2016 started off with some very long awaited good news!
Gilber, my faithful guide of ten years, who was imprisoned for over a year for helping me distribute Bibles and radios was released at 9:00 p.m. on December 23, 2015. His brother, Juan, kept one of our radio stations on the air which was on the top of a 4,000 meter high peak. Although the family received repeated death threats, Juan did not waver while his brother was in prison. After almost an entire year of battling intensely for Gilber's release from prison, we were blessed to have the two brothers, their wives and children celebrate at our house on December 24th.
After months of battling on the legal front for the release of the men from prison, our lawyer was able to petition for their release based on a legal technicality because the terms had expired without them having a decent trial. We were invited to a meeting in Sumapaz on January 3, 2016 to celebrate the freedom of all the men released with Gilber. The meeting went extremely well. I was able to meet with the men as well as their families and much of the community. This is the first time anyone can remember that a missionary like me was allowed to have a town meeting and talk about the LORD.
The Sumapaz Syndicate is modeled on the Bolshevek Revolution and began in 1915. This legal Syndicate (set up like a trade union) controls an area about 250 miles by 80 miles which is also the world's largest Alpine Meadow or Paramo as it is called here (all or most of it above 11,000 feet). The Syndicate has virtual control over the lives of all the people and no church buildings or religious meetings of any kind have been permitted for the last hundred years (not even Roman Catholic churches or masses).
The Syndicate is closely associated with the National University (a hotbed of Communism) and with similar institutions all over the world. The Syndicate considers itself the last true holder of the torch of International Communism since the demise of the Soviet Union. According to them, places like China and Cuba are pansies and not real communists. We have crisscrossed radio coverage into this area (for close to ten years) and everyone there knows exactly what I stand for. The fact that we were able to have such a successful meeting after the release of the men, gives the Lord a real foot in the door for the Gospel.
The Devil, however, was not very happy. On the way home the steering wheel coupling came off and we completely lost control of the steering on our old 1988 Toyota that has approximately 1,100,000 kilometers on it. Fortunately, this happened after we were out of the dangerous mountains and were on an expressway entering Bogota. There was a motorcycle accident on the road that forced me to slow down and then all of a sudden the steering wheel started freewheeling (completely disengaged). I was able to brake and our vehicle came to a stop on the shoulder just as if I had planned to stop there. If this would have happened up in the mountains on a hairpin turn we would have likely gone over the side. Or if it would have happened a few seconds earlier we would have hit someone or something at the scene of the motorcycle accident. Also, right when it happened there was a lull in the heavy traffic leaving room all around us as we veered through three lanes and onto the shoulder. Surely the Lord had His angels protect us. We are very thankful for this especially as there were children inside the vehicle.
We continue to see the Lord's hand in every detail, in His perfect timing and in His infinite provision to do what has to be done each day at a time. Please keep praying for Gilber, Juan and their families as well as the other men and their families that they would continue to see the hand of the Lord in their lives and continue to stand for Him in this difficult area.
We are sure that in 2016 we are going to see the LORD move in ways beyond our wildest imaginations.
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