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.
If you would like to support the projects and ministry, please contact us.
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!
Colombia is in an election year. Congressional elections are fast approaching in mid-March and Presidential elections in May.
There are many political parties and a myriad of candidates. One thing, however, is clear to me and to many others that each year there are consistently more genuine followers of Jesus Christ in this nation and therefore Christians will be an even greater factor than they were four years ago. The same could soon be true for North America.
Upon our return from speaking at churches and conventions in Canada and the United States, we are aware of how divided society has become even as economic prosperity increases. Yes, there is still a godly remnant maybe even larger than what we can perceive at first glance, but some churches that used to be thriving now appear to be on the verge of dying out. In Canada, someone recently shared with me, evangelical congregations average only two new converts per year, however there is a higher mortality rate.
Here in Colombia, our ministry has been most successful in the war zones and among the vast numbers of displaced persons (over eight million at last count due to the surge coming in from devastated Venezuela). It is when people are down and out or in the midst of great danger or despair that they are more likely to turn to the Lord (as long as there is a viable witness with a clean word).
What will it take to see a massive revival in North America?
Even though the economy is surging there are huge numbers of people overflowing with anger, hate, bitterness, and despair. I can remember back to 1967-68 when the hippies were protesting the Vietnam War, the counterculture was caught up in LSD, and the nation was seriously divided. This was when revival broke out and the Jesus People Movement began with the foundation of countless ministries emerging, followed by the Six-Day War in Israel. This is what we saw in the natural realm. Now, fifty years later we seem to have come full circle. Not only are the secular university campuses in terrible condition, but drug overdose has become the number one cause of death among those under fifty. All this is happening while the political underpinnings of America are in unprecedented upheaval that could tear society apart.
I believe that now is when an end time revival may be possible. Even though the North American Church has been in the midst of decline (losing many young people) this may be about to change. North American Christians have sacrificially financed missionary endeavors (such as ours) overseas that have been extremely successful in countries like Colombia and now we are extending into places like Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, and Africa.
Many Christians feel frustrated and unable to witness effectively because they think that they are unable to win intellectual arguments with those who seem to hate God. We are, however, also called to love our enemies and to overcome evil with good. Then God can short circuit their intellectual defense and go straight to the heart.
We would have never been able to deploy enough Bibles, radios, literature, and other materials to have made such a solid impact on this nation, if it were not for donors in North America and Europe. God takes all these things into account.
I believe that 2017-18 may go down in history as being even more spiritually significant than 1967-68. Be encouraged.
January 2018 marked the 54th anniversary of the ministry of our family here in Colombia.
I was eight years old at the time and can still vividly remember the night flight from Miami to Bogotá in a four-engine piston DC-6 over the moonlit Caribbean. At dawn we reached the north coast of Colombia and the vast Sierra Nevada snow-covered mountains were on our left where my father would spend the next fifty years of his life working with the Kogi Indians. My mother and sister continue his work providing education for many kids.
Since 1964, I estimate that the number of evangelical Christians in Colombia has expanded from less than one half of one percent of the population to over twenty-five percent and rising. Revival in Colombia is affecting Latin America. The Lord has granted us a role with extensive radio coverage on AM, FM, Shortwave and Internet. This past year we have also focused on getting desperately needed Bibles into poverty-stricken Venezuela and similar places. Unlike North America, Latin America has not had much exposure to the word of God. Prior to WWII almost no Bible distribution took place. We have carefully developed excellent study Bibles that we can print at a very reasonable cost.
Distributing the Full Counsel of God's Word
There are many reasons why we prefer to use the entire Bible. All of the sixty-six inspired books that make up the Bible are there for a reason and it can be dangerous to ignore any of them. People need to be able to read and study the Genesis account and the complete story of how God has worked and interacted with mankind over the six thousand years or so since the fall. The complete Bible is necessary in order to be able to defend against cults and false doctrine. I also believe that it is very important for all of us to be aware of the testimonies of men like Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Israel and Moses and Joshua and David and so on. Those who only know the New Testament seem to have trouble understanding the prophetic importance that God has placed upon the Jews and the nation of Israel. Those who have an understanding of the Old Covenant and all the struggles related to it are in a better position to appreciate the grace of God under the New Covenant. In many poor places, children are being taught to read by using the Bible as their primer.
In the Book of Genesis, only three men are recorded as responding favorably to God in the first two thousand or so years of human history (Abel, Enoch and Noah). God´s friendship with Abraham, whose faith is held up as an example for all of us, proved to be an important turning point. Jesus Christ, the promised seed of Abraham and heir to all the promises of God, is referred to in messianic Psalms and in prophecy throughout the Old Testament. God has a lot of patience with the fallen human race and has taken many centuries to bring His great plan of redemption to fruition. Now is harvest time.
Bibles without Borders
We are thrilled to report that many have come to Jesus Christ here in Colombia, Ecuador, Cuba and Venezuela over the past year. There are also untold tens of thousands who we are helping to spiritually nourish with literature and Bibles as we preach and teach through each chapter on the radio. Thousands of new leaders are emerging and are on their way to maturity in Christ.
Your donation right now will help us with an unprecedented distribution of Bibles in 2018 that will directly impact Venezuela, Cuba and the Colombian police force.
Thank you so much for supporting and investing in this vital ministry over the years.
Report from Colombia by
Russell and Marina Stendal
We would like to give a special thanks to all of our prayer partners and supporters. 2017 has been a very special year. We see the Peace Treaty being implemented here in Colombia as a giant opportunity for the gospel and all of you have helped us follow up on the marvelous opportunities that God is providing. We all know that lasting peace is only possible as hearts are surrendered to the Prince of Peace.
The Peace Treaty has been yielding some unexpected dividends for ministry into previously inaccessible areas. I recently traveled with a Naza Indian guide back into the high mountains of the central ridge of the Andes. We went up into the high Páramo (alpine meadows above the timberline) to the highest mountain on one of the reserves. Here nestled into a fertile vale about two thirds of the way up the massive mountain we arrived at a little church that had been founded back in 1960.
The building was located two hours by trail from the nearest town so that drunken villagers celebrating frequent pagan festivals could not easily burn it down on a whim. We were greeted by the lead elder, named Macedonio (Macedonian), and another elder, named Evangelist. They were my age, early 60´s, and were born to Christian parents. The entire area had suffered almost uninterrupted persecution of every imaginable source for over eighty years. Direct access into this area was still virtually impossible, as we would have to pass through innumerable drug growing areas filled with hostile people.
The Lord, however, opened the way for us when key leaders of the neighboring Guambiano tribe had been converted; including the Vice-Governor and the Mayor of the Guambiano Capital, called Silvia. This relationship, coupled with the recent surrender of the guerrillas that had been operating in the area, gave us a back door into this strategic spot (and many others). We quickly installed a medium power FM radio station and studio into a convenient side room of the little church. The congregation had been praying for this for many years (and this was the second such station I had installed in two weeks).
Looking up the vast mountain, I inquired about going up as far as possible in order to position a transmitter that could reach the horde of drug growers and mafia all along the winding valleys below. The church was at nine thousand feet, too high for drug growing, and the Christian Naza were able to eke out a living with small vegetable gardens and a few milk cows while their unconverted counterparts below make ten times more money farming marijuana, cocaine and heroine along with all the associated violence, unrest and curse. After a brisk half hour hike up the side of the mountain, we came to the last house that had electrical power. The owner, also about my age, came out smiling and informed me that his name was Biblical. I replied, “That is nice, but exactly what is your name?” After quite a bit of confusion, I finally realized that his name was exactly what he had said, “Biblical”.
We came back a few days later with our electrical crew and fixed up the power lines to Biblical´s house so that we had two-phase (220 volt) current. In the meantime, Biblical and his friends had built a little mud-walled transmitter shed where we are planning to install a major transmitter with special pre-evangelistic and evangelistic programming aimed at the drug growers, gangs, kidnappers, mafia and other difficult elements down below. The powerful people in the military and government have now realized the only way to bring peace to these difficult rural areas is with the gospel.
Pray that we will continue to have the resources and equipment to install as many transmitters as necessary throughout all the areas where God has carefully raised up so many dedicated believers in the midst of such hardship and danger.
Bible without Borders
Our Bibles Without Borders project continues and we are in the midst of publishing several editions (some specially ear marked for Venezuela). These new Bibles will all have complete dictionaries and other amenities. In addition to the small compact Bibles we prepared to give out to soldiers and combatants, we are now developing beautiful study Bibles for emerging Christian leaders at a very reasonable cost. There is a tremendous move of God going on in Venezuela in the midst of great turmoil and poverty. Many people are turning to the Lord who cannot even obtain basic food or toilet paper and there are virtually no Bibles. We are praying that the Lord will provide another million Bibles to stoke the fire of revival in all of the difficult places here in Colombia and surrounding countries along with the supporting literature that we have been developing to prevent emerging leaders and new Christians from getting picked off by the cults.
Here in Bogotá, the Lord has been opening doors among the National Police. Russ Jr. plays soccer on Saturdays with a select group and it turned out that one of his teammates is a high-ranking Police General along with a number of key individuals. Then several retired Generals were healed after Albert prayed for them. We recently had meetings with up to five active duty Police Generals who have come to the Lord and they have been inviting us to come and minister and pray for the men and women under them. At the last meeting, Albert and I were both given a special gold medallion award from the General and high command of an elite unit that fights kidnapping and extortion for our spiritual work and encouragement.
We would like to do a special Bible edition for the more than 220,000 members of the police force with their motto on it (God and Country). There is a Christian police officers association that has about 500 members. In the Colombian Army there are tens of thousands of believers, but it has been much slower going with the police. However, we believe that this is about to change. It would be great if we could provide each member of the police with their own special Bible.
If you are interested in purchasing Bibles for the Colombian Police or for Bibles to be distributed in Venezuela, please contact our office.
Thank you once again for all your prayers and support in 2017.
An Interview with Russell Stendal Jr.
I was privileged to grow up on the mission field in Colombia. I have a long heritage of ministry with my grandparents serving the Kogi Indians for over 50 years in the hills of Colombia.
Since my father is an American and mother is a Colombian, together they've had a profound ministry to the FARC guerillas, Colombian government, paramilitary and civilians throughout the country of Colombia for over 30 years. I grew up in this atmosphere seeing first hand that God is real and working through my family.
During my childhood I enjoyed working alongside my dad and seeing the Lord at work. Most of our time together would be spent on the road going wherever the Lord guided in the United States, Canada and of course, Colombia. I was able to see my dad speak in many different church denominations and with people from various backgrounds. It was amazing how God's love and message has no barriers.
As a young boy, I knew I had to personally accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior and welcome Him into my life. I was homeschooled until 4th grade and I had many neighborhood friends. I transferred to a missionary school, but the friends I enjoyed the most were from my neighborhood. Once I turned 14, my friends started making poor choices including drugs and smoking. It was then that I knew I had to make a choice for my life.
I chose to withdraw from the bad influence of my friends and turned towards video games to distract me. I lived with the reality of my dad being gone on the mission field much of my childhood and struggled with missing him. I am grateful we have a close family and I had my two older sisters Lisa and Alethia and my brother-in-law, Sammy who looked after Dylan and me. However, I also felt the weight of the responsibility to take care of my younger brother Dylan when my parents were gone weeks at a time. It was then that I knew I couldn't do it on my own. I understood that the Lord called my parents to do this work. I didn't feel hurt, but it was challenging for me. Communication was difficult when my parents were traveling to remote areas and I struggled with feeling fearful not knowing when they would return. During this time, I realized the need to trust in the Lord and give Him my life, but I still didn't allow Him to become Lord of my whole life.
My brother-in-law Sammy saw how I spent my time playing video games. He began waking me up at 5:00 a.m. and training me to play soccer. We trained every day and I loved it. My passion for soccer grew during middle school and high school. I played on a city tournament team and was determined to become a professional soccer player.
My parents poured into my life by consistently sharing Christ and Bible stories. I felt comfortable asking my dad questions and he did his best to answer, but most of the time his answer was to read the Bible, discover for myself and then come back and ask any further questions. My mom and dad always prioritized us when they were home, even though they couldn't be there all the time, this made it easier when they were away because I knew they cared.
After graduating high school, I struggled figuring out my future dreams and what I was going to do. I always thought I could use soccer to do ministry around the world, but I didn't know how and/or if it was the Lord's leading. There was always a struggle between what I could do, what I should do and what the Lord wanted me to do.
Right after high school, my dad encouraged me and sent me to Canada to get my pilot's license. I thought I wouldn't like aviation, but I realized later that it was a blessing and I love it now. Since 2012, every year I've gone to the United States to update my credentials.
In 2011, when we filmed our movie, La Montaña, I felt I was finally useful in what God was doing in Colombia. The Lord used the movie for something totally different than I thought. The movie opened doors for us to connect with some indigenous groups we didn't have connection with before. We went throughout Colombia setting up “mini movie theatres” with chairs, surround sound and popcorn, giving out Bibles at the end. Many of these people living in remote jungle areas of Colombia have never seen a movie before.
I was touched by the way the Lord used La Montaña and stirred the hearts of the people as they watched it. Throughout my life, I was a witness of what the Lord was doing in both my grandparents' and my parents' lives.
I felt brokenness in my heart with stories of missionary kids going the opposite way instead of continuing in the ministry their parent's set before them. I didn't want to fall into that. Even if it's a different path, I wanted to continue building off of my parent's path.
My dad was a young boy when his parents arrived in Colombia and were missionaries reaching out to the people in the Kogi villages, which later opened the doors for my dad's ministry to the FARC guerillas. Therefore, I wondered what the Lord wanted me to do as I followed in the footsteps of the ministry with my parents.
Around 2012, I wanted to start working for the ministry, but it wasn't until my dad was arrested in 2015 that I had a wakeup call to take responsibility in what the Lord was calling me to do and allow Him to clean up anything wrong in my life. I struggled to find my identity in the activities I liked to do and used those things to escape. I wanted to start allowing the Lord to clean my heart. As I have allowed Him to bring those things to light, I am growing and finding my identity in Christ.
Since then it's been an amazing journey and God is continuing to do wonderful things in Colombia, Cuba and expanding the ministry into Venezuela.
Currently, in October 2017, I am in the United States on a speaking tour. I am excited to continue growing in the Lord and letting Him use my life for His glory.
Thank you for your prayers and support, please join us in prayer for continued provision of Bibles for Venezuela, the ongoing ministry and radio broadcasting in Colombia.
The Power of Prayer Begins at Age 4
At age four, I began to pray that God would send my parents and our entire family to South America as missionaries after seeing a picture book of the horrible conditions facing the Indians living in the Andes mountains without the Gospel. Today, at age 61, I continue to pray for the same Indians as God has brought many efforts together into a massive revival of excellent quality.
The Power of Prayer on Trial in Court
We had been arrested in mid February 2015 and falsely charged with rebellion and terrorism as our enemies made an all out attempt to keep me out of the eventually successful Colombian Peace Process. Their evil scheme should have worked because Colombia has no bail and it takes two or three years for serious charges like this to come to trial. They thought that even though their false witnesses might not stand up in court that it would take years to find this out and in the meantime, I and the others would be held in prison.
The legal battle was fierce and many people continued to faithfully pray. At risk were dozens of Christian radio stations backed by high-ranking Generals who saw that the only way to pacify rural Colombia is with the Gospel. The twenty men helped me in some way to pass out large numbers of Bibles and Galcom solar radios fix-tuned to our frequencies in areas controlled by the guerrillas. All of them were offered leniency from the government prosecutor if they would admit to being guerrillas and testify that I was their leader. None of them flinched. All of them spent a year in prison without any proper charges being filed and our lawyers got them out with a writ of habeas corpus, yet the case against us continued.
I was only held for 24 hours and the lower court judge dismissed the charges, but the prosecutor appealed to a higher court and the legal process continued against us for the past two and a half years even after it was proven that all the witnesses were false.
The Power of Prayer Produces Victories in 2017
On September 4, 2017 a judge in Colombia precluded the legal case against me and twenty others (some of whom are of Indian background).
The charges against us included our radio stations and other aspects of ministry. I was also charged with running drug traffic and coordinating the drug routes and drug monies not only for the guerrillas, but also for the right wing paramilitary. During the past two and a half years our support in the United States took a huge hit, but our support from Canada and Europe actually increased.
Many international ministries, including Mission´s Fest sent documents and signed letters on our behalf to be presented in court. The Human Rights Commission of the Colombian Senate also got involved and I was given international recognition. This eventually forced the September 4th hearing and the preclusion means that all of us have been completely exonerated and that most likely the Colombian government will have to compensate us financially (starting with the quarter million dollars or so that we had to spend on legal expenses).
Over the past couple of weeks significant answers to prayer have encouraged all of us. Hurricane Irma went directly over our boat in Cuba and the boat and crew came out of the hurricane safe while virtually everything else was damaged or destroyed. The hurricane then continued into Florida and all of our family, friends, supporters and ministry associates came through the hurricane unscathed. We are asking for continued prayer as more hurricanes are on the horizon (this turned out to be an extremely active hurricane year and the hurricane season continues until December 1st).
This story continues in that successful missionary endeavors in Colombia have not only resulted in a growing vibrant, thriving church, but native missionaries are now going out of Colombia to surrounding areas such as needy Venezuela and around the world.
We are blessed to have friends who have
continued to stand and pray with us.
Thank you for your continued support and prayers.
- Russell and Marina Stendal
But You Care, Don’t You? - A Chapter on Russell Stendal from Douglas Feavel's Book "Uncommon Character"
Never miss a prayer alert, click on the button below to join our email list.