An American missionary has received an award for his decades of work ministering to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Russell Stendhal first arrived with his parents to the indigenous Colombian people; it was this which later helped him build relationships with the rebels. Stendhal was kidnapped by FARC for five months in 1983, but he launched his Bogota based ministry, Colombia for Christ, with his captors in mind. His audacious vision: that all of FARC would learn about Christianity and that, if embraced, it will change guerrillas’ hearts and minds.
Stendhal was presented with First Step Forum’s Shahbaz Bhatti Freedom Award in Bogota last January. In his speech, First Step Forum’s Finnish founder, Johan Candelin, said Stendhal deserved the award for his “extraordinary peace work over 32 years”, saying that his work had led to a change of heart in many FARC leaders, and also in Colombian Army leaders: “Many have been healed as a result of prayer”, he said. “I have never seen anything like this,” he added. “God’s hand has been on Russ Stendhal’s work in a unique way.” Stendhal (known by his other name, Martin, to Spanish speakers) had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by several Colombian Army generals who said “FARC would never have signed the agreement without the hand of God”.
During the protracted peace negotiations in Havana, Cuba, the guerrillas’ lead negotiator, Ivan Marquez, identified three members of the FARC’s Havana negotiators as Christians. Asked about Stendhal, he said, “Martin is an apostle of peace whose words generate a favourable environment to advance the search for peace, who encourages us on our journey for the search for a political solution for the Colombian conflict,” One of the converted FARC leaders said of Stendhal: “Martin is a man who is very kind with deep social feeling… with a conciliatory spirit that imparts and generates confidence, not only with his words but also with his deeds.”
Source: World Watch Monitor
Bible Study: Romans 14:17-19
SEPTEMBER Praise God that Russ (“Martin”) Stendhal was prepared to live and work among the indigenous people and the guerrillas, despite capture. Pray for many more Christian peacemakers through the power of Christ.