Gospel Captures Hearts in the 'Kidnapping Capital'

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COLOMBIA -- Colombia's guerrilla war began in the 1960s, inspired by Marxist ideology and fueled by kidnappings and illegal drug trafficking.

But today the movement is shrinking. Many guerrillas are now tuning in to hear a message of peace, thanks to a bold offensive using radios and Bibles, instead of bombs and bullets.

In the guerilla-controlled territories of Colombia, it's too dangerous for the followers of Christ to meet together.

"The civilian population got caught up in the conflict between the guerillas and the Colombian army," Colombian Alex explained. Alex and his family live in the heart of a rebel-controlled area.

"When the army came and they couldn't find the guerillas they would come into our houses and ransack them and try to find someone to kill," he said.

In the midst of all the turmoil, Alex, who said he always believed in God, came into a relationship with Jesus Christ

"Through the radio, we started to hear a clear message of how to follow the Lord and who he is," he said.

Alex said the impact of the station has made a remarkable difference, and that's why he is involved with it.

"I know that there is a big change in attitude here because when the radio station was first put in, a lot of people were not in agreement," he explained.

"There was a lot of opposition and threats. Now most of the people are in agreement," he said.

Director of Colombia Para Cristo Russell Stendal, who was kidnapped and held captive for five months by FARC guerrillas in 1983, said the opportunity to put up this transmitter on a 13,500 foot mountain came as a result of helping some seriously wounded rebel fighters.

"And the Lord allowed us to help save their lives. One thing led to another and we got invited into this area," Stendal said. "Then little by little with the help of VOM, we were able to give backpacks with relief goods to all the children of the area and that helped quite a bit."

"Then we began to reach out to each family, giving them a solar powered radio," he continued. "And now we've been able to install this radio station right in the heart of probably one of the most hostile areas in this country."

Stendal and his team have to travel by night into the area because of all the kidnapping activity. They hide the vehicle and then go up the mountain on horseback to get to the transmitter site.

"This area is famously known for kidnappings. This is the kidnap capital of Colombia, which is the kidnap capital of the world," he said. "So a lot of the people who are coming to the Lord here are former kidnappers."

The Voice of the Martyrs Canada provided funds to greatly increase the area of coverage for the stations in Colombia and other nearby countries, including Venezuela, which is becoming more hostile to Christianity.

VOM Canada's Corey Odden said he's excited to be part of this project.

"The upgrade allows us to reach into areas that are controlled by Marxist guerrillas, which gives us a great opportunity to win them for Christ," Odden said.

From the mountains to the jungles of Colombia, the gospel is being heard on Canadian-made Galcom radios. These devices, along with Christian books, sometimes arrive by parachute.

Gabriela was one of those converted through the radio and literature ministry of Colombia Para Cristo. She now helps that same ministry connect with combatants in this dangerous war zone.

"The guerrillas and the guerrilla sympathizers come and pick up radios and Bibles and go back out there and study the Bible and listen to the radio," she said.

Both Gabriela and Alex pray that the message that changed their own lives will one day bring peace to one of Colombia's most dangerous combat zones.

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Greg Musselman, Voice of the Martyrs

Greg Musselman, Voice of the Martyrs

Special to CBNNews.com

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