Report by Albert Luepnitz
Confidential and Extremely Sensitive: Please Do Not Post on the Web or Social Media
I traveled five times to Cuba, with Russell Stendal, where he ministered to the highest levels of Colombian leadership as they negotiate peace between the Colombian government and the rebels. I've seen God work miraculous healings as I've prayed for Colombian guerrillas and their Cuban hosts.
Russell felt the Lord tell him to buy a boat and return to Cuba for visits to mentor the guerrillas and answer their questions along with whatever other ministry God sends. I thought he'd made a mistake. I questioned whether he'd really heard from the Holy Spirit. Why would God tell a missionary to invest in something as seemingly extravagant as a boat? Russell agreed it wasn't something he normally would be inclined to do. He's an aircraft pilot, not a mariner.
In the past, FARC and Cuban leadership did not feel secure in hotel rooms and discretion was imperative. During our trips to Cuba, I sensed they wouldn't fully share their hearts for fear that our discussions would be compromised.
Last spring, a friend of Russell's invited him to a breakfast meeting in Indiana with three other Christian businessmen he'd never met before. He showed the men a beautiful letter from a lead guerrilla that said the guerrillas had come to believe in God, and how they didn't deserve His grace. The letter shared how God not only touched their hearts, but healed them physically. They expressed their desire to be changed and approved by God.
The businessmen asked Russell a question, “How should we respond to this letter?” Russell told them the ministry did not have the money to keep renting rooms in Havana. In Cuba, a foreigner cannot buy a house. For the cost of a small house, Russell could buy a boat.
The next day the men lent him the money interest-free to move forward with the purchase of a nine-year-old vessel he named The Dawn Treader after C.S. Lewis' book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Russell sailed the boat from Florida to Cuba.
Meanwhile, the peace talks were in crisis due to serious factors including stress, fatigue, lack of confidence and failure or unwillingness to forgive. The consequences impacted all of Colombia. Russell asked me to accompany him on a December 2015 visit to Cuba. For the first time, I'd be staying on the boat.
The boat has seating areas inside, which offers privacy for prayer and ministry. Outside seating offers a place to deepen friendships. The authorities assigned the vessel to moor by a grove of trees that shade tables and chairs. I saw right away how this boat was an ideal setting for ministry.
During the week, I witnessed God use the boat to bring hope, healing and salvation to many precious souls. We discussed their salvation and well-being and prayed over their needs. On the boat's outside seating area, a FARC leader met his one-time militant counterpart, who's now a prominent Christian in Colombia. This man once was a leader in the M-19, a now-demobilized Colombian guerrilla group, and later a senator before launching his career as an author promoting Christian values. His wife, also a strong Christian, is the lead Colombian Senator on the Peace Commission. I prayed for rebel leaders and their wives in the privacy of the galley. I recognize how privacy makes a huge difference in the depth of ministry. The leaders and negotiators who came by for prayer and fellowship were obviously more comfortable in discussing their personal lives and salvation.
What I'd not expected was that the boat was a bridge that connected us with top society in Cuba as well as people in the harbor. In a yacht next to our boat, I prayed for a former ambassador to Cuba who suffered from arthritis that twisted her fingers. I watched her hands straighten as she received a miraculous healing. She told me she now wants to help us minister in Cuba.
Everybody who came to see us, opened up about things they'd not shared with us before. People loved to gather with us on the boat deck, where we visited until late at night. A guerrilla leader told me that what impacted him most about Russell and I was our example even more than our words. He told me that one of his fellow leaders had just returned from traveling around Colombia asking people to forgive them for atrocities they had participated in.
We're the messengers of the Lord! They've received us and God's message, which is the seed. The seed's development is a process that continues to grow, blossom and bear fruit in the Kingdom of God. When these leaders receive us, they authorize God to work in their lives. Now, three years of ministry on this beachhead, the fruit of the Holy Spirit is being multiplied with results that may impact Colombia and the entire region for generations to come.
I strongly recommend that we support Russell as he uses this boat as a highly effective ministry tool in an extremely important location. Your prayers for all of us are greatly appreciated.
“And to the angel of the congregation in Philadelphia write: These things, saith he that is Holy and True, he who has the key of David, who opens and no one shuts and shuts and no one opens; I know thy works; behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no one can shut it.”
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