(By Russell Stendal)
I have been called a wide range of derogatory names over the years, even to the extent of being denounced in some sectors as the antichrist (Matthew 5:10-12). I am not alone, Biblical disciples of Christ were first called “Christians” by nonbelievers and Jesus was called Beelzebub (Satan) by mockers. One of the more interesting titles conferred on me (and not always intended as a compliment) is that of the Lone Ranger. As this topic continued to reoccur in one form or another, I decided to do a little research. According to Wikipedia:
The Lone Ranger was named so because the character is the only survivor of a group of six Texas Rangers, rather than because he works alone (as he is usually accompanied by Tonto). A posse of six members of the Texas Ranger Division pursuing a band of outlaws led by Bartholomew "Butch" Cavendish is betrayed by a civilian guide named Collins and is ambushed in a canyon named Bryant's Gap. Later, an Indian named Tonto stumbles onto the scene and discovers one ranger is barely alive and he nurses the man back to health.
Tonto recognizes the lone survivor as the man who saved his life when they both were children. According to the television series, when Tonto left the Reid place with a horse given him by the boy Reid, he gave Reid a ring and the name Kemo Sabe, which he said means "trusty scout". Among the Rangers killed was the survivor's older brother, Daniel Reid, who was a captain in the Texas Rangers and the leader of the ambushed group. To conceal his identity and honor his fallen brother, Reid fashions a black domino mask from the material of his brother's vest. To aid in the deception, Tonto digs a sixth grave and places at its head a cross bearing Reid's name so that Cavendish and his gang would believe that all of the Rangers had been killed.
Hmm. This sounds interesting. My thoughts immediately went back to the fall of 1968. Our family was home on furlough from the mission field of Colombia and I went on a ministry trip with my father to the west coast while all the other young people of our church community (Bethany Fellowship of Bloomington, MN) went on a retreat at a camp in northern Minnesota. Tragically, a tornado hit the camp and the young people in my class were killed leaving me the sole survivor. These were the kids that I had gone to Confirmation class with. They would have grown up to be my friends, associates and contemporaries in ministry. However, some of their parents and relatives have had a special place in their hearts for me ever since and have prayed for and supported me in ministry over the past fifty years.
My thoughts also went back to the 80’s and 90’s when so many missionaries and pastors (many of them personal friends and associates) were killed in Colombia and again, I was the survivor after having been captured by the FARC guerrillas and released after being tied to a tree for 142 days (when one of the guerrilla commanders realized that I was the one who had saved his mother). My brother, Chad, and I remained at the missionary base at Lomalinda where we had grown up and witnessed the departure of the last missionary airplane. Intervals of heavy fighting mixed with looting soon destroyed two thirds of the base and one third of the nearby town of Puerto Lleras. Yet God used us to raise up powerful radio stations at Lomalinda that to this day cover even the most remote borders. By the year 2000 close to 850 foreign missionaries had been withdrawn from eastern Colombia, and only my brother and I remained. Untold numbers of church buildings were destroyed, hundreds of pastors gunned down and according to the UN, over six million people displaced (second only to Syria).
· I like the moral code of the Lone Ranger, which includes: That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world. That all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.
In order to have “the power within to make this a better world” we must be dead to our own plans and ambitions so that Jesus Christ can be alive in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul wrote, For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). Or in the words of the psalmist, Cause me to live according to thy mercy, so I shall keep the testimony of thy mouth (Psalm 119:88). In the highest sense, “the truth that never changes and lives on forever” is the Lord Jesus Christ. He said, I AM the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). God’s way for us to fight is to overcome evil with good.
Unless there are a sufficient number of people who understand the above truth and the significance of what that sixth grave meant to the Lone Ranger, “this government of the people, by the people, and for the people” will eventually fail. For the health of society and of our nation, there must always be those who will stand alone, if need be, for truth and justice, willing to go against the groupthink of the secular or religious crowd and against corrupt special interests and private kingdoms to set an example for others to follow.
Over the course of the 52-year war in Colombia, I had many conversations with well meaning officials from the US Embassy and others who wanted me to leave the war zone in the interest of my personal safety and that of my family. They were, for the most part, unable to understand that I consider myself already “dead in Christ” and therefore no enemy has been able to overpower me with fear, even if, at times, I must stand alone. Of course, I have never really been alone, the Lord has always been with me and so has my wife, my brother, my children and countless others (friends and guides) that God has always provided to fulfill the role of “Tonto” or even to restore the original “posse”.
The Lone Ranger used silver bullets. Following my miraculous release from the kidnapping on January 3, 1984 I entered full time travelling ministry all over North America and Colombia. Since that time, I never carried another firearm, except on special occasions. Now my “silver bullets” are facets of the truth of God that I have been able to share and witness to the men and women and leaders of all the sides of the conflict. In fact, so many have come to Christ that the FARC conflict has ended.
On February 17, 2015, I was arrested in Bogota as a result of false charges apparently trumped up by dark enemies who did not understand the importance of seeing the guerrillas converted to Christ. Twenty-four hours later a judge released me and finally, the government was forced to apologize and withdraw the charges. My enemies thought that they would use the law to “unmask” me, but what happened at the trial showed what God had been doing all along. One million Bibles, almost three million good books and one hundred and twenty thousand Galcom radios fix tuned to our frequencies had been distributed throughout the war zones in addition to the thousands of back packs to children that had never been to church or Sunday School.
This article is the shortened version of more details comparing the Lone Ranger and the mysterious ways God has worked over the years in our ministry. If you want to read the full version of this article which includes stories of my horse Silver and other interesting similarities please go to www.SpiritofMartyrdom.com/news or read the email.
 I turned 13 in November of 1968.
 See Rescue the Captors 2, Chapter 12, The Last Bible Translator, ANEKO Press.
 See Rescue the Captors 2 and God’s Plan for Spiritual Battle, ANEKO Press.
Reported By: Samuel David Hernández
A few weeks ago, I made a very unusual trip to the island of Cuba with my wife, Lisa, and our older children Gaby (age 11) and Isaac (age 7) to visit their Grandpa. On this occasion, Grandpa (Russell Stendal) was aboard the Dawn Treader working on his next book, a series of messages about the epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Romans. I say “unusual” trip because most of the traveling our family does is not along the lines of traditional family vacations. We hardly ever plan trips in advance because in most cases we are short on cash. We go when most people would consider the least opportune, but we are always taught something valuable; even if the lesson is as simple as learning how to listen instead of talking. Just like in Narnia, it becomes an adventure with the “Great Lion” ever present with us even when we feel alone. This was our first trip as a family to the island to visit Grandpa and the famous Bavaria 50 sailboat, appropriately named, Dawn Treader.
I remember a time when we would fight over the opportunity to go on an adventure. Most of them were to the Colombian jungle to distribute Bibles, radios or humanitarian aid. If you are familiar with the movie La Montaña, you can imagine how our everyday lives are here in Colombia as part of the ministry that the Lord has given us.
For me, the famous boat trip aboard The Light of the Truth was enough to learn two lessons for the future. The riverboat was loaded with over 5 thousand Bibles for some of the most hostile regions of the Eastern Plains where there had been no missionaries for over 30 years due to the violence. On that trip, those of us that made up the crew lived through ambushes, a guerrilla attack on a town we were crossing, running from wall to wall under heavy gunfire and a fire on the boat in which a 3-year-old child was miraculously saved among other things. At the end, none of our personal belongings were salvaged, only the Bibles on board the boat were safe. Each one of them was distributed.
These were the two lessons I learned: 1) Never put pressure on making a trip just because you long for adventure, without putting it first in the hands of God. 2) Never invite anyone to come with you unless you are being prompted by the LORD to do so. Personally, this has turned into a continual walk with the LORD, not just in the big adventures, but also in the small details that apparently have no great importance.
Two people, both of them of Cuban nationality, but with very different lives on the island, were examples the LORD used to show us the “tip of the iceberg” of what He is doing with that small sailboat, its captain and the crew on this particular island.
I use the word particular because the history of Cuba has not only affected it’s own people and North America profoundly, but also, Central and South America. Colombia, whose Peace Treaty has been developed on this island that which Cuba, Norway and others are guarantors of the agreement, has been a victim of the well-known, anti-imperialist hatred spread by Cuba throughout the Americas. This treaty, although the many deficiencies, has served to help diminish the killing of innocent, many times Christian, civilians. Aspects of the treaty are still being debated as they make their way through Congress and the Colombian court system. Many do not want Colombia to turn into another Venezuela, which we can not irresponsibly ignore or fail to mention, is the most recent and unwanted child of Cuba’s influence on the continent. However, we do know with utmost certainty that true lasting peace is only achieved by God’s divine intervention.
It is because of this, that I conclude that there is no better place for the LORD to restore hearts where the effects could ripple throughout the Americas and the entire world. If this were not the intent, why would God permit such an island with 11 million inhabitants and 2 million “displaced or aided” people to be frozen in time for more than 50 years?
The first of the Cubans, whom I will call “Lord Roop,” is a poor unhappy soul who has never been out of the “darkness.” But, by an unforeseen miracle, he bumped into the Dawn Treader. He is poor, literally; he has even lost his taste for food because of the food shortage that the island has suffered for almost 57 years since the economic “embargo” placed on it by the United States. Even placing a great meal on the table, there is very little food that draws his attention with the exception of wine-soaked pound cakes and garbanzo beans that someone visiting the sailboat gave him. He fondly remembers this food, while licking his lips and rolling his eyes. He is unhappy, because unlike 99% of the inhabitants on the island, he does not have some family member in Florida to send him a few dollars.
I first met Lord Roop over 3 years ago in other circumstances when we went to the island invited by Noel, the guerrilla commander whose story is portrayed in the movie La Montaña.
Back then, Noel was participating in the negotiation table established by the Colombian government to discuss the terms for the Peace Treaty. He contacted us after having seen the film and it was he who allowed for Bibles, Christian material and copies of La Montaña to be distributed among the FARC secretariat on the island. Noel became the excuse the LORD came up with for our participation in Cuba and our prayers for this man are more than necessary so that his heart is continually transforming for the LORD until he surrenders completely to HIM. But as my father-in-law, Russell, would say, Noel is “the theme for another message.”
Lord Roop would complain about everything and everyone, Cubans, Americans, Cuban-Americans, but today he is the first mate aboard the Dawn Treader. It took 2 years and a lot of high-ranking influence for him to be allowed to sail off the shores of the island; he turned out to be an excellent sailor. At night, he is the one who hands out the books we have aboard the vessel to members of the Cuban marina who are intrigued as they read and treat us with the kindest of hearts. Many of them do not know the power of the message that comes out from the beautiful boat, but little by little they have seen that it is God Himself who has us there. Lord Roop after having seen (more than heard) the life (or the written letter) of men of God like Russell Stendal and others, has learned to discern who truly is representing God among the variety of visitors to the boat. Discernment is one of the rarest gifts among the people of God today. The last words I heard from Lord Roop were, “Sammy, some day I will go to Colombia when the Lord permits.” So, in order to clear all doubts, I asked him, “What lord?” He answered, “The one who DOES and CAN DO all things.” I was impacted to hear something like this coming from someone who not too long ago declared himself an atheist.
My second friend, whom I will call “Lord Bern,” is one of the best pianists in the world, who I met in Bogota at the ceremony where Russell was given an important award for his tireless search for true peace. This character is rather idolized by his people. Blessed by his talent, which has taken him around the globe, he could be what most would consider “a diva.” In spite of his great public influence, he was almost not able to arrive to the boat. It took him great effort. He had to borrow gasoline, drive many hours and endure the discomfort of being a citizen of a country that does not permit its naturals to board any vessel easily. (Due to his great talent and influence, this is something he was not accustomed to.)
Lord Bern was impacted greatly upon hearing that our trip to the island was financed by a few personal savings that we had set apart (although we did not nearly have enough) for a volleyball tournament that our daughter Gaby had won her way to in Orlando, FL. When he asked us why, we told him that Grandpa had invited us and we felt this trip to visit him was what God wanted us to do with that money. By the end of the trip, Lord Bern had endeared himself to the children referring to them as his own grandchildren from Colombia. The grandchildren, that up till now, he and his wife have not been able to have. Before we left he said to us, “Meeting you has changed my wife and I.”
On this trip we tried to do some fishing, but even the bait was scarce on the island. The two times we went out we only caught two enormous BARRACUDAS, one on each occasion. It was then that I understood perfectly what the LORD had us doing on that island and in other hostile and undesirable areas we visit. The LORD has us fishing for BARRACUDAS. When the LORD called Peter and Andrew his brother and said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:18-19 what He didn’t say, but what we have begun to learn over time, is that not all the fish are the same. Not all of them are at the same level of deepness, they don´t all have the same size and not all of them are attracted to the same kind of bait. The same thing happens with many men, in this case represented by Lord Roop and Lord Bern. This is unusual for us, but most definitely a marvelous thing of God. God has us fishing men that at first sight are a lot like barracudas. A class of fish that resemble serpents or piranhas and in many cases cannot even be eaten because their flesh is a poison to those who are not accustomed. What is true though, regardless, is that they are fish and the LORD wants to fish them and He is doing it.
Although the LORD may have others fishing “nicer” creatures, our share has been the barracudas. But who is to say that the LORD cannot make of barracudas a great dinner for His feast?
Update From: Russell Stendal
On Mother’s Day, I spoke at the Naza Indian community called The Greatness of God in Morales, Cauca. They have prospered naturally and spiritually after faithfully coming through much tribulation and persecution. The Nazas are a subdivision of the Paez (Colombia’s largest tribe) and were part of the hotbed where the guerrilla movement began in May of 1964. Now, there are more than one hundred thousand Christians of Indian descent in the southwest corner of Colombia. The main group of Naza Christians now number almost 15,000 and they have been very effective and dynamic at evangelism to the extent that some who used to persecute Christians have now come to Christ. The Indian congregations have sent evangelists and even large evangelistic teams into some of the most difficult areas.
Lightning Strikes and Conflict
In recent weeks, ELN guerrillas and right wing paramilitary units have been fighting intensely in Cauca and have converged on the municipality of Morales where we have several radio stations. There are many Christian communities between the Paez and Guambiano Indians that we support. The Colombian authorities (police and army) have their hands full trying to maintain law and order. Several weeks ago, one of our key transmitters on a remote mountain peak was hit by lightning and we are unable to get through all the violence and confusion safely in order to replace it. We were, however, able to start a standby transmitter on another mountain ridge a hundred miles away and resume some of the coverage, but will not be able to regain radio coverage of the important pacific coast until we can safely reach the original site. Please pray for this situation. The mountain we need to reach in order to install the new transmitter is called Munchique.
We will soon be licensing Indian chaplains who under our legal charter will have the authority to minister in public schools, prisons, hospitals and at police and military bases. In the midst of all the flurry of activity in this area of the country, we regret to inform you that we will be closing our rented missionary base south of Cali due to lack of funds. This is where we have been managing over a dozen radio stations, massive literature outreach, evangelistic events and discipleship and outreach materials including Bibles for the ministry of over a thousand leaders. Pray that the Lord will provide everything we need to continue outreach in this area of unprecedented revival. It is not enough just to obtain initial commitments to Jesus; the new believers must be fed and brought to maturity in Christ so that they will bear good fruit and continue to multiply.
Bible’s without Borders
In the far east along the Colombia Venezuela border we are ramping up our Bibles Without Borders program in which former guerrillas who used to kill pastors and burn down church buildings are now smuggling Bibles across the closed border into Venezuela to encourage beleaguered pastors and evangelists there. Everything is going extremely well except there is a need for many more Bibles than what we are currently able to provide even though many Colombians are beginning to rise to the challenge and donate money for Bibles. Please continue to pray for Venezuela.
Thank you for your faithful support during the summer months!
BY RUSSELL AND MARINA STENDAL
Yesterday, I returned to Bogota from Brazil where I spoke at the annual Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) consultation held for the first time in Brasilia, South America. The RLP is a partnership of leaders and top executives of several dozen important worldwide organizations dedicated to religious freedom and advocacy. Last year, the Gallup Poll, after considering many factors, declared Brazil to be the number one country in the world for religious freedom. Our Brazilian hosts (ANAJURE, the Christian lawyers association) were excellent and we were taken seriously by many of the top leaders of the country including the President, cabinet officials and members of the congress and senate. My testimony regarding Colombia was well received. I also learned some very impressive and startling information from other speakers and participants who came from all over the world:
Another view is that the seven heads of the beast represent all the heads of the governments and organizations of man that belong to Satan (the antichrist) even while they fight among one another (Jesus said, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation). In light of the above apparent failure of so many gifted prophecy teachers and “prophets,” we would do well to examine, before the Lord, everything else that these same people have taught so that we will not be caught unaware at His coming.
As I digest the above information, many questions are going through my mind. There are fifty-five references to tribulation in Scripture and almost all of them have to do with the time (or days) of the Church Age. Could these be the “days” that are shortened? (Matthew 24:22) Is this happening now? Are we entering into the time described as, “immediately after the tribulation of those days…”(Matthew 24:29) Are we now approaching the time, “then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn…” (Matthew 24:30)
Time will tell. Keep tabs on the statistics I mentioned above. The next to the last mention of tribulation in Scripture is regarding what will happen to “Jezebel.”
“Behold, I will cast her into a bed and those that commit adultery with her into great tribulation. And I will kill her children with death …” (Revelation 2:22,23) This reference to “great tribulation” appears to be linked to the return of Jesus Christ. The righteous judgments of God described in the Book of Revelation are vastly different from the tribulation that the Devil has continually launched against Christians over the past two thousand years. The righteous judgments of God and the Revelation of Jesus Christ at the end of this age are “great tribulation” to the lukewarm and to the wicked (and particularly to those like Jezebel who misrepresent God and persecute his true prophets). God never destroys the righteous along with the wicked. All of the true servants of God are sealed (and protected) prior to His end time judgments (Revelation 7:3).
And they shall fall by the edge of the sword and shall be led away captive into all nations, and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Then there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of the heaven shall be shaken. And then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near (Luke 21:24-28).
In this year of 2017, most likely the 70th year of Jubilee since the Book of Leviticus was written, as we are in the midst of a flurry of signs in the heavens (first the blood moons and solar eclipses followed by the sign describing Revelation 12:1,2 happening now in the heavens between Dec. 23, 2016 and Sept. 23, 2017) this is likely the prophesied time for us to look up and lift up our heads. Remember that when the star of Bethlehem appeared, followed by the wise men, the real fulfillment of that star was the baby in the manger who is also identified as the Morning Star (Revelation 22:16). The real fulfillment of the heavenly sign this time will be the brightness of the light of God’s clean heavenly people upon this earth who form the bride without spot or wrinkle that Jesus will soon return for. In the mean time, let us diligently be about the work of our Heavenly Father. Let us wisely invest our time and resources according to the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit so that we may have eternal treasure in heaven.
We are entering a time of ever increasing turbulence all around the planet as the established world order is being shaken. This affects virtually everything: politics, economics and religion. Colombia is no exception.
Implementation of the Peace Accord has been slow and filled with obstacles. The FARC guerrillas finally arrived at the stipulated sites where they were to turn over their weapons only to be told that the United Nations was not ready to receive them. Also, little or no preparation had been made by the government even to provide potable water or basic sanitary facilities at these sites scattered over the length and breadth of this nation. The necessary laws for the Peace Accord have been delayed in Congress (even though a ¨fast track¨ legislative process was authorized by the Supreme Court) and therefore many of the actors of the armed factions still face significant legal uncertainty.
In the meantime, a smorgasbord of actors, including diverse criminal bands, right wing paramilitary groups, dissident FARC leaders, and even a rival guerrilla group, the ELN, have been scrambling to fill the vacuum left by the FARC and consolidate control over the lucrative cocaine and heroin traffic. Corruption abounds at virtually all levels of government punctuated by a recent scandal involving a Brazilian firm that allegedly paid extensive bribes to key officials in both the past and present administrations in exchange for lucrative road and infrastructure contracts that were also in partnership with many of the top Colombian firms tainting virtually everyone among the ruling political class.
Albert Receives Award
Here in Bogota, Albert Luepnitz just finished another ministry tour in which a large number of military officers including top generals (retired and active) responded and were deeply touched by the Lord. Albert received military awards and honors from the Army, Air Force and the National Police and a ceremony is pending with the Navy. The first spiritual encounters have begun between converted guerrilla leaders and converted generals as they encourage one another with the testimony of what Jesus Christ has done in their lives. This cuts directly through the past fifty-three years of violence, hatred and mistrust. This is the beginning of a new day!
Recently Russell received international attention for his contribution with the Peace Accord in Colombia. In January, Russell was presented with the Shahbaz Bhatti Freedom Award from First Step Forum Executive Director Johan Candelin. First Step Forum is comprised of an association of Evangelical statesmen, mostly from Europe, who promote people that contribute to global peace. Previous recipients of the award include Pope Francis, Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Dr. Hany Hanna in Egypt and Bishop Malkhaz Songulashvili in the Republic of Georgia.
The award was created in 2011 in honor of the late Christian martyr Shahbaz Bhatti who was the only Christian of the Pakistani Parliament. He was vocal for the protection of the Christian minorities and especially spoke against Pakistan's blasphemy laws. Threats against his life increased as he gave his support to Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010. Two weeks before Bhatti's death, Johan Candelin interviewed Bhatti. Bhatti testifies on the video, “I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us, I am ready to die for a cause. I'm living for my community… and I will die to defend their rights.”
Russell now becomes the fifth recipient of the prestigious Shahbaz Bhatti Freedom Award of peacemakers. Johan describes Russell's involvement as, “Extraordinary … I have never seen anything like this and I believe the Colombian Peace Agreement with FARC is the most significant Peace Treaty accomplished in the world this century. God's hand has been on Russ Stendal's work in a unique way.”
Russell received the award in humility and immediately addressed the 300 plus audience. “This award belongs to all of us.” He personally thanked, Dr. Fernando's unfailing friendship and sacrifice. He acknowledged the participation and support of four retired generals including retired General Barrera Supreme Commander of the Colombian Military. Russell then began to introduce and honor military, police, civic, ministry leaders and ended with the most important VIP's, his family and wife Marina.
The room was full of people from high and low social status, rich and poor, converted and unconverted into Christ. Russell saw his unique opportunity to preach the gospel to a very diverse crowd. Russell declared, “This award ceremony is actually taking place on Sunday, our regular weekly meeting of Bible teaching. This is not a political meeting, but spiritual. Years ago when we decided to produce preaching programs for the radio on every chapter of the Bible we realized that a live audience would be more productive than teaching in a studio. We have now produced over 1,000 programs for each chapter of the Bible. There is only Song of Solomon and 40 Psalms left to complete a teaching on all chapters of the Bible. Therefore, tonight in keeping with the tradition of this meeting, I will teach from Psalm 106.” Russell then captivated the audience with a beautiful teaching of Psalm 106 and how this chapter is a picture of man's corruption and God's righteousness represented and found in Christ alone.
The giving of this award has opened up many doors of opportunity to spread the gospel further. All the major Colombian media outlets carried the story and highlighted Russell's life and ministry. The leading paper of Colombia, headquartered in Bogota, featured Russell in a full page colored article. One direct result was Russell's invitation to be the keynote speaker at a leadership forum of 60 European organizations that serve persecuted Christians. This conference will be held in April. Please pray for Russell's message and that the Lord will use this to link with other Kingdom minded organizations and people.
We want to thank all of you who have prayed, given and served all these years to make this accolade possible. Again, Russell said it well, “This award belongs to all of us.”
Reported By David Witt
Beautiful music rang throughout the meeting hall last week as world - renowned Cuban pianist, Frank Fernandez, honored Russell with a concert on a grand piano in Bogota, Colombia.
Leaders and dignitaries traveled from afar to honor Russell Stendal for his contribution of the peace process. Over three hundred people packed into a meeting room with overflow and security out the door. The diversity of this meeting was immediately evident. Those present included retired and active generals, a colonel from the Colombian military, and police chiefs. The VIP list continued with doctors, lawyers, ministry leaders and others. Even more significant were the humble farmers, native Indians and simple Colombians thankful for Russell's help. People traveled from Cuba, Canada, Finland and the United States. The media was spread throughout the room with cameras, video and electronic gadgetry. The crowd covered the spectrum of worldviews ranging from Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, liberals, conservatives, converted to faith in Christ and unconverted. All had come to support Russell and to honor him in his contribution to the Colombian Peace Accord.
Every person in attendance had a story and a connection with Russell and the Stendal family. Pianist, Frank Fernandez, is a Marxist leader from Cuba with great influence. Two years ago, he clearly stated, he was an atheist. Russell and Albert built a relationship with him in friendship and prayer. They found out about his troubled childhood of rejection and hurt received from his father. They pointed Frank towards the Heavenly Father as the one who heals pain and mends through forgiveness. During this season, Frank had a major concert in Havana. His ring finger cartilage was deteriorating and causing problems with movement and pain. Like a surgeon's hands, this problem could destroy his career. Albert prayed for his finger and Frank experienced healing. Albert (91 years young) traveled from the United States to attend the celebration and a couple of times during the concert, Frank held up his right ring finger and smiled as he looked at Albert. The audience was enthralled with the passion, gifting and mastery with which Frank played classical pieces of Chopin, Mozart, Bach and others. Russell commented afterwards that Frank made sounds from the piano that he did not know were possible. We all whole-heartedly agreed! Above the quality of music, was Frank's love and appreciation for Russell. The subtlety of all this is Frank's heart warming toward Christ's love shown through Russell.
For years, Russell has programed redemptive music along with Bible teaching into radio programs that broadcast 24/7 throughout the remote regions of Colombia. Music has power to penetrate the heart and soul. As displayed in the book of Psalms, David played his harp to calm the evil forces raging in King Saul. We read in the Old Testament that musicians led the Ark of the Covenant and the Israelites before battle. Over the years, Russell has written poems that speak to the injustices of the civil war and the hope of Colombia to turn to God. Another musician who has been touched by the radio and teaching ministry is Oscar. Oscar is featured on radio programs in Colombia on a regular basis. Specifically, Oscar put Russell's poems to music in the Mariachi style. During the night of celebration, Oscar's Mariachi band played these songs to express their honor and tribute to Russell. His music was a wonderful blend of high quality talent, entertainment and inspiration. A copy of the words were passed out to guests in Spanish and translated in English. Below is one song expressing how God used Russell being taken hostage many
Flying in my airplane
I was heading for work
I said goodbye to my wife
I gave my family a hug
We were going to the area
Where I sold fish.
When I arrived at this place
Something surprised me
I heard gun shots
And I asked, “What happened?”
They told me: “Nothing Russell
I will solve this.”
I went outside
And two men came up to me
With rifles in their hands
They interned me in the jungle,
I asked, “What is going on friend?”
They said, “You are kidnapped.”
A shiver ran up me
From my feet to my head.
We boarded a boat
And this story barely begins
They had no clue
What would be their surprise
When we were sitting
The commander approached me
He said, “What are you talking about?”
I responded, “About the Lord.
I want to share with you
What God has taught me.”
A year later they came back
To ask me for forgiveness
I invited them to the house
I shared to them about God
And finally they understood me
God touched their hearts.
Many years have passed
Since that happened
My experience was not in vain
I understand that today.
Music and Radio teaching continues to touch millions of Colombians and is now even carried into other Latin American countries. The work being done through the Holy Spirit in Russell and others with him in Colombia is becoming more and more known. Requests for more radio stations, Bibles and Christian literature is growing. Please pray for provision as the needs of the Colombian people are increasing and the country is in transition. Thank you for your support during this vital and exciting time in Colombia.
This year concludes with renewed hope for the country of Colombia. The Peace Accord that took a long four years to negotiate (with serious obstacles at every turn) is now approved and being implemented. The longest civil war in modern history has ended after 52 bitter and bloody years. However, many dangers continue on the horizon. Spiritual and social decay abound in the big cities even while incredible revival is taking place in rural areas. The tentacles of the overwhelming narcotics industry and its corrupt mafias have infiltrated politics and society.
On the bright side, many of those who were trapped as actors in the armed conflict will now be free to begin a new life. Those who committed war crimes will be sentenced up to eight years of making restitution to their victims, if they confess the truth (otherwise they will face an automatic twenty years of hard prison). Untold thousands of men and women who bore arms listen to our radio broadcasts and read our books and Bibles hoping for the day when they would be free to follow their conscience and serve the Lord. Please pray their hopes and dreams may now become reality. The future of this nation will depend on those who have clean hearts and who will speak the truth without fear or favor of man.
Many congregations, pastors and Christian leaders in predominantly rural areas who were severely persecuted will also have unprecedented freedom and liberty. Pray that this opportunity will be used wisely. People living in war-torn areas…where churches were destroyed, Christian meetings and events were prohibited, Bibles restricted, will now be able to congregate without fear. Pray that Bibles will be available for all who desire one and the flurry of unrestricted Christian meetings will be pleasing to the Lord. In other areas, particularly ethnic Indian reserves and along the borders, serious persecution is still going on along with increasing revival.
Some of our radio ministry is in transition. We are closing some stations that existed under special conditions that favored us during the war. Please pray for wisdom as we cooperate with new stations and will be licensed under the Peace Accord. Pray that we will be able to take advantage of the new opportunities that we have been asked to participate in. The new stations have the potential to be very powerful and to also cover urban areas we have not been able to adequately reach up until now.
We will continue our legal short wave, AM, FM, and Internet broadcasts as long as we have the funds and resources to pay the expenses.
Damascus Gold Medallion
The Colombian Army recently changed their entire doctrine or code of conduct that governs every person and every unit in order to adapt to the new period of post conflict. The new doctrine is named “Damascus” inspired by the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. I was recently awarded a special Damascus Gold Medallion for our successful work leading to the conversion of many. We continue to receive many testimonies from soldiers and police whose lives have been transformed and who are now involved in successful ministry. Praise the Lord!
The Colombian staff has been diligently doing what we have done for decades…comforting, encouraging and helping Colombians turn from their own wisdom to the wisdom of God and His Word. Many are soul-searching here in Colombia. A strong thread running through is the question of being willing to forgive the individual guerrillas versus forgiving the FARC as an organization that desires to disarm and become a “peaceful” political movement.
The population voted down the Colombian Peace Treaty on October 2nd by 50.2%. The bilateral cease fire remains in place and the guerrillas went on record saying they desire to continue negotiations and will not resort to weapons or violence ever again. Even so, uncertainty reigns.
There were many reasons behind the “no” vote and the nation is polarized. Obviously, there are many on both sides unable or unwilling to forgive and forget. The polling was way off and the tipping point seems to be government negotiators insisting on embedding several paragraphs of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) agenda in the midst of the 276-page Peace Treaty that was destined to become part of the Constitution if approved by the people. They failed to realize over half of the nation took this as a sneaky assault on traditional family and the sanctity of marriage.
A few weeks ago there were massive protests by over a million people against an aggressive and intolerant LGBT agenda that was being imposed on the schools by the lesbian Minister of Education. The President and the Minister were forced to back off and apologize. However, the President turned around and put the same Minister of Education in charge of marshaling a “yes” vote on the Peace Treaty, effectively sealing its fate. To top everything else off, Hurricane Matthew swept the north coast of Colombia with its tail on Election Day causing many people to stay home and not vote in an area that would have predominantly voted “yes”.
Thank you for your support and for standing with us in prayer as we continue with the Bible distributions and ministering to others during this tumultuous time in history.
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