on earth. His incredible ability to focus is the reason why he has written more than 20 books in the past five years and edited two Bibles, one in English and one in Spanish in less than a decade. Mom, well she is sort of scatter-brained, in the sense making her a great mom because she is always thinking of new plans to do, whether it’s going to the river for a swim, making fish for dinner, or visiting grandma. Let’s just say, it never gets boring when she is around. Dad is a dog lover. Mom is not, or so she says.
Dad and my sister Lisa (the dog-lover of my siblings) had been trying to get us to have a dog in the house for the longest time, but of course, my Mom had put her foot down on numerous occasions and never allowed it to happen. We had a series of dogs beforehand, which would last a matter of months in our house before Mom shipped them off to her brother’s home in the country. There was no talking Mom into getting a dog, no matter how many times Dad and Lisa would try. Until one day, the two dog-lovers of the family left on a trip to the USA and my two little brothers, Mom and I were left to take care of the household.
One of those Saturdays in which the house was cleaned up, lunch had already been served, and there was not much else to do, we decided to put on a movie. The movie we chose was I Am Legend starring Will Smith. It is a terribly tragic film about everyone on earth dying of a virus. By the end of the film, Will Smith and his girl, a German Shepherd were left all alone. This dog was so faithful to him that it was heart-wrenching. She was the only one he had left. His whole family died with the virus. The power of this dog’s character in the movie was so strong that by the time the credits rolled, the four of us, (even Mom) had decided we desperately needed a dog, a girl dog. Five minutes after the movie ended, we were all in the car heading for the pet store. They had just sold a litter of golden retriever puppies, and there was only one girl puppy left, presumably the only one left because she may have been the runt. The first thing she did when she saw us was pounce from side to side in a playful way. My brother Russell and I knew as soon as we saw her trying to play with us that she was the one we wanted. There was no questioning it, no looking for another pet store. We took her immediately home in a little cardboard box. We named her Lucy after a character in one of our favorite book series called the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. When Dad and Lisa arrived at the airport, we had wrapped Lucy up in a box with a ribbon on it to surprise them. Were they ever surprised! This time the dog-lovers had nothing to do with the new household dog. Mom had bought her. Hence, making her safe from getting shipped off to my uncle’s house.
Lucy lived a good three years, and then one Christmas got terribly sick. The Christmas festivities were not enough to calm the pain we each felt for Lucy. On Christmas Eve, we all went to visit my Aunt and Uncle’s farm for the weekend, but my Brother Russell (Bubba) stayed home to take care of her. She was bleeding internally, non-stop. Bubba nursed her back to health. Even on Christmas night, he did not celebrate; he slept by her side and made sure to give her the medications every 10 minutes. She was risking dying of dehydration. God answered our prayers that Christmas and Lucy was back to her normal playful self in a matter of weeks.
We had a beautiful, healthy dog for another 3 or 4 years until one day we discovered a tumor growing in her forehead. We went to the vet, and he said it was the result of a tooth infection. We treated her “tooth infection,” but the tumor kept growing. I soon got engaged to Stephen, and after only a month of engagement, we were married. Only two months after our wedding, we had to put Lucy to sleep because the tumor had overtaken her face and her eye was now bulging out. No amount of prayer or medication healed her this time. Lucy had been with us for seven and a half years, but it was time for her to go.
Fortunately, I was not in town when we decided to put her to sleep. I don’t think I could have gone through with it. When I got back home, there was no Lucy wagging her tail and whining with joy to greet me at the door. I was heartbroken, to say the least. I asked my dad, why it was that God did not make dogs live as long as humans? Why was their life so short in comparison? My dad told me the Lord designed it that way so we could have a practice round. In life, we will have to face the death of loved ones at some point, and sometimes God gives us a dog first just so we are more prepared for the time when we will have to say goodbye to our parents, to our siblings, or to our spouse.
For weeks, at night when I would go to bed, thoughts of Lucy would cross my mind and it would send me into inconsolable tears. Stephen did his best to calm me, but even his embrace and kind words could not make the sadness go away. Until one night, when the thought of Lucy came into my mind again, and I was about to burst into my usual array of nightly tears, I made up my mind to do something different this time. Instead of wallowing in my pain, I began to honestly thank the Lord for the time Lucy had been here with us. I thanked Him for letting us have such a beautiful dog in the first place. I thanked Him because He was taking better care of her than I ever did. I thanked Him because of how I imagined her right at that minute. I pictured her running freely through fresh green grass and beautiful flowers, happy and free. Instead of being confined to our small apartment in a very polluted city. She was a happy dog in my dreams; happier than she ever was here. That night the sadness left me. And every single night after that, when sad thoughts crept in, I would do the same thing. I would kill the wounds with gratefulness, until one day they were all gone.
Thank you for being a part of our extended family and for partnering with us through the trials and joys in this journey of life.
Our whole family is involved in various aspects of the ministry in Colombia and outreach to Latin America. Please pray for our responsibilities:
From Russell & Marina Stendal in Bogota, Colombia
Marina and I just returned from a very interesting trip to the Venezuela border. We took a load of Bibles that will be smuggled to pastors and persons of interest. It is not necessarily the official policy of either Colombia or Venezuela to prohibit the Bible, but rather officials on both sides of the border are extremely corrupt and tend to demand large bribes in order to allow any substantial amount of Bibles to cross the border and of course, our policy is not to pay bribes. There has not been any major supply or printing of Bibles that we know about in Venezuela for the past twenty years.
Economic conditions continue to deteriorate and while we were there the exchange rate went from one million Bolivars per US Dollar to over two million. The legal minimum wage is 3.5 million Bolivars per month so their wages have plummeted to the US equivalent of $1.75 a month and currently a kilo of beef costs 4 million Bolivars. A one hundred thousand Bolivar bill (their largest) is now worth less than a nickel. Normally, the limited supply of currency would eventually bring everything to a complete halt under such hyperinflation. However, the government is paying their citizens in electronic funds, which also benefits the government by controlling the flow of money through every bank account. This has led to a situation in which cash is worth three times as much as its equivalent in electronic currency. So truckloads of cash are moved around the country and negotiated in every plaza. We were told of the two thousand or so ruling generals who most have apparently bought private aircraft so as to not be lynched by starving peasants when they travel around carrying huge loads of cash.
We are amazed at how many Venezuelans are exiting the country into Colombia, which is now flooded with over 8 million displaced persons, making this the greatest humanitarian crises on the planet. All of the towns and cities of Colombia are saturated with Venezuelan workers and refugees who are flowing into Ecuador, Peru, and all the way down to Chile. We witnessed thousands of people per day crossing the bridge at Cúcuta. Most of them have been starving for months and are strewn out all along the highways with virtually no food or shelter. These people are fairly strong, but lean individuals in their teens, twenties, thirties, and forties who likely used to be fervent supporters of the socialist agenda. We can only imagine the fate of weak children and elderly remaining in Venezuela.
Until now, we have concentrated our effort on supplying Bibles and literature to those resolute pastors and leaders who have chosen to remain with their sheep in the midst of such severe tribulation. Now, however, we are considering what we can do to minister to the refugees. It might be possible for us to rent or buy a warehouse at the border in which we could show our movie, La Montaña followed by a Gospel invitation, and offer soup or hot chocolate to the weary hikers along with some Christian literature for them to read on their journey. As far as we could tell, there appears to be no evangelical Christian outreach at the border or along the thronged highways or byways. It looks like we could minister to thousands of people per day under very ideal circumstances if we have the resources. Those who are down and out and uprooted are very prone to respond favorably and receive the Lord Jesus, if we represent Him well.
Inside Venezuela it is hard to get a handle on everything that is going on. The country appears to be run by the military, however most are corrupt, although there are still a few Christians in places of influence. Many pastors who foolishly joined the Bolivarian Pastor´s Association started by Hugo Chavez twenty years ago, have now abandoned their sheep and fled the country. Eighty percent of the visible church appears to be aligned with the socialist government of Maduro causing concern there will be a huge backlash against these Christians or maybe even against Christians in general, if or when the Maduro government falls. There are also underground Christians and it is hard for us at this time to know how extensive the underground church might be.
Our plan is to have a safe place on the Colombian side of the border where trustworthy believers can come and pick up ten or twelve Bibles at a time to carry back across the treacherous border. After considering all the factors,we have decided to provide the best quality Bibles we can reasonably procure. Working together with ICR and ANEKO Press, we have developed a beautiful imitation leather study Bible with large print that only costs $5 (US Dollars) plus shipping and distribution costs if we import them by the container load of 9,600 Bibles at a time. To put this in perspective, if the minimum wage is under $2 (USD) per month and if under normal conditions a Bible like what we are providing would cost $25 (USD), then the Bibles we are giving out free gratis are worth at least a year´s salary to an average Venezuelan believer. Imagine how they will be encouraged by such a princely gift!
Please join us in praying for God to provide the resources as we step out in faith in reaching many along the Colombian and Venezuelan border.
In the previous newsletter, we mentioned a new and great opportunity we have to help another Christian Paez displaced community located in Huila.
This project is called El Tablón and it will be our second big project with a community for persecuted Paez Christians.
El Tablón is a mountainous plateau and the hopeful future safe community for the Paez located in Huila. (This community is being modeled after the successful Christian Paez community in Cauca that is completely self-sustaining with over 400 people and a Christian school for more than 100 children.)
El Tablón farmland has 75 hectares (185.32 acres), of which 33 hectares (81.54 acres) is a productive and viable property. In the middle of this land, there is a farm with a beautiful view of the frontier of Cauca and Huila, two very conflictive regions of Colombia.
There is a large house and a big kiosk, which has not been used in years. Terrorists killed the husband, an honorable man from the area, while he was doing humanitarian work.
The widow, who now owns the land, is the only person with legal rights and documents in the entire area and together with her only son (heir to the farm), have been trying to sell the entire property for years. Our Paez friends are located nearby where they grow coffee from a precipice.
The Voice of the Martyrs’ Canadian office and our Canadian charity Colombia Para Cristo Society have been persevering to acquire a piece of land to relocate the Paez community from the dangerous precipice, however we only had 8% of the down payment for the entire property.
Just when we thought there was nothing more we could do, we received a phone call from the widow and owner of the El Tablón farm. A meeting followed with the woman in Bogota to figure out a way to help the persecuted Paez community. The LORD certainly made a way, where there was no way.
I´m not sure if she was moved after seeing the photos of the development of the project in Cauca or when she listened to the testimony of Kelly, who’s husband was also tragically killed, but for sure the LORD touched this women’s heart to help us in a way we were not expecting! She agreed to sell us as much of the land as we could pay with the designated funds and also rent the rest of the farm for an incredible price!
With the funds we currently have, we will be able to acquire at least 4-5 hectares to relocate the more than 30 families which is almost the same area we have operating in Cauca with excellent results.
We are grateful for the investment of friends and partners like VOM (Finland, Canada and New Zealand), SOM and many other individuals who have made themselves available to help with this great need. The rest of the farm will be rented for the amount of $3,000 US Dollars for the entire year. (AMAZING – RIGHT?!)
We started with only 8% of the original asking price and were faithful with what we had and the LORD increasingly multiplied our efforts. The Paez are planning to use the house for the school and the kiosk for meetings. We hope to purchase more land, as the LORD provides.
God willing we will be signing the contract for the El Tablón farmland by the first week of June 2018. Please pray for this process and the LORD´s favor in making El Tablón farmland into a Christian Paez community, a reality!
Pray for the Paez community and for provision of extra funds to set up the processing for the water treatment system, enough wood for the new houses and for self-sustaining agricultural and farming supplies.
Please pray for the next President of Colombia who God could use to penetrate the enemy areas. Pray for God´s people to bring forth light into the shadows of the hostile areas.
We also request prayer for Bibles, Christian materials and radio equipment for the people of Cauca and Huila.
We encourage you to read Psalm 37 in its entirety.
By Samuel David Hernandez
After the tremendous success we had with our friends in reaching the Paez Indians in Cauca, we are in the midst of a new and great opportunity to help another Christian Paez community. The community in Cauca has come from persecution, displacement and misery to self-sustainment, stability and overcoming evil with good by sharing God's grace to those who used to persecute them. This illustrates the power of God's grace to do what we cannot do on our own. In the past, our friends from Finland helped purchase land the Paez Indians now call "God's Greatness."
Our partners in Finland said this was the most successful project known to them around the world. In just one year, almost 500 people (Including more than 100 children) have reached economic self-sustainability and spiritual encouragement. We all know this didn't happen because of man's wisdom, but because of the LORD´s mercy over them, allowing us to be part of His work. Our friends from Cauca are living proof that Psalm 37:25 rings true.
“…I have been young and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” Psalm 37:25
This Paez community consists of approximately 31 families, almost 200 people including 39 children. Evangelisto and Maria Teresa are the Christian elders who are leading and training this group in the ways of the LORD. They grew up with the example of missionaries from the United States and Canada who brought the Gospel to the Paez tribe in the mountains of Huila more than 70 years ago. They were displaced and persecuted by their own tribe because of their faith and with the little they had, they acquired a piece of land in between a narrow country road and a precipice. Maria is the teacher of the humble school and Evangelisto works the land with the other men. These families are all paying off the debt of the land by growing and selling coffee. I have personally visited them in many occasions with a health brigade operated by our friend, Dr. Fernando. We have witnessed the hard work of these people and we have been very encouraged by their faith. They grow the coffee on a steep slope of the precipice very skillfully hanging by ropes. Any carelessness is fatal.
We greatly encourage you to pray for these friends. There is a big possibility that the owner of the land next to their property will sell part of her farm to them. VOM Canada, through our Canadian charity Colombia Para Cristo, is supporting this endeavor with a down payment for this property and we are in negotiation with the owner who seems to be the only trustworthy person in the area with legal documents to the land. (A very good friend of ours, who is a lawyer, is verifying this process.) After the land is acquired, we are praying for support and provision with the construction of little cabins, electricity, a little Christian school, water treatment plants for the community, etc.
In Cauca, HMK from Germany helped us with purchasing a big portable CampWater system. This new area will need a CampWater system as well.
Radio Station Outreach Opportunity
Another great opportunity is to have a radio station in this area since this community is located on one of the highest mountains of Huila on the boarder with Cauca. Russell and the guys here are doing their best to help with Christian communication and radio stations for those very strategic hostile areas. These remote stations require a lot of equipment and many other expenses involved with the transportation and installation. (This is not counting the many hours of audio recording of programs, music and preaching to be able to have a very clean message to share by AM, FM and Shortwave antennas.)
You will be glad to know that Kelly (the widow of our friend, Pabel, who was martyred for his faith in 2014) is very involved in helping us with this project. Kelly and her two children are doing well and she continues to pour into the lives of the Paez Indians. It is vitally important for us to continue distributing Bibles and Christian material especially in these hostile areas, which have been affected the most by the drug traffic. These locations, which used to be filled with cacao and coffee fields in the frontiers of Cuaca and Huila, are now a matter of urgent intercession. The drug traffickers are using radical Indians in these places, just as the casino owners used native territories in Canada and the USA, to avoid the authorities. But even with such oppression, our friends are determined to remain clean in this area. They are doing everything possible to reach those who are displaced, which many of them learned from the missionaries in the past. Russell's work has been a tremendous support for them and he has become the last missionary for them who remains firm and strong in the LORD and encourages them to do the same wherever the LORD places them.
Please pray for Marco´s family and the community in Cauca.
Marco is the Paez leader of the community in Cauca and his brother was murdered a few blocks from the community farm just a couple of days ago.
There is a lot of pressure from the mafia to force them to grow coca plants, but they have a very strong conviction not to do so.
There are even people from legal organizations and business men offering big money for the growing of coca and marijuana with the pretext of “medicinal treatments,” however our friends are determined not to get contaminated and to be the light and the salt where they are needed the most. The results of this labor have global repercussions.
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Thank you for your prayers, support and standing with us in reaching Colombia.
Recent Elections in Colombia for Congress
It was by far the highest voter turnout amongst the most peaceful atmosphere ever. When all was said and done the makeup of the House of Representatives and the Senate moved to the right so that both chambers are now just about evenly split between those in favor of the Peace Treaty and those opposed. Presidential elections are scheduled for May 27th with a runoff on June 17th if no one gets more than fifty percent in the first round. It looks like Iván Duque (the center right candidate) has a fair chance of winning (actual President Santos, who is termed out, is center left).
The former FARC guerrillas, in their new political party that uses the same acronym with different words (a huge political mistake), only brought in a grand total of 52,000 votes, less than enough for a single house seat, although according to the treaty they automatically get five seats in each chamber for two election cycles. Their candidate for President was forced to drop out of the race after a recent heart attack and open-heart surgery.
We were dismayed to see that about one third of the Christian votes were declared null and void. This is because these votes were spread out between fledgling political parties and none of them met the required threshold of 500,000 or so votes. If these parties had been able to get along together and combine votes, they would have been able to field at least seven senators; instead the votes of almost a million Christians turned out to have absolutely no effect.
So, the FARC has five seats in the House and five seats in the Senate that virtually no one in the country feels they deserve. On the other hand, Christian votes for at least seven Senators basically got thrown in the garbage because the leadership of the “Christian” parties proved unable to get along with one another. What a disaster!
There is the fact that most of the former guerrillas, who will now go to Congress, made personal commitments to Jesus Christ when we ministered to them and prayed for them over the four years they were in Cuba negotiating the Peace Treaty. These few believers are, nevertheless, leading a movement, in which, it is likely that most of the rank and file are still opposed to the Gospel. All of them are kind of like in a forced marriage to this new political party as virtually the only way to avoid long jail terms for all of the nefarious things that they participated in during the war. Only time will tell how all this will finally play out.
Colombian Gospel Convention
We are planning a convention here in Colombia for August 19th -21st to celebrate more than 54 years of ministry! At the convention, I am planning to preach the final message of the series through the Bible. This involved ten years of translating the Spanish Bible and eighteen years of preaching a message or so per Bible chapter twice a week to broadcast over the radio into the war zones. Please pray for us and the people of Colombia as we continue to distribute Bibles, Christian materials and maintain the radio towers to reach throughout the country. Thank you for your vital support!
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