EXCERPT FROM ALETHIA'S UPCOMING BOOK:
In the past, there have been lots of chances of turning back, only dad never did. When I was 11 years old the missionary school in Bogota where I attended was suddenly swarming with missionary kids fleeing the violence of the eastern planes. Ray Rising had been kidnapped causing more than 300 missionaries to evacuate their base in Lomalinda. The nearby town of Puerto Lleras had been bombed and lay in ruins. Churches were destroyed. So many pastors were killed in this part of Colombia that it quickly became the country with the most martyred pastors in the world according to VOM statistics.
It was under these intense circumstances that my dad bought three of the missionary homes that were left behind and decided to move our little family out there. The threat of guerrillas, paramilitaries or soldiers visiting or ransacking our houses was constant. I still remember one remarkable dark night. The power had gone out. In a war zone, a power outage meant that somebody had bombed an electricity tower. That dark windy night, we lit a candle and sat around our old wooden table. The neighbor came to tell dad of all the terrible things that were happening in the area, giving him good reasons as to why we should leave. My dad pondered for a moment. Then he looked at the candle with determination in his eyes and said, “There is still a small light that burns here, left from years and years of missionary work ever since my dad and Uncle Cam arrived. I am not going to let that light go out.”
So we stayed. And miraculously, we were given our very first radio station. Many more came after that. Years later, the reports we heard from people that had suffered a kidnapping were astounding. All of them said the radio station was the only beacon of light they had during their long years of captivity.
Thank you for your prayers and for keeping the beacon of light shining in Colombia.
Russell and I, along with our thirteen-year-old granddaughter Gabriella, recently traveled to Nigeria to attend conferences on women’s religious liberty and freedom. We were very impressed with the Christian African leaders we met.
In Colombia, the security in rural areas has degenerated, particularly in areas known for drug growing and trafficking. Nigeria is experiencing an increase of Christian persecution and very difficult conditions for women and girls.
The good news is the number of Christians is expanding rapidly in both Colombia and Nigeria. In many African countries like Nigeria, English is the official language so we could communicate with everyone at the conference. We even used English books and Bibles that we produced. Our English radio station called Jubilee Radio transmits over the Internet and can be heard all over the world, including Africa. This station is designed to evangelize and encourage those who speak English as a second language.
The most urgent prayer need I have similar to most Christian women living in dangerous areas, is for me not to live in a constant state of worry and insecurity because this will affect my ministry. It is very intense for me because the ministry
Transporting this Amount of Bibles per Week for 100 Weeks
In order to reach our goal of one million Bibles for Venezuela we would have to transport this many Bibles per week for the next 100 weeks. Then, only 1 Venezuelan in 30 would have a Bible. However, it would be enough to greatly encourage all the churches and to give Bibles to most of the key decision makers in the country.
The situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate. In the midst of the upheaval we are engaged in distributing a container load of beautiful study Bibles to besieged pastors and leaders. There are many places where the border between Colombia and Venezuela has been closed and we have to be very creative in order to accomplish our task.
Last week, several of our co-workers were arrested and accused of taking humanitarian aid across the border, which unbelievably has been criminalized.
After several hours in a Venezuelan jail and after some intense prayer they were miraculously released and allowed to continue on their way with the precious Bibles.
God has opened many doors for us to have excellent contacts on both sides of what some have been calling the most dangerous border on the planet. In one key location, the person running the Bible operation on the Venezuela side has been a friend for thirty-five years and the person coordinating on the Colombia side has been tied to our family for close to forty-five years. Believers from indigenous tribes who go back and forth across the border as part of their heritage are also helping with this endeavor.
We have been privileged to obtain transmitter locations along with the necessary permission to beam the gospel into some of the most difficult places. Right now we are engaged in the development of four new sites, as resources are available and future possibilities are enormous. There are a number of failing or defunct radio stations on both sides of the border that associates of ours would like our help to restore and operate. Our programming, of course, is ideal for the present crisis and over the years we have developed thousands of great radio programs that can be used over and over again. We will continue to move forward as God supplies.
Due to a number of delicate factors, I am not at liberty to share many details regarding some of these ongoing projects, but would like to request prayer for all of our associates and team members who are risking their lives to go forward with the initiatives that God has placed on their hearts.
Right now it is hard to imagine what will happen next in Venezuela and how Colombia will be affected. There are already a couple million displaced persons. I think the situation will get worse before it improves. The short to medium term prospects are dire. We do know from experience, however, when extreme difficulties set in, people who are under pressure can become very open to the gospel (provided there is a clear witness) and those who are already Christians can mature in Christ much faster than under normal circumstances, if they are fed a clear gospel message.
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:
Never miss a prayer alert, click on the button below to join our email list.