By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (ANS – January 24, 2017) — An American missionary has received an award for his decades of work ministering to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or the FARC, whose 50-year fight against the government had been the world’s longest continuous war when it ended in a peace agreement last August.
According to World Watch Monitor (https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/), the missionary, Russell Stendal, has been in Colombia for over half a century, having first arrived with his parents – also missionaries to the indigenous people there; it was this which later helped him build relationships with the rebels.
Stendal has been kidnapped by the FARC and by other rebel groups, but he launched his Bogota-based ministry, Colombia for Christ, with his captors in mind. His audacious vision: that all of the FARC can learn about Christianity and that, if embraced, it will change guerrillas’ hearts and minds.
World Watch Monitor says that Stendal was honored by a group called First Step Forum in Bogota on Sunday, January 22, 2017, with the Shahbaz Bhatti Freedom Award, named after Pakistan’s first Christian Cabinet Minister, murdered almost five years ago for his criticism of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and his defense of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman still on death row for “blasphemy.”
In his speech, First Step Forum’s Finnish founder, Johan Candelin, said Stendal deserved the award for his “extraordinary peace work for 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 Stendal’s work in a unique way.”
Previous recipients of the award include Pope Francis, Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Dr. Hany Hanna in Egypt and Bishop Malkhaz Songulashvili in Georgia.
Candelin told World Watch Monitor that Stendal (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.” Stendal, with his daughter Alethia, has written a book, “The Hidden Agenda: An Extraordinary True Story Behind Colombia’s Peace Negotiations with the FARC,” published by Aneko Press in 2014.
Colombia is number 50 on Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian. The biggest challenge Christians face in the country, according to Open Doors, relates to organized crime.
To read the full story, please go to: https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2015/02/3735564?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=US+missionary+receives+award+for++changing+hearts++among+Colombia+s+FARC&utm_campaign=US+missionary+receives+award+for++changing+hearts++among+Colombia+s+FARC.
Photo captions: 1) Russell Stendal. 2) Russell Stendal, right, meets with FARC negotiators Yuri Camargo, left; and Noel Pérez, center. (World Watch Monitor). 3) Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos, left, shakes hands with FARC rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, right, as Cuba’s President Raul Castro looks on after the signing of a historic ceasefire deal between the Colombian government and FARC rebels in Havana, Cuba. (Photo: Enrique de la Osa, Reuters). 4) Dan Wooding hosting his “Front Page Radio” show at KWVE in Santa Ana, California.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 76, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria, West Africa, of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, who then worked with the Sudan Interior Mission, now known as SIM. He now lives in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for some 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder/president of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of some 45 books. He has a weekly radio show, Front Page Radio, on the KWVE Radio Network (www.kwve.com), and two TV shows, Windows on the World (with Dr. Garry Ansdell), and Inside Hollywood with Dan Wooding, which are both carried on the Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network (http://hsbn.tv).
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