Colombian Hostage Finds God in Captivity

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Few people have escaped from Colombia's notorious FARC terrorists, but American Marc Gonsalves is one of the exceptions.

He and two co-workers were held captive in the jungle for nearly six years.

In Feb. 2003, a plane carrying American civilian contractors over the jungles of Colombia experienced engine failure. Gonsalves, then an intelligence analyst, cried out to God as the plane plummets to the ground.

"I was in a place before my captivity where I was a Christian, but I was.... not really there," he recalled. "I wasn't praying anymore. I wasn't going to church and I still believed in God... but I was still lost and this brought me back to Him immediately."

Gonsalves said God gave him a second chance.

A Turn of Events

He survived the plane crash, but was taken captive by Colombia's FARC guerrillas--members of the armed revolutionary forces of Colombia. Also kidnapped were his colleagues--Americans Tom Howes and Keith Stansell.

Their ordeal is detailed in the new book, Out of Captivity.

"For me the worst thing was being away from my family," Gonsalves said. "One of my greatest fears was to not be able to see my kids again."

Those concerns intensified for him about three years into his captivity. While the other Americans continued to receive messages from their loved ones, Gonsalves says his wife Shane had grown silent.

"That was difficult," he said. "I could put myself in her position and I could see how she didn't know if I was dead or alive."

"I had been gone for so many years already," he added. "And she was still here trying to raise three kids by herself."

Feeling God's Presence

Gonsalves said he didn't expect to survive captivity in the jungle until he felt God's presence in the midst of his suffering. It happened one night when he was locked in a 6x6 box as Colombian military jets began dropping bombs on the enemy camp.

"I was just shaking, physically shaking, and I just called out to God to protect us," he said. "The next morning I woke up and I felt different. I felt like He saved me again--saved my physical life, and that's when I believed that we were going to live through that."

After that experience, Gonsalves had a desire to read God's word.

"I always had access to a Bible before and I never picked it up to read it," he said. "I was just so curious, so hungry to know more."

The Bible was given to him by a Colombian hostage.

He says he often discussed the Bible and his faith with fellow hostage Ingrid Betancourt--the french Colombian who was kidnapped while running for president of Colombia in 2002. Gonsalves said he saw in her a woman of faith who was generous and humane.

"She and I would be able to sit together and talk about the Bible and we would have nice, enjoyable discussions," he said. "I didn't have anybody else to do that with and neither did she."

Enjoying Freedom

Gonsalves and 14 other hostages, including Howes, Stansell and Bentancourt were rescued on July 2, 2008. Their Farc captors had been tricked into handing them over to Colombian commandos posing as aid workers.

They made it home safely.

Today, Gonsalves fine tunes his limited edition Road King motorcycle--a gift from the Harley Davison company. He's looking forward to a cross country freedom ride with former fellow hostages Howes and Stansell.

He said he doesn't quite know what God's plan is for his future, but he does know he was transformed by his Colombia hostage experience.

"I was in a situation where I was dead spiritually, and I was facing death physically for many years and now I feel alive spiritually," Gonsalves said.

"If I had to lose five and a years of my life here on earth to know God, well I'm thankful that it happened that way."

*Originally aired March 13, 2009.

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CBN News
Gary Lane

Gary Lane

CBN News International Correspondent

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