Rescue the Captors

Table of Contents

Title Page

Rescue the Captors

The true story of a kidnapped jungle pilot,
written from within a Marxist guerrilla
camp in rural Colombia, South America.

Russell M. Stendal




Copyright © 1984, 1986, 2004, 2019

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any
means – electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or
otherwise, without written permission from the publisher.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Jubilee Bible, copyright ©
2000, 2001, 2010, 2013 by Russell M. Stendal. Used by permission
of Russell M. Stendal, Bogota, Colombia. All rights reserved.

Editors: Douglas Feavel, Sheila Wilkinson

Published by:

Ransom Press International
4918 Roosevelt St.
Hollywood, FL 33021

First edition published 1984

Paperback ISBN: 978-0-931221-23-1
eBook ISBN: 978-0-931221-24-8
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Available where books are sold




Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Stendal, Russell, 1955-Rescue the Captors.
1. Colombia—Politics and government—1974
2. Guerrillas—Colombia. 3. Kidnapping Colombia.
4. Stendal, Russell, 1955-I. Title.
F2279.S75 1984 986.1’0632 84-17826
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1



Chapter One.
Chapter Two.
Chapter Three .
Chapter Four.
Chapter Five .
Chapter Six .
Chapter Seven.
Chapter Eight.
Chapter Nine.
Chapter Ten.
Chapter Eleven.
Chapter Twelve .
Why Pigs Don’t Fly.
New Birth .
Right Be-Attitudes.
Fatal Tailspins.
Repairing the Breach.
Narrow Gate, Golden Rule .
About the Author.


Special thanks to my wife, Marina, and brother Chaddy, who risked their lives to negotiate my release; my mother and sisters who contributed so much support; my father who wouldn’t quit until I was free; and the thousands of people who prayed for me and supported my family during this most difficult time. Above all others – thanks to God who answered our prayers.


I’m not a professional writer, as evidenced by the fact I got good grades in high school, with the exception of composition. If I hadn’t been forced into such an unusual circumstance, I never would have written this book. The pressures and the setting under which I drafted the manuscript affected both its content and style. My daily performance as a captive of the guerrillas seemed to be akin to that of the fictional heroine Scheherazade in One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. It was of utmost importance to hold their attention and buy time for them to understand and accept my motives for living in Colombia before they killed me, because they thought I was someone I wasn’t.

When I edited the manuscript prior to publication, I was tempted to return to the drawing board and rewrite it. Most of it seemed to be about my most spectacular mistakes and failures as well as the subsequent lessons I learned from them. However, these very human episodes became the stories that impressed my captors and caused them to consider their failings. I could have focused on experiences that might have painted me as a big hero with a white hat, but doing so would have defeated my immediate purpose and ultimate success with the guerrillas.

You may not agree with everything I’ve written, because I’m even a little shocked as I reexamine some of what I wrote while in captivity. That is because the viewpoint of a prisoner in a guerrilla camp is different from that of someone with an ordinary life in the United States.

I’ve gone against the advice of some literary experts, and I’ve turned down several flattering offers by publishers who wanted to take my experience and commercialize it. Instead of having a ghostwriter wrap my story around a theme that would sell, I presented it exactly as I remember it happening. I trust that what is lacking in literary style is offset by sincerity and authenticity. The following story is accurate to the best of my knowledge; names, places, and dates have not been altered in any way.

Chap 1.  San Martin, Colombia August 14, 1983, 6:00 a.m.

It was a beautiful morning without a cloud in sight. My Cessna 170 Taildragger accelerated down the runway and rose swiftly into the crisp morning sky. The old plane performed noticeably better with the recent installation of a Bush Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) kit.

My Colombian friend Gilberto occupied the copilot’s seat. He had wanted to experience his first visit to the plains country – what we call llanos in Spanish. After we departed our hometown of San Martin in southeastern Colombia, Gilberto was fascinated with the beautiful hills and onrushing streams of the landscape that passed beneath the wings.

Our first stop was the town of Mapiripan on the mighty Guaviare River. We delivered a packet of mail to my brother-in-law Raul, a flight dispatcher for the local airline and the town schoolteacher. Then we began the ten-minute flight to Chaparral, our family ranch. When we arrived, we entered the ranch house to chat with my younger brother, Chaddy. He reminded me that Carlos, the town council president of neighboring Canyo Jabon, was expecting me to meet with the local businessmen and fishermen. They wanted to buy my large cold-storage room and other equipment necessary for the wholesale fishing business.

The business had become inoperative because communist guerrillas had invaded the area a year earlier. Because we were American, they singled my family and me out for their terrorism. This became obvious and personal when they opened fire on our other plane, a Cessna 182, just as my father was taking off on a mission with a sick Indian woman and other passengers onboard. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but they hit the plane in the right fuel tank and shot bullet holes in the cabin section. Dad continued his takeoff and managed to escape to San Martin by relying on the undamaged left fuel tank. We concluded that we could no longer operate the fish business because it required us to fly into that area on a scheduled basis, which would create opportunities for an easy ambush.

Forced from the fishing operation and out of the area, I moved to an apartment in Bogota, the Colombian capital. The apartment was part of the purchase arrangements for the Cessna 182 that we’d repaired and sold to pay fishing business debts.

I planned to give these business activities a low priority in order to spend as much time as possible working with my Colombian friend and partner Ricardo Trillos. He was starting a nonprofit family counseling and reconciliation ministry in Bogota. We strongly believed that family issues were the root of Colombia’s tremendous social and moral problems. The country was drifting out of control and moving toward anarchy as terrorists, mafia groups, government forces, and right-wing factions battled for control in a never-ending, many-sided, forever-escalating war. It was nearly impossible for honest businessmen to make a living or for people to find respectable employment.

My wife, Marina, was opposed to my return to Canyo Jabón. It was Sunday and she wanted me to remain at home with her and our nine-month-old daughter, Lisa. She pleaded with me earlier that morning and said she felt a premonition that some[1]thing would go wrong if I didn’t cancel the travel plans. I told her that this trip with Gilberto was my last into the area and that I’d already promised to attend the meeting.

I had hoped to reach an agreement with the local business[1]men and fishermen in order to reopen the wholesale fishing operation. This would create jobs for about 250 fishermen who lived near the river and were unemployed. Their only economic alternative was to work in the coca fields – an occupation closely tied to cocaine production. I wanted to sell them the business on credit and permit them to operate it while providing me with a source of income for our new life in Bogota.

Gilberto and I departed Chaparral and arrived minutes later in the small river town of Caño Jabón. We landed on less than four hundred feet of runway due to the STOL conversion – a feat I thought was impressive. Taxiing to the ramp, I noticed my “friend” Carlos waiting for me. “What took you so long?” he asked. “We’ve been waiting all morning for you. Come down to my store and I’ll call the people together.”

As the three of us walked the six blocks to his store on the waterfront, we heard gunfire. I asked Carlos what was going on. “Oh, it’s just some of the guys having a little target practice near the airstrip,” he replied casually. Reassured, I continued into the store. After entering, I noticed a commotion on the other side of town. Moments later, I saw armed men running down the streets. Women and children screamed and fled in all directions. Carlos said, “It’s the law,” so I felt no alarm; that was a reasonable response because the authorities were known to dress in plain clothes when they raided drug towns.

But when I saw two men block the side street, I grew suspicious over what was unfolding. Who were these men? I suspected they might be communist guerrillas, but if they were, I didn’t know what they wanted. Maybe they were taking over the town in order to impress the locals so they could spread propaganda and replenish supplies, as was their practice. Soon I saw more armed men converge on all sides of the town, some with what appeared to be grenades. I was armed with a 20-gauge double-barreled shotgun, which gave me the option of shooting my way clear and escaping into the nearby jungle. But no matter who they were, I decided I had no good choice except to sit tight. In an open battle, the odds were in their favor.

When they ordered the townspeople onto the street, Gilberto and Carlos went out while I remained inside. I heard the men arguing for a while. Carlos returned to the store and told me I had to come out too or Gilberto might be shot. “It’s okay,” he said, “these men just want to talk to you. Come with me and I’ll make sure everything turns out all right.” I hid the shotgun in the store and followed Carlos to the street.

As I stepped into the sunlit street, I looked up, blinked, and stared directly into the barrels of three machine guns. Their owners glared at me as they said, “Hands up! March!” As they forced me down the street toward the airstrip, I heard a pistol shot. One of my abductors kept his gun centered on me as the other fired a burst of bullets in the direction of the gunfire. “Faster!” they commanded. “Keep moving!” They marched me past the airstrip and into the jungle. I wondered if they’d shot Gilberto.

A dark, mustached guerrilla named Manuel told me to lie down on my stomach right there. I thought they might execute me, but when he repeated the order in a harsher tone, I obeyed. “Well, I guess I’ll just have to trust you!” I exclaimed as I yielded. Manuel pulled my arms behind me, and I felt him place a rope around my neck and arms and join the three loops with a central slipknot. He stepped back and ordered me to my feet. I held my breath as I pictured the .38 Smith & Wesson revolver I always carried strapped to my left ankle. My pant leg had ridden up while I was on the ground, which exposed the revolver. The guerrillas must have been blind not to have seen it. Rolling over and getting to my feet, I gave my pant leg a tug and breathed a sigh of relief when the cuff dropped down and concealed the gun.

They proceeded to march me deeper into the jungle. After about ten minutes, we came to the banks of the Guaviare River where guerrilla soldiers milled about on the riverbank. I noticed a pile of military equipment and backpacks on the ground. Tied to the bank was a large dugout canoe. A young man in his early twenties approached and introduced himself as their leader. “You have been kidnapped to raise money for our cause,” he announced. “If you follow our orders, you won’t be harmed.” I found out later his name was Jaime and that he was only twenty-two years old. Jaime sized me up for a minute, and I did likewise with him. He was thin, dark, and had Indian features, and a fuzzy mustache was trying to grow on his upper lip. I was bearded and blond but about the same height. Although very scared, I tried not to let it show.

Jaime had already ordered his men to search me, but being a thorough and methodical commander, he also asked me if I was armed. I looked in his eyes and emphatically denied having a weapon. I lied. About this time, another guerrilla approached carrying my flight case and Gilberto’s blue bag from the air[1]plane. I learned later that they’d chopped the plane’s door off with an axe even though I’d given them the keys. They also machine-gunned the three planes at the airstrip, including my beautiful Cessna 170. This rendered it unflyable for anyone to use to escape and inform the authorities of my kidnapping. Then my heart sank when they rummaged through my flight case and found the live .38 ammo.

At that moment, the squad nurse approached with a stethoscope and a blood pressure cuff. Her name was Nancy – about twenty-eight, short, stocky, and not very pretty; but she appeared to be an efficient, well-trained nurse. Nancy hooked up her equipment, checked my blood pressure, and listened to my heart.

The young guerrilla who’d been searching my flight case turned, held up the .38 shells, and demanded to know the location of the gun. I told him the ammo belonged to my brother’s gun and that I didn’t have one. As Nancy monitored my heart, it thumped wildly because I could feel the loaded revolver on my ankle. My pant leg was too short to completely cover the holster, so I frantically racked my brain to concoct a believable cover story.

Nancy had a worried frown on her face as she listened to my racing heartbeat through the stethoscope. An idea came to me. “Don’t bother me anymore!” I exclaimed. “I have a heart condition that comes and goes. You’re putting too much strain on it. Just leave me alone for a few minutes and I’ll be all right.” Nancy gave the guerrillas a convincing look of concern and motioned them away. She signaled me to sit down on a log and asked if I wanted something to drink. I gladly sat down with a sigh of relief. A few minutes later, she returned to inquire how I felt. I announced that I was recovering nicely from my “heart condition.”

The guerrillas finished loading their equipment into the dugout canoe. They dressed me in a blue plastic rain poncho and put a military Fidel Castro–style cap on my head. This was done to insure no one would recognize me as we traveled upstream. The canoe was powered by a forty-horsepower out[1]board motor and had room for me and eight guerrillas – five behind me and three in front. A second canoe followed minutes later. We traveled for about an hour until we approached the bend where our ranch, Chaparral, was located.

Suddenly a speedboat appeared from around the bend and headed right for us. “It’s the police!” hissed one of the guerrillas. “Pull over right here!” Jaime ordered the young motorist. Quickly beaching the canoe in a banana patch on the left riverbank, Manuel ordered me out of the canoe and herded me to the back of the patch. The rest of my captors assumed positions on the bank and prepared to ambush the presumed police.

I got Manuel to take me farther into the banana patch by telling him I needed privacy because I was feeling sick. I crouched down underneath the poncho facing the river and acted a bit embarrassed. Manuel, however, was interested in what was occurring at the river, so he turned his head away from me. I determined to frustrate the guerrilla’s impending ambush of the police by attempting an escape. Although he looked away from me, Manuel still had his submachine gun pointed at me with a finger on the trigger. I knew better than to just point my little revolver and threaten him. Instead, I quickly drew my gun and aimed at his right shoulder, hoping to disarm him and free the rope for my getaway.

Manuel caught movement out of the corner of his eye and lunged forward just as I squeezed the trigger. A Super Vel hollow point .38 bullet mushroomed into the upper right front of his chest. Blood streamed from his mouth and chest and splattered everywhere. The impact of the round knocked him backwards, but he continued to clutch the rope with his good hand. Manuel pulled hard on the rope and tightened the loops around my neck and shoulder; this cut off my circulation and my air supply. I tried to shoot his left hand, which still held the rope. I knew I was losing precious time, so I aimed directly at his head and pulled the trigger.

The guerrillas thought they were in a police ambush and didn’t recognize that the shooting was coming from me. A tall guerrilla named Giovani assessed the situation correctly and came running to help Manuel who was struggling on the ground. About twenty yards away, he shouldered his German assault rifle, and with an expression of hatred, he aimed at me and pulled the trigger. His gun only clicked – it had misfired.

I quickly raised my revolver, sighted on his chest, and released the hammer. Nothing! It fell on a spent cartridge – I was out of bullets. Giovani saw my gun and dove to the ground behind a tree. I heard him trying to chamber a new round, but he seemed to be having trouble with his gun. Frantically, I tried to break the nylon cord, and I dragged Manuel a few yards in the process. I threw myself on the ground behind the only cover available, a clump of banana trees. The tight rope around my right arm and neck choked me, and I clawed desperately in my pocket, hoping to find more cartridges to reload my revolver. I knew the banana trees wouldn’t stop the bullets that the guerrillas would soon be shooting at me.

As I lay there, literally at the end of my rope, I wondered what it would be like to die. It seemed my life would end in a few seconds, and I was powerless to do anything about it. I lowered my head and waited for the end.

Chap 2. Grand Rapids, Minnesota, 1957.

By age two, I was speaking fluently, and with my early development, I always seemed one jump ahead of my parents. Mom spent a lot of time with me, reading Bible stories and teaching me about God. As an inquisitive child, I was full of questions. One day I asked, “Mommy, where does God live?”

Mom thought for a moment before replying, “God lives in heaven, but He can also live in peoples’ hearts.”

I asked, “Does He live in your heart?”

Mom said, “Yes.”

I asked, “Does He live in Daddy’s heart?”

She said, “Yes, God lives in Daddy’s heart too.”

Next I asked about Stuart and Eleanor, who were friends of my parents. Mom answered, “Yes, God lives in their hearts too.” Then I asked about Dennis and Terry, the sons of Stuart and Eleanor Watson. Mom said that while she was sure that God lived in Dennis’s heart, she wasn’t sure about Terry. He was even younger than I was. She explained that in order for God to come into one’s heart, that person has to ask Him in.

I thought about that for a minute before I asked, “Does He live in my heart?” Mom became flustered because she thought I was still too young to handle such deep spiritual matters. She replied that when I was older, I could ask God to come into my heart too. At this point, I climbed off her lap and knelt beside the bed to pray in a loud voice, “Come into my heart, Jesus. Come into my heart, God.” Then I stood up and jumped up and down exclaiming, “He’s in there!” Mom was flabbergasted.

Six months later my grandmother gave me a potted plant. She told me that if I took care of it and watered it every day, it would blossom with beautiful red flowers. I was very attentive to the plant for several weeks, but much to my dismay, no flowers appeared because it was winter. My parents continued to teach me about God. They told me that God was everywhere, He could see everything, and He was able to do anything. They taught me that God answers our prayers.

One Sunday morning, Dad asked me to say grace at breakfast, and I prayed, “God, please bless this food and please let there be red flowers on my plant when we get home from church.” Dad was shocked, so he tried to explain that he didn’t think God could answer a prayer of that nature. I insisted that God would do it for me. I was only three years old and didn’t know that according to Dad’s theology, God wouldn’t work like that in this day and age, even though he did believe the Bible stories about how God worked that way in the past.

Dad fidgeted throughout the church service. He thought, “We’ve gotten our son off to such a good beginning by teaching him about spiritual matters. Now his little faith in God is going to be shattered when we return home to find there are no red flowers on his plant. He might not believe anything else we tell him about God.” Dad had checked the plant before we left the house, and he hadn’t even found a bud on it. He decided to take us to a restaurant before we returned home, hoping I would forget about my prayer. Then he drove home by way of a park and stalled some more.

I became very impatient. When we got home, I rushed over to the plant and was delighted! There wasn’t just a single red flower; the plant had blossomed into dozens of little flowers. It looked gorgeous. I admired it for about five minutes before I returned to my toys. I’d expected God to come through for me because I didn’t know any differently. However, Dad just sat there for the rest of the afternoon and stared at the plant with its beautiful red flowers. His theology changed a bit after that Sunday.

Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1959

Our family’s life was comfortable, with a nice home, two cars, and Dad making good money as a civil engineer in charge of large construction projects. He’d just been offered a promotion as one of the principal engineers of a thirty-million-dollar (1959 cost) lock and dam complex on the Mississippi River at St. Anthony Falls, Minnesota.

One evening when I was four, Dad came home from work and sat down in the living room and put me on his lap. He showed me a picture book about Indians in South America because he thought it would broaden my horizons about how people live in foreign countries. The book, however, turned out to be a little more candid than he realized. It depicted photos of Indians as they worked and produced handcrafted articles to sell in town on market days. In exchange for the crafts, they received money. On the next page, it showed the men wasting their money on hard drink in cantinas while their women and children waited outside. Then it showed the men in a drunken argument, which led to a bloody machete fight. The final scene was of an Indian woman patiently helping her drunk husband home so he could sober up and repeat the cycle.

I was shocked. In my sheltered existence, I didn’t know people could live like that. The setting of the beautiful Andes Mountains made it even more shocking. I turned to Dad and I asked, “Why do they live like this?”

He replied, “Well, Russ, I guess because they don’t know any better.”

I became indignant and asked, “Well, why don’t they know any better?”

Dad replied, “I guess because no one has ever taught them or shown them a better way.”

I became still more indignant and I asked, “Well, why hasn’t anyone gone to help them?”

He replied, “I guess because no one really cares about those Indians, Russell.”

I looked at him and asked, “Well, you care, don’t you, Dad? Why don’t we go?”

He started to get a little uncomfortable. “Well, Russ, a person can’t just take off for a foreign country. Why, that would be missionary work. God would have to call you. God would have to provide the finances and prepare the way. Maybe when you grow up, you can be a missionary.”

Dad looked pleased with himself and thought he’d slipped smoothly off the hook by putting all the responsibility on God. He didn’t notice that I wasn’t listening anymore, and instead I was kneeling by the side of the couch and praying aloud, “Dear God, please call my parents to be missionaries, so I won’t have to wait until I grow up.” Dad looked quite thoughtful the rest of the evening.

Four years later, God had done many things for the family, and we were on our way to Colombia, South America, as missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Dad had resigned from his job, sold our house, and received linguistic training. Now he was ready to study a primitive Indian language and translate the New Testament into that language.

January 3, 1964, found us on a four-engine airplane over the Caribbean. Jim Walton’s missionary family, also from Minneapolis, was traveling with us. As we winged our way, a beautiful sunrise colored the eastern sky. My little brother and sister were asleep, but I was wide awake. I turned to my father who was seated beside me and exclaimed, “We’re really having fun now, aren’t we, Dad?”

Chap 3. Caño Jabón, Colombia August 14, 1983, 1:00 p.m.

“Throw down your weapon!” shouted the guerrilla leader. I tossed my empty revolver out. “Stand up!” he ordered. But I couldn’t. The best I could do was to roll over and sit up. Manuel, the guerrilla I’d wounded, still struggled on the ground, trying to get his weapon into his uninjured hand, so he could shoot me. I was relieved to see one of the other guerrillas take the gun from him. Two more came forward, grabbed me, and pulled me to my feet. Jaime, the leader, came forward. He walked past me and straight to Manuel who was still on the ground bleeding. “Why didn’t you search the prisoner good like I told you? This is what you get for failing to obey orders!” Then he turned to me and said, “Why did you do this?” The atmosphere was very tense.

I knew if I showed fear by cringing or begging for mercy, I’d probably be killed, because these guerrillas respect courage and valor but very little else. Knowing my reply would be crucial, I thought for a moment and then said, “Put yourself in my position. If you’d been captured by an enemy and had a chance to use your weapon to escape, wouldn’t you?!”

Jaime paused a moment and said, “Tiene razón!” meaning, “You’re right!”

They emptied my pockets and took my wallet, my money, my comb, my watch, and my gun holster. Then they tied me up good, threw me in the bottom of a canoe, and covered me with a tarp. The circulation in my arms was cut off by the tight ropes, a nail that protruded from a board in the canoe’s bottom dug into my back, and it began to rain. Water pooled around me, and I was wet, cold, and miserable. The passing speedboat had apparently done a U turn and disappeared, so we continued upriver.

From under the tarp, all I could see was Manuel’s face; I wondered if he was dying. The second shot I’d aimed at his head appeared to have missed. The blood that came from his mouth must have been from a punctured lung that resulted from the first shot. He was in bad shape. As a jungle pilot, I’d seen many gunshot wounds, and it looked to me like Manuel wouldn’t live more than four or five hours. When he dies, I thought, they’ll kill me for sure. What if they hang me by my heels for a day or so with my head in an ant nest and torture me before they finally kill me? I began to pray that Manuel wouldn’t die and I’d get out of this awful mess alive.

After roughly three hours, we diverted from the main river and turned onto a small side stream. A short time later, we pulled to the bank and my kidnappers ordered me to get out. Three of them ushered me about fifty yards into the jungle, while the others unloaded their equipment and set up a mosquito net for Manuel. I could vaguely see some people milling around his net; they appeared to be working on him. One of my three guards offered me a Coke that they’d taken from my plane. They were rather uptight and somewhat angry with me. I continued to pray silently that everything would turn out well.

Later, Nancy walked over and announced that Manuel would live, and even better, he wouldn’t be permanently maimed or disabled. The tension eased and the guerrillas began speaking to me. Soon we were telling each other stories, even sharing a few jokes.

Darkness fell and the guerrillas put on their packs. We were soon moving again. A serious-looking one named Arnuval had the other end of my rope. I later learned that he’d been a university psychology student prior to joining the guerrillas. Jaime came over and loosened the loops around my shoulders and arms so I could walk better. We moved single file on foot into the darkness.

I was in the middle of the column with three guerrillas in front and three more following. Nancy stayed behind to tend to Manuel. We were marching in the twin tracks of a jeep road through the Colombian llanos when we saw the lights of a vehicle coming toward us. My abductors herded me into a clump of bushes where we crouched down and hid until the car passed. Later I learned this car transported Manuel to a guerrilla field hospital where they removed the bullet.

As we continued our march by moonlight, we’d see flashes of lightning on the horizon, but no more rain came. When we stopped for a drink and rest at a small stream, I found myself sitting beside Giovani, the guerrilla who had tried to kill me. Giovani spoke Spanish with a coastal–Caribbean-sounding accent that was further affected by two missing front teeth. He said he’d never had a misfire before, and I told him I was glad I’d been out of ammunition and unable to kill him as well. We agreed that God’s hand kept us both safe. I shared my surprise that the guerrillas hadn’t beaten or tortured me for shooting Manuel. Giovani replied that he too was surprised. He explained that Jaime was an exceptional commander, and since it had been Manuel’s job to search me, which he hadn’t done, I probably wouldn’t be physically punished for the resulting situation. Manuel had assumed I was unarmed when he only checked my waist, since guerrillas don’t use ankle holsters. They often hike through mud and water, and a gun carried on the ankle would get wet and be useless to them.

Giovani warned me, however, that if anything else were to occur, I would be disciplined. I made a mental note to respect their motivations as much as possible. I thanked them to help make them feel good for not mistreating me after I shot Manuel. I felt this was important in order to avoid future trouble. I thanked them for everything they did for me, such as bringing me a drink of water. This made them feel important and valued.

We continued our march into the night until we were met by a Russian-made GAZ jeep. We got in and went another hour down the road. They kept me on the floor with my head down so I couldn’t see our route and destination. Finally, we came to a halt and climbed out of the jeep.

My captors marched me to a nearby clump of trees and prepared camp. This consisted of unpacking their hammocks, pitching them between trees, and covering them with nets and tarps to provide a dry, mosquito-proof place to sleep. Jaime motioned me to one of the hammocks and told me there’d be a guard watching me all night. If I needed anything, I would have to call to my guard. I lay shivering in the cold, damp jungle – completely wet with only a light sheet as a cover. Sheer exhaustion brought immediate sleep.

Chap 4. Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia, 1967.

My parents worked several years with the Kogi Indians of the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains in north[1]ern Colombia. This range rises from sea level to a height of nineteen-thousand feet in a distance of only thirty-five miles, which distinguishes it from the Andes Mountains. The Kogi lived in practically Stone Age conditions even though they’d been among the first Indians contacted by the Spaniards over four hundred years ago. This contact had been bitter, bloody, and brief, and resulted in their retreat higher up the Sierra Nevada where they became isolated from the modern outside world. In their culture it is a crime punishable with death by poisoning if a Kogi shares his language or cultural information with an outsider.

Dad came upon a Kogi man named Santiago who was bilingual. Santiago wasn’t under the control of any of the primary tribal chiefs because he lived too far away, a two-day walk from the nearest village of Mamarongo. He agreed to help Dad study and learn the Kogi language. For two years my parents lived in a house Santiago built for them next to his own home. It had mud walls, a dirt floor, and a thatched roof. Dad made steady progress learning and analyzing the language. Then disaster struck – Santiago was poisoned. It looked like he would die when he started to bleed internally.

Dad felt terrible because he knew he was indirectly responsible. My parents had gone to pray for Santiago when they thought of giving him a laxative called Metamucil along with activated charcoal. This absorbed the poison and moved it out of his body, which enabled his recovery.

Dad’s fame as a doctor spread throughout the mountains where about ten thousand Kogi lived without medical help. Even though Dad had no formal training, he did have a couple of useful textbooks and a supply of medicines. People came from miles around with their health problems, and Dad treated them the best he could with available modern medications – all while he prayed for them. To my knowledge, they all recovered.

One day Kogi runners arrived from Mamarongo. Mama Nacio was dying (Mama means “chief” in Kogi). He’d been slowly getting worse and was close to death. As a last resort, he’d sent for Dad, but this chief had threatened Dad’s life if he were to ever enter Mamarongo. After talking it over with Santiago, they both decided to visit the chief. This was a noble gesture on the part of Santiago as this chief had probably ordered his poisoning. After a two-day journey, crossing five treacherous mountain rivers, which were swollen by the seasonal rains, they arrived in Mamarongo.

Dad examined Nacio and found him skin and bones with a raging fever. The diagnosis was probable advanced tuberculosis coupled with pneumonia and parasites. Dad told the chief, “Medically speaking, I think I’ve come too late. You should have called me sooner. However, God can still heal you. If you will agree to give God thanks after you are healed, then I will pray for you.”

The old chief agreed to this, so Dad prayed. Even though he didn’t have the right medicine, Dad did the best he could. The Kogi escorted them down the mountain to a house across the river. “Now we’re in bad trouble,” Dad said to Santiago. “If the chief dies, we probably won’t get out of here alive because they will blame us.” The men passed an anxious night together.

In the morning, lo and behold, here came Mama Nacio down the trail to their house. He was leaning on a staff with men on both sides to prevent a fall. He approached Dad, who was flabbergasted to see him, and said, “God has given my life back to me.” Mama Nacio kept his promise and thanked God for making him well. Dad checked him again and could hardly believe he was walking. Though still very skinny, the chief was clinically well! He extended an open invitation for Dad to live in Mamarongo. This was exactly what Dad wanted to do! He remained several days in the village and treated the sick before he returned to Santiago’s farm.

Dad had to wait until the next dry season to return to Mamarongo, because some of the larger rivers could only be crossed in the dry season when they were not so deep. The Kogi took him to a site where they were building a new village, and Dad noticed that there was flat pasture behind it. In these mountains, it was difficult to find a level area big enough to build a house, much less an airstrip. But there it was – a flat stretch of land almost thirteen hundred feet long, perfectly shaped and slanted for water runoff. As a civil engineer, he couldn’t have designed a better airstrip.

Dad knew it was nearly impossible for his wife and small children to make the long, overland journey on the narrow mountain trails to visit the Kogi. An airstrip would solve the problem by enabling a short fifteen-minute flight. The next night at the Kogi men’s council house, Dad told them about his idea to make an airstrip. The Indians didn’t share his enthusiasm. “It’s bad enough for us to let you come in here,” some of the old ones said. “If an airplane were to land here, it would be the end of our world.” They refused to allow construction of the airstrip.

After a few more days, it was time for Dad and Santiago to return home. They were late getting started, and Santiago was in a hurry to reach the location he’d selected to spend the night. It started to rain as they left the village, but Dad saw a woman sitting on the doorstep of the last house. She was very old and appeared to be in great pain. Dad stopped to determine what was wrong, but Santiago argued that they needed to keep moving because they were late. Dad felt compassion and knew he should help her. He reached over and pulled the slip knot that held the bag of medicines on Santiago’s donkey; it fell to the ground and ended the disagreement.

Dad examined the woman and found a severe infection on her face. She couldn’t see out of her left eye or hear with her left ear. After Dad gave her eardrops, eye ointment, an antibiotic, and some pain medicine, he prayed for her. Finally convinced that he’d done all he could for her, he helped Santiago reload the donkey, and they continued their journey.

Dad arrived home with mixed emotions. He was excited that Mama Nacio was well and had invited him to live in Mamarongo, but he was depressed about the perfect airstrip site that he couldn’t utilize. For the next two weeks, my parents couldn’t get this possibility out of their minds. Then one day Kogi runners arrived from Mamarongo. They went straight to Dad and announced, “We’re ready for you to come and show us how to build the airstrip.”

Dad asked in surprise, “What made you change your mind?”

One of the men replied, “Do you remember the little old lady you helped as you left town? She is my mother. She is well now and hears and sees perfectly. The land that you want to build that airstrip on belongs to her. She says you can come and build that airstrip anytime you want, and the whole village agrees.” Dad returned with them and soon the first six hundred feet of runway was completed.

The Kogi are pygmy-like with an average height of well under five feet. This is partially due to malnutrition and partially the result of chewing coca leaves. They mix the leaves in their mouths with lime and produce cocaine – a powerful drug.1 Over time, this practice destroys their teeth and the mucous membranes in their noses, sinuses, and throats. They were also plagued with numerous diseases such as tuberculosis, hookworm, amoeba, and other intestinal parasites. Infant mortality was extremely high; one woman had given birth thirteen times but had lost every baby, and another had birthed ten children and only one lived beyond childhood.

1 Kogi men have a life expectancy of ten years less than the women who do not use cocaine. The lives of women in most other Indian tribes is shorter than the men’s due to the risks associated with childbearing in primitive conditions.

I’ve heard anthropologists lecture on university campuses about how Indians live in a tropical paradise where white men should leave them alone. This was not true with the Kogi tribe. They’d had little to no contact with the white man for over four hundred years. They lived in isolation from the world but still lived in a hellish environment, not in the “garden of Eden” as the anthropologists have said. They only had two old axes and a dozen weathered machetes with which to work and raise food for almost four hundred people. The Kogi situation was critical. My parents rolled up their sleeves and went to work. They obtained tools from the government, delivered medicine and vaccinations by the case, flew in seedlings of fruit trees and vegetables, and instructed them in the benefits of a balanced diet. My mother even learned to pull teeth and help with their other dental problems, because some of these Indians had been living with three or four simultaneous toothaches.

My parents did nothing that disrupted Kogi culture. Instead, they encouraged them to continue to wear their traditional white, handwoven clothes and long, black hairstyles. The Kogi did not have a God-centered lifestyle yet, and it seemed necessary to maintain a sense of worth in their culture and language. This gave them the will to live and to excel beyond the poor society that encompassed them. My parents trained the young men as preparation for future leadership positions such as teachers or medics.

One day Mama Nacio presented my father with a chief’s hat, called a numtu, and made him an honorary chief of the tribe. Dad disinfected it for head lice when the Kogi weren’t looking and wore it to the men’s council house that evening. This incident caused my parents to get several cases of flea spray for dogs to eradicate the fleas and lice that infested the Indians’ long, black hair. Their campaign was quite successful, and I found it humorous when I picked up a can and read, “For the best-loved pets in the world.”

Dad worked every day on language analysis and soon began translating parts of the Bible into the native dialect. When he finished the Gospel of Mark, Dad took it to the council house and read it to the Kogi men. After he finished, Mama Nacio made a speech. “This is the real truth! Because we passed our mythology down by word of mouth from father to son for so many generations, we have lost the truth, and things have become twisted. We have countless versions of the same story. They can’t all be right. This written book is accurate and contains the real truth that we lost.”

I spent my days with my parents and studied by correspondence. In my spare time, I’d go hunting with the Indians. On weekends, the Indians would join our family, and we’d work on lengthening the airstrip. I dug rocks and removed stumps from the airstrip. Later, as I watched the airplanes land and take off on the little mountain airstrip, I decided I was going to be a pilot when I grew up – just like Dad.

Chap 5. Caño Macú, Colombia August 15, 1983, 6:00 a.m.

I awakened to the screams of colorful parrots in a nearby palm tree; it was a few seconds before I realized where I was. Yesterday’s events seemed like a dream until I sat up in the hammock and saw a young man about twenty feet away holding a G3 assault rifle across his knees. His other hand gripped the end of the nylon cord that was tied around my neck. He noticed the welt on my neck, whistled, and exclaimed, “Boy, you almost choked to death yesterday!”

Giovani came over and offered me a cup of coffee. They led me to an improvised kitchen and served me fried sausage, eggs, and corn patties. In spite of the fine breakfast, I wasn’t hungry. Too much adrenalin flowed through my veins, and I wasn’t used to anyone pointing a machine gun at me with his finger on the trigger all the time. What if it slipped and he accidently shot me?

I managed to force down about half the breakfast. The guard then placed plastic sheeting over a damp log and told me I could sit there, which I did. I surveyed the camp and noticed most of the men were cleaning their weapons – they kept them spotless. Some of them included me in their conversation and even joked with me. I was surprised to see their spirits so high just a day after I had shot Manuel. They said things like, “This unit has fought the Colombian government for four years without any casualties, and then we run into you. You did more damage in five minutes than the whole Colombian army did in years.” Then they would all laugh.

Another said, “Boy, you sure didn’t hand over that revolver of yours until it was empty, did you?” It seemed like the idea of my resisting their eight machine guns with a little five-shot revolver tickled their sense of humor. It caused them to treat me with respect, almost as an equal. They wanted to know why I had started shooting like that. I told them I was a Christian, and I had to uphold my beliefs, even when it was dangerous. I told them that kidnapping was morally wrong, so if I’d passively gone along, I would have considered myself an accomplice to my kidnapping. If I had chickened out and not used the gun, I’d have a hard time living with myself for the rest of my life.

I’d left the shotgun in Carlos’s store because I wasn’t sure who they were or what they wanted. Once I knew, however, I had a moral obligation to resist their wrongdoing with my revolver. I pointed out that I chose to shoot Manuel in his shoulder instead of his head, which prevented me from escaping but showed that I valued Manuel’s life over freedom.

It began to rain, so we took cover under a tarp the guerrillas hung over the hammocks. In the afternoon the weather cleared, and at about 3:00 p.m., three new guerrillas arrived at our camp. A tall, muscular one with the walk of a born leader strode up to me and held out his hand. “Hi!” he said. “My name is Vicente, and I’m in charge of negotiating your release. If you cooperate with me, things will be much easier for all of us.”

“Well, I’ll do the best I can,” I replied, “but there are certain things I can’t morally go along with because I’m a Christian.” I proceeded to explain to him about my parents’ mission work and about the fish business that I was trying to get running so there’d be work for 250 people near Caño Jabón. I said, “If you think I’m a rich capitalist because I’m an American who flies an airplane – think again! I’m not wealthy and my plane is a thirty-year-old Cessna 170. It looks nice, but it’s not worth much. If you’re really interested in the welfare of the people here, let me go because that’s what I’m interested in too.”

Vicente was very courteous and cordial, but said he’d have to talk with his superiors because they made the decisions. Later I learned that Vicente was a company commander in the guerrilla organization and in charge of nearly eighty men. Vicente and the man who arrived with him departed, but Javier, the third man, remained. He was Manuel’s replacement. At twenty-nine, Javier was the oldest man in the group. He was tall, scarred on both sides of his face, and carried both an Ml rifle and a Colt .45 automatic. Since he looked like a seasoned fighter and was a crack shot with a rifle, I made a mental note not to attempt an escape while he was on guard duty.

Nancy rejoined us at dusk and appeared happy when she announced that Manuel’s operation was over and he was recovering nicely. At dark, we moved out again. The guerrillas preferred to travel at night and hole up in camp during the day. We hiked single file until we came to a virgin jungle. We entered the jungle and came to a stream (which I later identified as the headwaters of Caño Macú) where we waited while two of them cut logs for a crude bridge over the ten-foot-wide gully. We crossed the bridge and set up camp along the riverbank.

About midnight Jaime motioned me over to one of the hammocks. The air was clouded with mosquitoes as I climbed into the hammock to try to sleep. Rain beat down on the black plastic tarp above me, but the guerrillas knew how to pitch a hammock in the jungle. Under the tarp and net, I stayed nice and dry and free from mosquitoes.

Capitalism or Communism

Early morning was very cold, and I shivered for several hours until daybreak. It was still raining when Giovani came over and handed me a cup of hot coffee. Later, he returned with breakfast, which I ate without even leaving the hammock. The sky began to clear, and I could hear the ring of machetes as the men were chopping all around me. The guerrillas were preparing a semipermanent camp.

Several more hours passed before Jaime appeared. “Come with me,” he said as he ushered me to a small place he’d cleared in the underbrush. In the center, he’d built something resembling a park bench using living trees. He had cut poles, split palms, and used vines to bind it together. Waving me over, he said, “Sit down.”

Alfredo, another guerrilla, was busy building me a table. I found out later he was only fourteen even though he carried an Ml carbine. Working cheerfully, he’d made the handsome table by using forked sticks and split palms. Giovani hung my hammock – complete with a large mosquito net. The entire time, Arnuval stood guard to the side with one hand on the end of the nylon cord looped around my neck and arms; his other hand aimed his gun directly at me.

Toward evening, Jaime came over, handed me a wool blanket, and said, “I noticed you were shivering last night. Here, use this.” I gratefully accepted it, learning later that it was his personal blanket that he shared with me. I felt less estranged as days passed, and I observed that the guerrillas were real people, a lot like me. With eight men assigned to guard me, I was surprised to observe how well they interacted. I didn’t hear a mean word between them. I would converse with the guards when they were on duty, and sometimes they would come back when off duty to play chess with me. Jaime and Nancy remained aloof, but the others opened up as time went on.

Discussions with my abductors were friendly and easygoing unless we discussed politics or world issues. It became quite clear the guerrillas hated capitalists with a passion. They also hated the United States of America. When I would defend my country, our discussions would take a nasty turn with threats to shoot me if I persisted in doing so. One day, Mariano, the unit’s twenty-one-year-old gunsmith, said, “I wouldn’t mind that you are an American if only you would show some shame and admit how awful America is.”

I replied that I wasn’t trying to say that America was perfect, but that even with its faults, the American system and way of life was superior to the other world systems. Our free society, however, opens us up to exploitation by those who abuse the gift of freedom. I admitted to the guerrillas that the United States does have serious issues, including drug addiction, homosexuality, pornography, prostitution, and other things that aren’t right for any society. Many selfish individuals care only about themselves and not the slightest about the suffering of people in third-world countries. But our American system of checks and balances and of government for the people with participation and representation at all levels is the best way to limit and contain activities of those selfish, corrupt individuals. There is more true individual freedom in America than in any other nation.

We were interrupted by Giovani who came over and served my dinner. I sensed a tremendous underlying current of bitter[1]ness and hatred on the part of the guerrillas toward the United States and Americans in general. I wondered what had happened. I tried to sort out the underlying factors as I ate. What motivated these guerrillas to leave the comforts of civilization for a hard life in the jungle to fight for what they thought was true freedom?

I thought about my conversations with the guerrilla fighters, and one theme really seemed to motivate them: social injustice. It was the primary factor fanning the flames of rebellion in their young hearts. They grew up in a country where corruption, kickbacks, and blackmail are a way of life; a country where corrupt politicians steal a high percentage of the money intended for roads, schools, and hospitals; a country where corrupt policemen extort drug growers and shake down anyone passing through their roadblocks; these checkpoints are known as retenes. Most people cheat so much on their income taxes that it’s estimated most of the population pays less than half of what they are required by law to pay. An honest government official is the exception, not the rule. In some areas, an estimated 20 percent of the women are or have been involved in prostitution. Illegitimate children make up over 50 percent of the births. Thousands of children roam the streets of the large cities and stay alive by eating from garbage cans. As they grow older, they live by stealing and armed robbery. Wages are low and jobs are difficult to find.

The guerrillas reacted against all of this – what they call corrupt capitalism. In their minds, this is responsible for all their problems. According to fundamental communist ideology, their leaders teach that the root of capitalism resides in the United States. They believe that since Colombia is capitalistic and the United States is capitalistic, then the two systems are identical. Going a step further, they believe capitalism in the United States is worse than in Colombia because it takes place on a global scale. They proceed to blame the United States for all third-world problems, which seems logical and plausible to a rank-and-file Colombian guerrilla or a typical high school student. They’ve never visited the United States to witness life in our country. It’s easy for them to conjure up an image of a huge, powerful monster nation exploiting third-world countries and ripping off the developing nations’ natural resources. They are thoroughly convinced the world would be a decent place if they could eliminate the United States.

It never occurred to them that the true root causes of many of their problems can be found closer to home. Nor does it dawn on them that basic human selfishness is the root of problems everywhere. Better societies cannot exist until we have better individuals. If a majority of Colombian policemen, government officials, and businessmen were honest instead of corrupt, their present political and economic systems would work far better. The state of Colombian society reflects the state of Colombian individuals who make up their society. The same is true for the United States.

After supper, I lay in my hammock under the mosquito netting and continued to think about these things, and gradually two perspectives became clear to me. The first is easy to explain, but the second is more complex. I will do my best to relate both of them.

First, the United States was founded on Christian principles; from the start our foundation was “In God We Trust,” and it became a public motto still inscribed on our money. We don’t focus on this relationship often because of our secular policy of church-and-state separation. However, Christianity greatly influenced and modified our capitalism. Our country has a moral Christian heritage that many third-world nations do not have. This has influenced the manner in which we conduct business. Therefore, our American way is often different from other countries where that moral heritage does not exist. Assuming all countries are created and operate similarly in this sphere is both incorrect and naïve.

Second, people tend to evaluate a person’s position and performance on the basis of what they’d do if they were in their place. Latinos often imagine tremendous military might and economic wealth within the United States. Then they transpose themselves into the equation to determine what they’d do if they had the same powers at their disposal. They assume the United States is doing what they would do in any given situation of foreign policy. It is completely alien to them to think we might be intervening in a given country out of genuine concern for the people of that country. In Latin America, it is extremely rare for anyone to help someone unless it is personally beneficial. They assume it is also the same for everything done by our government. These two false fundamental assumptions feed their general hatred of the United States and of Americans.

The underlying negativity is further accelerated by general feelings of inferiority. They resent that Americans are more affluent than they are and that American industry and America’s standard of living are better than their own. These feelings open them up to accept that American wealth, affluence, and industrial superiority have been obtained by either unlawful or criminal means. This is a vicious cycle of thought that contributes to their bitterness and hatred toward us. What they actually hate are their country’s motives and problems, which they’ve transposed on America.

They think of themselves as social Robin Hoods, restoring justice and rationalizing the use of force. They finance their revolution in part by kidnapping wealthy capitalists whom they feel have exploited the common poor people. Unlike the fictionalized Robin Hood, they spend the extorted money on weapons and terrorism instead of giving to the poor. In their reasoning, if anyone deserved to be kidnapped, it’s a dirty, rot[1]ten, corrupt American capitalist like me.

Understanding these things gave me insights as to how the guerrillas perceived me. As I lay in the hammock listening to the night sounds of the jungle, I wondered, “How in the world can I present the truth about who I am and what I am doing in Colombia in a way that they can understand and, hopefully, accept?”

Just before I fell asleep, I decided I would ask for pen and paper to begin writing this book in the morning. For some time prior to my kidnapping, I felt strongly that I should write my life story and particularly relate some of the extraordinary experiences that had happened to me while focusing on the lessons learned through them. I’d even promised God that I would spend an hour each morning working on the book, a promise I’d never kept. Now I had the opportunity to deliver that promise at machine-gunpoint !

Chap 6. Six Finca Chaparral, Colombia, 1975.

After I studied agriculture for two years at the University of Minnesota, I returned to Colombia. During this time, I’d also managed to obtain a private pilot’s license. Mike Zaske, a friend of mine in Minneapolis, provided complimentary flight instruction. While I was in the States, Dad was appointed tribal coordinator in charge of Wycliffe’s tribal teams, which gave him the opportunity to work with about forty Colombian Indian tribes.

As he visited their locations, he became concerned that the Bible translations in production were inadequately distributed and utilized. He decided to try to enlist help from Spanish-speaking Colombian national churches from various missionary outreaches and denominations. Funds were not available to support these workers, so we decided to help them become self-supporting. This was not permitted under Wycliffe’s government contract, so Dad obtained a separate visa and secured a large tract of undeveloped land for this purpose in the Llanos Orientales, the eastern plains of Colombia.

Since my parents already had their hands full with their work with the Kogi Indians, they assigned the farm project to me. We implemented modern agricultural techniques to improve the traditional slash-and-burn farming of that area. Dad intended to apply the revenues from this project to support the Christian Colombian literacy workers who were needed in the Indian and other rural areas. We also hoped to help the poor campesino people in our area improve their lifestyle.


I had grown up in the Colombian llanos and had many friends in the area. Deep inside, I felt uncomfortable with a missionary approach that educated people about God but turned its back on the terrible poverty and social problems. I believe a vital part of being a Christian is helping with physical needs.

When I arrived at Chaparral, my brother Chaddy was waiting with a new Ford diesel tractor and several implements he’d obtained with the assistance of a local bank. Some Christian nationals had also been handpicked to work with me on the start-up project.

We got the necessary land cheap because of its significant distance from civilization. We had to build roads, houses, and an airstrip as well as fence the boundaries because the land was completely undeveloped. From San Martin to the remote location of the farm, we had to endure a sixteen-hour truck ride followed by a two-hour boat trip on the river.

Arriving with lots of enthusiasm, I rolled up my sleeves and went to work. Many things had to be done and done quickly, for we would soon have to begin payments on the tractor loan. We were also trying to buy cattle to start a herd on a three-thousand-acre plot of grassland located on the property.

As several months went by, problems began to develop. Our Christian national employees could sing and pray all night if need be, but when it came to manual labor, they just wouldn’t work hard. They loved to sleep late and then go hunting or fishing for the rest of the day. Eventually, I traded all the hunting shotguns for cattle, but they still didn’t get the picture

Circumstances with the work team came to a head one day when the leader, a man named Juan, decided he shouldn’t have to harvest rice. At the time, I was in the field harvesting rice with the men to set the right example. Some of the workers followed me, and some split the team and followed Juan. His men believed that those with any education shouldn’t get their hands dirty doing manual labor – especially if one was a pastor or Christian literacy worker. I told them the apostle Paul said, If anyone desires not to work neither should he eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). About half the team left the project. I felt badly about their departure, but the work was certain to fail if it included a bunch of freeloaders.

Imagine my consternation when those who left threatened to sue in court for back wages. Although they had done little or no work, while causing us substantial expense for food and supplies, Colombian civil law required us to pay them a standard hourly wage with vacation and severance for their time at the farm.

Dad thought that a mistake must have been made in the previous selection process, so he went to different churches to find additional workers – hopefully of higher quality. But again we had trouble with the new crew; they even had trouble among themselves. The workers were very strict in applying their Christian principles outwardly; they zealously watched each other and were quick to point out anything they called “sin.” If someone was accused of drinking or smoking, there was a general hue and cry for him to be removed. Later, some of those who were the most critical were found with problems serious enough to destroy their families. This caused the farm project to struggle along for several years. I never had a problem handling the challenging physical work, but the personnel problems were killing me.

Church Problems

As we worked closely with various Colombian Protestant churches, I was amazed at the envy, jealousy, strife, and gossip among them. No wonder they weren’t growing. Of the three most significant denominations in our area, it was difficult to determine which had the most severe problems; they fought within their own ranks as much as they did with each other. It would make me sick to see a young pastor, fresh out of Bible school, arrive at a small, struggling church only to focus on absorbing as much money as possible from his poor congregation. The pastor’s goal was to live like the local missionary who had a nice house on the hill in the better part of the city with a car, refrigerator, stereo, and television. It was difficult to believe some of what I witnessed.

In one denomination, for example, the pastors refused to baptize new believers until they had paid their tithe for a six[1]month period. The pastors kept accounting records on their church members and informed them of the amounts due. Most of the intellectual upper and middle class shunned these churches. This hard-nosed attitude seemed to treat the Lord’s kingdom like a business franchise and gave the majority of Colombians the equivalent of a vaccination against God. After an inquiring person experienced this, he often wouldn’t want to attend a church service again. Although these circumstances were the norm at this time in Colombia, there were many notable exceptions where churches and missionaries effectively served well.

I didn’t understand how a denomination that appeared to do just fine in the United States would have so much trouble in Colombia. They had the same doctrines, the same statement of faith, and similar church structure, but what a difference in practical application! Was it that some important part of Christianity had been left out or filtered out when the missionaries translated the church procedures and hymns from English to Spanish? Was it that dealing with a different culture required a different approach to church organization? Or did the problem lie deeper than either of these?

There were problems with the churches in the States as well, but they were of a different nature. Some American churches appeared to be slowly dying as they coasted on the tremendous moral heritage and the great economic wealth of our country. When hard times arrive, some serious problems may surface similar to those evidenced in the Colombian churches.

As I think back over those many years of heartbreak when we were trying to train, send out, and support national workers to help the Colombian Indian tribes through the farm project, a central theme emerged: those churches that caused so much trouble seemed to consist of individuals rather than close-knit families. When someone accepted a church’s theology and joined as a new Christian, they were immediately sent home to preach to their families. The families would often not appreciate this seemingly holier-than-thou attitude from the new believer. But the church was prepared for this reaction and informed their convert that it was persecution suffered for the sake of the gospel. The result was a split in family relationships. The new Christian – instead of becoming a better father, mother, sister, or brother to his family – acted like a Pharisee. In return, the family soon noted all his defects and called him a hypocrite.

Most of the problems in the churches and among the Christian workers appeared to have their roots in either broken family situations or a lack of support and understanding from a healthy family for the person experiencing a problem. I realized that if these churches had been formed of close-knit families, they would have been much stronger and more effective. My Colombian friend Ricardo felt the same way; in fact, he felt so strongly about this that he resigned his position as evangelist for a large Protestant denomination and joined the Catholic charismatic movement as a lay worker. The Catholics weren’t perfect, but they placed emphasis on the family.

Ricardo’s move branded him as a heretic in most Protestant circles, but I still valued his friendship. Ricardo became impressed with Malachi 4:4-6: Remember ye the law of Moses my slave. . . . Behold, I send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD: and he shall convert the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with destruction. I remember thinking, “Well, if anybody can reconcile these split marriages, families, and churches, it’ll have to be God. I sure don’t know what to do.”

Cessna 170.

At this time, I determined there was a need for an airplane at Chaparral. Overland travel for taking sick people to the hospital required twenty hours on a bumpy truck; the ride itself was torture. Various mission organizations with planes would sometimes fly for us, but it was expensive and difficult to coordinate. Most of these air operations had a demanding and inflexible financial protocol. I remember when a flight was needed for an injured friend, but the pilot required payment in advance before he would even move the airplane. This caused a one-day delay, and my friend almost died.

Once I was working in the new river town of Mapiripan where my brother Chaddy and I had opened a sawmill. We wanted to open up a market for wood in this developing area, so I was building a model wooden house there. I intended to show that they could use wood like the rich used it in residential construction instead of the cement blocks or mud that the poor used. As I worked on the model, I thought about an airplane and my prayers for God to provide it. I thought, “If I ever get an airplane, I’m going to do mercy flights on the basis of necessity and trust God to provide for the financial costs. When the people who need air-ambulance flight are able to pay, then I will charge them. If they can’t pay in an emergency, I’ll fly regardless.”

I was reflecting on this when I heard the sound of an air-plane engine. I thought, “That’s funny. It sounds like it’s headed for Chaparral.” After a few minutes, I heard the plane again. This time it headed right for me. As the plane landed, Chaddy and I ran toward the town airstrip to see who was piloting. In those days, airplanes were rare in that part of Colombia. Imagine my surprise when I saw Dad in the pilot’s seat and my old friend Ricardo Trillos in the passenger’s seat. I ran up, shook their hands, and asked them who owned the plane. “It’s ours,” Dad said.

It was an older Cessna 170 that Ricardo helped Dad negotiate in Cali, the city where Ricardo worked. They obtained it inex-pensively because it was underpowered for mountain flying, and Cali was centered between two ranges of the Andes Mountains. Here in flat-plains country, it would serve our purposes.

Dad asked if I wanted to take it for a spin. I examined its rough shape but determined it safe and workable. I climbed into the pilot’s seat, Dad got in on the passenger side, and we were off. We climbed to a safe altitude over the town, and I practiced maneuvers and stalls since I hadn’t flown for two years. When we landed, the town folk were in an uproar because they had never seen an airplane stall before. When I cut the power and the plane pitched downward, they thought we would crash right into the town. Panic-stricken women and children had run screaming in the street. They chewed us out good for delivering such scares.

Dad and I walked into town and found Ricardo and Chaddy enjoying a Coke in one of the local stores. I hadn’t seen Ricardo since he’d joined the Catholics, so I inquired how he was doing. He said his work with Catholic young people was going very well, numerically speaking. He was having trouble, however, reconciling himself to certain Catholic practices. Sometimes he felt like resigning, but then he’d become enthusiastic whenever he saw his ministry help restore lives in young people.

Ricardo said the charismatic movement was changing things in some of the dead or cold traditional churches. He felt God wanted him to bring spiritual light into those dark shadows. Ricardo was interested in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7. He told a story of how he had prayed and asked God to give him a message for Colombia that would bring the family reconciliation God promised in Malachi 4:4-6. In the middle of his prayer, he said his wife Jenny saw a vision – something similar to a television screen with red letters flashing. The letters read “Matthew 5-7” and continued repeating “Matthew 5-7” for quite a while.

This led Ricardo to conclude that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was his message for family reconciliation. Later, I reviewed those passages in my Bible, but they didn’t seem like a sermon on family reconciliation to me. I decided that maybe I would just have to take some of the things Ricardo was saying with a grain of salt.

Dad said that he was leaving for the United States in a couple of weeks to go on a speaking tour of American churches to share his Colombian ministry. I asked to use the plane while he was gone. He agreed as long as the authorities would issue me a pilot’s license. I went to Bogota, the capital city, with much fear and trembling, to apply for the license. Colombian law required one hundred hours of flying time and an instrument rating in order to qualify for a private pilot’s license. I had less than seventy hours and no instrument rating. Imagine my joy when they issued a provisional license effective for a year. I considered this a miracle, given the strict, legalistic reputation of the Civil Aeronautics Department.

Miracle Eye

I thought back to another miracle that had made it possible to become a pilot. In 1959 in Minneapolis, several months after I’d prayed for God to call my parents as missionaries, I had a terrible accident. I was playing in the basement with my cous[1]ins when I dove headfirst onto a pile of old cardboard boxes. A metal staple in one of the boxes snagged my eye and ripped a jagged, three-cornered tear in one pupil. At the hospital, the doctors reported that I was in danger of losing the injured eye. Its damage was too great to repair, and if infection set in, I could lose the other eye as well. I was sent home that Saturday with the eye bandaged shut. My parents were to take me back to the hospital early Monday morning.

By now, Dad was starting to believe God really could work supernaturally in our time. He was troubled, however, because the church we attended taught that we are now in the age of grace and the age of miracles is past. My parents contacted their friends to request prayer for me. We had a time of home prayer as well, and Dad asked me to pray. I prayed and told God that if He would heal my eye, I would always use my eyes for Him.

On Sunday, Dad took me to the home of another eye specialist to get a second opinion. The doctor used orange dye to check the damage just as the doctor at the hospital had done. He looked at my eye for a minute and then announced he couldn’t find a problem. He didn’t even replace the bandage !

Dad couldn’t believe it. He thought that was too good to be true. Mom told the specialist there’d been a triangular tear through the pupil. The specialist became angry and said, “Did you see it yourself?” She replied that when the first doctor put the dye in, he had shown her the tear in the pupil. The specialist was incredulous and did not believe my parents. The first doctor had said that even if the jagged gash healed, a line of scar tissue would remain on the pupil, obstructing my vision. Since the prayer for healing, however, I’ve had 20/20 vision and have passed my flight physicals with no trouble.


The day after the Colombian government issued my license, I returned to San Martin and fired up the Cessna 170. The first place I flew to was our farm, Chaparral. I arrived just as a rainsquall moved in. As I executed a crosswind landing on our short, narrow runway, the plane zigzagged out of control in the violent wind and I almost ended my flying career right then. I somehow managed to get the Cessna back in the air before we ground looped. I flew to a neighboring farm where a runway lined up with the headwind. I landed and waited until the wind subsided before resuming my journey to Chaparral. Badly shaken, I decided to impose some severe restrictions on my flying activities until I learned tactical jungle flying.

On the return flight, I landed in San Martin and picked up Mom who wanted to go into Villavicencio, the capital of Meta Department. Dad used Vanguardia, the local airport, for his base, and he’d contracted there with a shop for maintenance and tie-downs. We were halfway into the twenty-minute flight when all of a sudden the Cessna shuddered and our airspeed fell off a bit. I checked the magnetos, and the engine seemed to operate smoother on the left one. The engine vibrated severely, and we had lost a substantial amount of power. I radioed the tower and said it looked like we had lost a magneto. After I revised the ETA, I added that we’d be arriving late. They asked me if I wanted to declare an emergency. Since we weren’t having any trouble maintaining altitude, I told them it wasn’t necessary, but I did request a straight-in approach.

When we landed, I was surprised to see a fire truck and an ambulance waiting on the ramp. As I taxied past the fire truck, the firemen made frantic gestures for me to shut the engine off, which I did. As I exited the cockpit, I noticed a lot of black smoke beneath the engine. There was also a dent and a hole in the engine cowling. An examination revealed the problem: one of the lower spark plugs had apparently been installed cross-threaded. This caused the spark plug to rocket out of the cylinder and hit the cowling, making a dent. Airplanes have dual ignition (two spark plugs per cylinder). Thus, the top plug continued to fire, which sent a stream of flames out of the lower hole left by the missing plug. The old Continental C-145 engine had numerous oil leaks. The spillage collected in the bottom of the cowling and overflowed down the belly of the airplane. The flames set the oil to smoldering and created a dense smoke trail. In a few more minutes, the whole thing might have burst into uncontrollable fire with disastrous consequences.

It took several days to repair the plane, so Mom returned to San Martin by bus. As soon as the 170 was repaired, I took off. Everything was fine until the right brake failed on landing in San Martin. I checked it and found a loose brake line with all the fluid drained. I had serious misgivings about the poor maintenance and even questioned the validity of the logbooks. The engine was supposed to have only four hundred flight hours, but knowing human nature, who knew the actual number of hours?

The next day I flew to a large mission station. I’d known most of the people there since childhood. They operated three aircraft and had excellent maintenance facilities. I landed and taxied over to the hangar, feeling proud as I climbed out of the old Cessna. I was eager to impress my friends with my new role of jungle pilot. They greeted me with open arms, and I felt great when the head of aviation and the chief pilot invited me into their office.

Looking very sober, they informed me that aviation in Colombia was for “professional” pilots who flew well-maintained aircraft in a “professional” flight program. Given my limited experience and the deplorable mechanical condition of my airplane, they said chances were I’d kill myself in three months or less, and worse yet, I’d probably kill a load of innocent passengers as well. They told of many fly-by-night operations that suffered fatal jungle accidents. They wanted to wash their hands of me and my flying operations. I was welcome to buy aviation fuel from them, but that was all they could offer.

At first, I felt terrible as I left their office. Then I began to think of responses I could have given, such as asking how they got started in aviation. After I departed, I developed a burning desire to prove those “professionals” wrong with or without their support. Experience is nice to have, but no one is born with thousands of hours of flight time. For an inexperienced new aviator, practical help along with good advice from the old-timers can make the difference between success and failure and between life and death. I would find a way.

Chap 7. Caño Macú, Colombia September 5, 1983

The treading of my captors’ booted feet, together with the incessant rain of the jungle, has turned this campsite into a sea of ankle-deep mud. I have now spent three weeks in captivity; the guerrillas still have me under tight security with three of them on guard duty around the clock. They still keep me tied up with the nylon cord with the slipknot around my neck. The rope drags in the mud and gets my clothes and bedding dirty. It’s hard to adjust to life with absolutely no privacy. I am required to be in my hammock under the mosquito net by 6:00 p.m. The evenings are sweltering hot. The hammock is made of wool, and the mosquito net is made of drapery material which doesn’t admit much air. I lie inside and sweat until about 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. when the temperature drops low enough for sleep.

A guard takes my shoes when I get in the hammock, presumably to make it harder for me to escape at night. Without shoes, an escape would be difficult since the jungle is full of sharp briars and stickers. Sometimes a guard will tie a string to my hammock so he can tug on it from time to time to confirm I’m still here. The guard will also shine his flashlight on me whenever he feels movement. To do this, he has to lay his light alongside his gun barrel in order to shoot if needed. Every time the guard shines his flashlight on me, I know he also has his gun aimed at me.

Many sounds fill the jungle at night. Every time a dead branch crashes down or a dried palm leaf falls to the ground in a gust of wind, the guerrillas jump to their feet and click the safeties off on their weapons. I often wonder what the likelihood is of being shot accidentally by a nervous guard. With all this working against me, many nights it’s hard to sleep.

The guerrillas all get up at 4:00 a.m., take their hammocks down, and roll them into their packs. They are always prepared at a moment’s notice to depart. I am permitted to get up at 6:00 a.m. when Giovani brings water for brushing my teeth and a cup of coffee. Breakfast arrives within an hour or so.

After breakfast, I sometimes do exercises. Alfredo, the fourteen-year-old guerrilla, made a chin-up bar for me by tying a pole between two trees. They’ve even provided two old gunnysacks to spread on the ground so I can do sit-ups and push-ups without getting muddy. I spend a lot of time pacing back and forth as far as the nylon cord will allow – about ten paces in either direction. The guards tie the other end of the rope to a tree.

Hope of Escape

I’m always alert for a chance to escape, but no reasonable opportunities have presented themselves. I have to control my thoughts to avoid going into severe depression. If I think about my wife and little daughter, I feel terrible all day. The baby had just learned to walk prior to the kidnapping, and the high point of my days had been when I’d come home from a hard day’s work, pick her up, and play with her. Now my wife, baby, family, and friends seem to belong to another world, and my chances of seeing them anytime soon seem very poor.

If I let my thoughts dwell on avenues of escape or on the possibilities of snatching a weapon from the hands of a guard, adrenalin starts to flow in my veins. Then I find myself unable to eat or sleep. I go over and over the probability of success for a given escape plan. Would it be better to make my move in daylight or at night? In fair weather or in foul? Should I just run, or should I try to incapacitate the guard first? If I do manage to break free from the guerrilla camp, what are my chances of finding my way home from here with no equipment, no matches, no food, and no weapons? I can envision my baby daughter growing up without a father. I had better not do anything foolish that I will regret later or, worse yet, not live to tell about. If I can’t come up with an escape plan that will have at least an 80-percent chance of getting me home in one piece, I’d better stay where I am.

I have begun to calculate all my words and actions in an effort to lull the guerrillas into complacency with me so they will unwittingly give me a chance to escape. Unfortunately, the incident of my shooting Manuel has caused them to handle me with much more security than would normally have been the case. They aren’t taking any chances with me.

I fight depression by forcing my mind to focus on positive issues. This kidnapping is giving me a whole new perspective on my life and on the world. How can I use this fresh viewpoint to my advantage? What can I learn from this experience? Is it possible for anything good to come out of this kidnapping? I begin to make a list of the answers that come to mind. I wonder if I can have a beneficial influence on my abductors. How can I relate to them?

As I explore positive viewpoints, my feelings improve. I remember a verse from the Bible that says, All things help them unto good, to those who according to the purpose are called to be saints (Romans 8:28). Can God have a purpose in allowing me to fall into the hands of these guerrillas? If I were to relax and trust God to get me out of here, will He work everything out for good?

My mind tries to tell me that this viewpoint is crazy. In my wallet the guerrillas have found papers that link me to the Colombian government and identify me as the previous head of the Civil Air Patrol for our area. They interrogate me and sometimes they insinuate that I must be a government agent, maybe even a CIA agent! I try to explain that my job had just been to fly search-and-rescue missions for downed civil aircraft, but they continue to hassle me. My mind keeps telling me that I am trapped and that the guerrillas will never let me go or live.

Still, deep inside my spirit, I feel that God might really have a purpose in this kidnapping. As I think over my situation, I have decided to look at it as an opportunity to have a positive effect on my captors. I am starting to preoccupy myself with how to present the truth to the guerrillas in a way they can understand instead of just condemning them outright. I have decided to tell them about some of the mistakes I have made in my life and some of the lessons I learned the hard way. I hope they will be able to relate to me this way and eventually be able to evaluate their own lives and admit their own mistakes too. I have started telling the guerrillas stories about the wonderful things God has done for me in my life. God has always come through for me whenever I have found myself in trouble. All I have to do is be honest with God and willing to admit my problems and failures in order for Him to help me. I keep telling them that God can help them out of their problems too.


Nancy is bitter toward Christianity. One day she said to me, “I don’t believe all this Christian garbage about mercy and love, and you don’t either. You shot Manuel and therefore you must have hated him.”

I replied, “No, I didn’t hate Manuel, even though I shot him. Kidnapping is wrong and I didn’t want to let you people get away with it. I had nothing personal against Manuel. He just happened to be standing in the way to my freedom. Be honest with yourself, Nancy. You wouldn’t have thought very much of me if I had just cowardly handed over my gun without using it. I do believe that I made a big mistake; however, my error was when I lied to Jaime about having the gun in the first place. A Christian shouldn’t tell lies, no matter what the circumstances. I could have said many other things in answer to Jaime’s question about the gun. I didn’t have to lie. I even invented a fake heart condition.

“Look at this guerrilla camp, Nancy. Most of what you guerrillas tell me are lies. Most of what your leaders tell you are lies. You can’t trust anybody. If I claim to be a Christian and tell lies too, it puts us all in the same boat, doesn’t it? I placed my life under God’s authority at a very early age. Therefore, He is much stricter with me than with someone who doesn’t even acknowledge His existence. If I had been able to escape by using my revolver after I lied to Jaime about it, I would have come to an erroneous conclusion. I would have concluded that it is necessary for a Christian to lie when he is in difficult circumstances or a tight spot. After I lied about the gun, there was no way God could let me get away with using it. Instead, He mercifully kept Giovani safe and made sure I didn’t kill Manuel either. Now, thanks to God, we can all sit here and discuss what happened and learn from our mistakes.”

Nancy didn’t reply. She left to go about her business without saying another word. Maybe she remembered an incident several days before. It had been the twentieth day of my captivity, and Manuel had returned to camp. He was weak from his gunshot wound, but he could talk. He came over and glared at me without saying a word. His left hand fingered the butt of a 9mm pistol stuck down the back of his pants. I greeted him and we spoke for a few minutes. It was clear when he left that he held a desire for revenge.

I had prayed for Manuel that night and asked God to change his attitude so he’d be able to forgive me and we could shake hands. The next afternoon, Manuel came back and we talked for three hours. By the time he left, I knew he held no resentment toward me for shooting him, nor did I feel bitter toward him for kidnapping me. Manuel told me that he was personally against kidnapping, but he was a member of a military organization and had to follow orders even if he didn’t agree with them. I told him that I had nothing personal against him, and that I only shot him because I deemed it necessary in order to escape. When Manuel rose to go, he held out his hand. We shook and he said, “It’s okay, there is nothing between us.” The next day Manuel was transferred upriver to the main guerrilla camp to recuperate. I didn’t see him again for over a month.

God or Evolution

One day, a guerrilla asked me if this experience was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. I thought back over my life and had to say no. There have been several times when much-worse things have happened to me. Several times a terrible predicament has been entirely of my own making. This time the predicament isn’t my fault, but I am feeling a growing conviction that God is in control of this situation. If God has intervened in my life before and spared me when the problem was entirely my fault, I am convinced He will work everything out this time.

I am beginning to enter into meaningful dialogues with my captors. I find that when I talk with them one on one, they open up to me somewhat. If I speak to a group of them, they clam up individually and simply parrot communist indoctrination. They appear astounded that as an educated person I can believe in God instead of evolution.

Today I had a discussion with Giovani. I learned that atheism is the foundation for the communist ideology. I have noticed each morning that the guerrillas who are not on guard duty attend a two-hour ideological meeting. Giovani said God and religion are falsifications thought up by very clever individuals to obtain power and money.

“Prove God’s existence!” he demanded of me. “I can surely prove that evolution is true.”

I told him to go ahead and prove evolution to me. He said, “Well, everyone knows about the fossil record, and there are examples of evolution throughout nature. Man is the product of his environment, so the next inevitable step in the evolutionary process is to overthrow the capitalistic governments of the world by force and impose a new order of world socialism. Cuba and Nicaragua have already been ‘liberated.’ El Salvador is in the process of being freed from capitalism. Right now, we are still too weak to be able to liberate Colombia, but we are helping our brothers in El Salvador by sending them as many men and as much money as we can spare.

“After our brothers triumph in El Salvador, then the full resources of our friends in Cuba, Nicaragua, and El Salvador will be concentrated on the liberation of another country, which will probably be Colombia. Mexico and the other Latin American nations will follow. Ultimately, we will win and it is inevitable that the United States will finally fall. Then our new world order will quickly clean up all the world’s problems. We will redistribute all the world’s resources and eliminate hunger, disease, illiteracy, and poverty. We will also try, convict, and eliminate all the corrupt capitalists, especially everyone found perpetrating this terrible religious hoax about God. We consider religion to be a crime against the people.”

“Give me an example of evolution in nature,” I asked him.

“How about a caterpillar turning into a butterfly? For sure that’s evolution,” Giovani replied.

I said, “If a butterfly could lay eggs that would hatch directly into little butterflies, then you might have a point. However, the truth is that a butterfly’s eggs hatch back into caterpillars that spin cocoons and turn into butterflies again. This process is called metamorphosis, not evolution. Evolutionary scientists have a hard time explaining how metamorphosis evolved. On the other hand, a creator would delight in designing a life cycle like that.

“As for the fossil record, its evidence is far from conclusive. For example, if the fossil skeletons were to show a large monkey or ape with a shorter and shorter tail, then finally turning into a creature with no tail at all, it would be stronger evidence. As it is, they show us skeletons of progressively larger and larger apes with complete tails, and then jump to skeletons of small men with no tail at all and show skeletons of larger and larger men.

“Take the Kogi Indians for example, who average less than five feet tall. If an archaeologist were to dig up one of their skeletons without ever meeting a real live Kogi, he might think he had the missing link. Knowing the Kogi, however, it is easy to see that they are just as intelligent and human as we are, even though they are very small.

“Another thing that is troublesome is the dating system. One major archaeological find was sent to two different laboratories for dating. One laboratory reported the bones to be one million years old. The second lab reported two million years old. The precision of the dating techniques, using analytical mathematics in this case, is one million years, plus or minus a million years for the first lab report. In other words, the specimen could be anywhere from zero to two million years old.

“The more you study things like genetics, microbiology, ecosystems, and food chains, the more difficult it becomes to defend evolution. As things get smaller, they become more complex. A seemingly simple, single-celled animal, such as the amoeba, is just as complex as the cells making up the human body. When a person begins to grasp the tremendous complexity of the inner working of just a simple amoeba, the odds of all this coming together by chance appear impossible.

“We see that a given species can adapt to its environment to a certain extent within its gene pool. The genes for a given species are usable only to that species and cannot be transferred to another species. Every species of plant or animal is genetically locked into a given range of size, color, and other attributes. Thus, a dog breeder may breed large dogs, small dogs, longhaired dogs, or shorthaired dogs with a variety of characteristics, but it is genetically impossible to breed a dog into a cat or some other animal. As scientific research continues in genetics and microbiology, evolution gets more difficult to defend instead of the other way around. Of course, if we initiate our search to discover how we happened to come into existence with the dogmatic assumption that God doesn’t exist, well then, we are forced to believe something like evolution.”

Giovani was stunned; he’d never dreamed evolution could be questioned in such a way. He was still sure that what I said was pure heresy, but he was at a loss to respond, so he said nothing.

Arnuval joined us, but I continued my chain of thought. “Let’s examine things from your point of view. If evolution is true, we are going to have a very difficult time reconciling it with your argument about social justice being your main motivating force. If natural selection and survival of the fittest are causing the overthrow of the capitalistic governments of the world by force as the next level of evolutionary progress, then let’s not confuse the issue by talking about social injustice being the cause.

“Evolution by its very nature is cruel. Survival of the fittest means that the one with the most strength or force survives and replaces the weaker or more peaceful animal. The fact that the stronger animal kills and replaces the weaker animal has nothing to do with justice. If we throw God out of the equation, then justice is simply whatever pleases us at the moment, and injustice is what we do not like. In order to be able to discuss justice and injustice, we must have a supreme good being on which to base our standards. Otherwise everything becomes relative.”

Arnuval and Giovani were silent for a few minutes as the full implication of what I had said sunk in. All of a sudden they were faced for the first time with the possibility that maybe there really was a supreme, good being named God, who had really created all things. What would this God have to say about some of their guerrilla procedures and activities?

Arnuval broke the silence. “Well, we rank-and-file guerrillas are just members of a military organization. If our leaders order us to kidnap someone or try to kill someone, we have to obey our orders. If we are just obeying orders, then whatever happens isn’t our fault. We don’t like to kidnap people, but our leaders say it is necessary in order to finance the revolution.”

I replied by saying that sometimes a person must take a strong moral stand on a given issue no matter what the consequences. If it were true that Arnuval and Giovani had joined the guerrilla movement with a desire to fight social injustice and stand up against the corruption in present Colombian society, then why weren’t they standing against what they knew to be wrong within the guerrilla organization? They both appeared rather sober for a while, and Arnuval looked a little wistful. Finally, he said, “Well, you still haven’t proven God’s existence to us, although I will admit that you have given us a lot of food for thought on all these matters.”

“The first place we can look for God,” I answered, “is in His creation. I don’t think that the beauty and artistic designs that we see in nature could have happened by chance. The earth is just the right distance from the sun to provide optimum temperatures for human life. There is just the right amount of oxygen in the air. The balance between land surface area and water surface area are optimum on this planet for the weather and rainfall needs of most areas. The earth spins on its axis and has just the right amount of tilt to provide days, seasons, and optimum utilization of a very high percentage of the earth’s surface area.

“The way everything interacts in nature seems to point to a master plan made by a creator. The probabilities of all this coming together by chance are so remote it seems utterly ridiculous. The Christian explanation that this world was at one time a perfect creation and that basic human selfishness somehow caused this world to decline becomes more and more plausible if we are willing to set wishful thinking to one side and be prepared to accept our share of the blame for the mess we are all in. If we stick our heads in the sand and refuse to admit our own mistakes, we can make no progress whatsoever toward discovering God. We only become more and more bitter as we see the mistakes that other people make around us, and we feel frustrated when we can’t change them. This can lead us to take the law into our own hands and try to set things right by use of force. The use of force in private hands will usually backfire, since the people who take the law into their own hands are far from being perfect individuals. Their personal imperfection will interfere with their ability to wield force in a just manner, and the result may be much worse than the beginning.”

Giovani scowled at me and remarked that I had better watch what I was saying because he could kill me whenever he wanted to. I decided to not pay too much attention to this threat, because I now understood what they had said about “just following orders,” and I knew Giovani couldn’t just shoot me on the spur of the moment because those weren’t his orders. If I were to try to escape, however, that was a different story.

“You know, if God is really out there like I am telling you He is,” I continued, “if He really made this earth and all that is in it, if God really loves each one of us as individuals and has a plan for each of our lives, then I don’t have to prove God’s existence to you. If God exists, then He can prove Himself to you. All you have to do is talk to Him and authorize Him to intervene in your life and control all of life’s circumstances affecting you. I am convinced that God Himself is capable of proving His own existence in a much more convincing way than I ever could. What have you got to lose? You have everything to gain.”

God Proves Himself

Yesterday we moved the location of our campsite a few hundred yards through the jungle onto higher ground. The guerrillas made me a desk out of split palm. Jaime rigged a spare tarp over the top so that I could write even when it rained. Mariano, the gunsmith, set up his tools and used an old, fallen log for a workbench. His “workshop” is about twenty yards from my “desk.” Today, wonder of wonders, Mariano delivered a type-writer. Arnuval announced that I am to type my book out in Spanish for all the guerrillas to read. If I do this, they will let me take a handwritten English version home with me when I leave.

I have typed most of the day and translated this book into Spanish for my captors to read. I look up every now and then to watch Mariano work. He is fitting a new stock to an M2 automatic carbine. I am amazed at the quality of his work in spite of the limited tools available to him. He has to carry everything in his backpack along with his bedding, food, and personal belongings.

I am quite tired as I climb into my hammock tonight. It is nice to be in a new campsite without ankle-deep mud. The guerrillas have washed my bedding too. Due to the recent clearing of the campsite, there’s an abnormal number of mosquitoes. An enormous black and white mosquito with oversized, blue, fuzzy legs descended on my arm like a miniature lunar-landing vehicle. I swatted it and checked the inside of the mosquito net for more. The guard shined his flashlight at my movement, and I took advantage of the light to make sure the opening of the mosquito net is secure. I then settle back into the hammock to relax and think over the day’s events and my conversation with Arnuval and Giovani.

I chuckle to myself as I remember another time when I had suggested to someone that God was perfectly capable of defending Himself and proving His existence to us humans.

Four years earlier, I had been flying a cargo of fish from an out-of-the-way jungle airstrip named Tomachipan. My friend Fernando Suarez had built a fish trap on the falls of the Inirida River. A flat-topped volcanic ridge of lava rock rose from the jungle canopy on which an airstrip had been constructed. Fernando made his trap in such a way that some of the fish that tried to jump the falls would be caught in the trap. All he had to do was clear the trap every morning and save the fish in the cold-storage room he had built by the side of the airstrip. He sold the fish to me, and I flew in all his supplies and diesel fuel for his cold-storage unit. I liked to spend the night at Tomachipan because it was a lovely spot with few mosquitoes and clear water. The falls were beautiful as they descended in several easy stages, making a lot of noise.

One day I arrived at about 5:00 p.m., and Fernando came to the landing to pick me up in his outboard–motor-powered dugout canoe. The same day, a professor from a large city high school located on the headwaters of the Inirida River made the day-and-a-half journey down the river with a boatload of high school boys. They were on a field trip to study the volcanic rock formation, the falls, and the fish trap.

While we were waiting for supper to be served, I got into a classic evolution versus creation debate with the professor. The professor was about forty-five, almost bald, and really putting on a show for his students. The debate became hotter and hot[1]ter. As we reached the high-decibel range, Fernando came and tried to reconcile things. He said he thought both sides had a point, and it was time to forget the debate and enjoy the meal. I made a closing statement and told the professor I didn’t need to defend God.

If the professor would authorize God to intervene in his life and reveal Himself, I thought God would be happy to do so and to convince him beyond any doubt much better than I could through further debate. The Bible says God is a Spirit and that we must worship Him in spirit and in truth. If we have no concept of God and are unable to conceive of a spiritual world invisible to our physical senses because we have not developed our spiritual senses, then we must be honest and look for truth. If we follow truth, our search will ultimately end in God’s revelation of Himself in a way that we can perceive and understand.

I told the professor that if he wanted to be honest, we could ask God Himself to settle our little debate. The professor drew himself up to his full stature and replied, “Well, I authorize God, wherever He is, to reveal Himself to me if He can, but until then I will continue to believe in evolution!” The school[1]boys laughed at this and thought it was very funny. I could have said a few more things, but I decided to leave matters be and get on with the meal.

The next morning I left early with my load of frozen fish. I didn’t return to Tomachipan until two days later. Fernando met me at the airstrip, and he looked a little pale.

“What’s the matter, Fernando?” I asked. “Don’t you feel well today?”

“You aren’t going to believe what happened to the professor,” he replied.

“What happened?” I responded.

“The other morning after you left,” Fernando continued, “we went back to the falls, and the schoolboys helped me clean out the fish that were in the traps on the far side of the river. When we got done, we started to go home. I ran my canoe well upstream along the banks to a safe distance above the falls before crossing the river, like I always do. The professor and the high school boys didn’t do that. They tried to cross at the mouth of the falls. Their motor quit halfway across, and before they could get it restarted, they were sucked over the falls. I’ve known of thirteen people prior to this who went over those falls, and they were all killed.

“Fortunately, I also keep a boat and motor on the lower end of the falls, so I ran down there. The old outboard motor that normally takes fifteen minutes to start because it has no compression started on the first crank. I headed into the rapids below the falls to rescue the schoolboys. Soon I had all seven of them in the boat, and all were alive. We searched both banks of the river below the falls, but we couldn’t find the professor anywhere. The boys told me that the professor couldn’t swim, so I figured he must have drowned. Then we noticed something in the water far downriver. When we got closer, we just couldn’t believe our eyes. The professor was perched on top of the capsized canoe. He was hanging on for dear life, digging his fingernails into the slimy, moss-covered underside of the dugout canoe as it floated down the rapids.

“He had gone down one chute of the falls; the canoe had gone down another. At the bottom of the falls is a tremendous geyser. This jet of water hurled the professor into the air just as the large dugout canoe passed by from the other chute at right angles. The professor landed on top of the waterlogged canoe and hung on for all he was worth. He was completely exhausted when we finally pried his fingers loose from that canoe.

“We spent most of the next day dragging the large canoe up the portage on rollers. I dried their motor out, which we found still bolted on the transom of the canoe. I went through all my clothes and gave them each a pair of pants for the return trip home because all their clothes were lost in the river. I fixed them up with an old gas tank because theirs was lost. They left this morning to go home. It’s too bad you missed them. The last thing the professor said before he left was, ‘Tell Martin (I am called Martin in Spanish) that now I believe in God too!’

“The schoolboys didn’t laugh this time either,” continued Fernando. “They all left here this morning just as sober as judges. I guess a person had better be very careful what he says about God.”

As I think over this incident, I seriously pray that some of my captors would have the courage to be honest with God. I think about Giovani, and something stirs in my memory. His face is familiar, but I can’t quite place where I’ve run into him prior to the kidnapping. There’s especially something about Giovani’s manner of speaking. His speech has an accent that I can’t quite place. Maybe he isn’t even a Colombian.

I continue to run this around in my head as I try to place him. Giovani’s Spanish accent is almost Caribbean. Could he be a Cuban? I remember that early in my captivity he asked if I remembered him. He had said he conversed with me at a remote jungle airstrip several years ago. I had pressed him as to the exact time and place, but he wouldn’t come clean.

Suddenly a cold shiver runs down my spine, and everything falls into place. Giovani had been in that group of high school boys that went over the falls at Tomachipan four years ago! What a coincidence! Wait a minute. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence. What if those high school boys hadn’t really been on a field trip? What if they were actually being recruited by the guerrillas – right out of high school? Is Giovani a Cuban agent? How old is he? With some rapid mental calculations, I conclude that we are now less than twenty-five miles from Tomachipan. With all those memories swirling in my head, I say my prayers and drift off to sleep.

The next morning, I tell the guerrillas the story of the professor and the high school boys. Then I look straight at Giovani and ask him how the “professor” was getting along, and if he still believes in God. Giovani gave a start. Visibly flustered, he replied that he didn’t know what I was talking about.

Giovani appears more and more thoughtful as the days go by. These thoughtful periods are punctuated with abrupt, bitter tirades against me and against Americans in general. He rants and raves about President Reagan and calls him every filthy name he can. Every time I start to defend our president, he threatens to kill me. When I ignore Giovani’s threats, he turns livid and trembles with hatred and rage. Then I get mad instead of scared. As I think about the tremendous moral character and quality of our seventy-two-year-old president, I feel an overwhelming urge to defend him and not see him misrepresented in such a manner.

Chap 8. Finca Chaparral, Colombia April 1978.

I was putting the finishing touches on a large walk-in freezer that I was building on the bank of the Guaviare River at Chaparral where I planned to buy fresh fish from the local fishermen. Their big catfish would be frozen, and then I’d fly them to market. We should have made enough profit on this wholesale fish operation to pay the costs of doing all the public service and missionary flying that was urgently needed but that no one could afford. With Chaddy’s help, we had made an airstrip along the river using an old Caterpillar D2 bulldozer and our Ford 5000 tractor. This would enable us to load the fish into the plane directly from the walk-in freezer.

I had designed the cold-storage facility for maximum freezing ability, coupled with low diesel fuel consumption, after I analyzed various fish wholesaling ventures in the jungle that failed due to high fuel costs. I used a Lister 16/2 750 RPM diesel engine with a band drive to a Tecumseh 10-horsepower Freon compressor turning at 450 RPM. It was 100-percent manually controlled, thus eliminating any delicate electrical systems that might fail in the jungle. The result was a very efficient, reliable facility that could store about six tons of fish to a low of 30 degrees below zero. If I ever got homesick for my native Minnesota, some time inside the freezer took care of the problem.

The locals became excited about the project because it would provide a source of much-needed income. My enthusiasm grew as we progressed, and I borrowed from the bank and from private individuals in order to finish the walk-in freezer and airstrip. When these were finished, I had to borrow more money for operating capital in order to purchase fish, furnish food, and provide fishing supplies and fuel for the fishermen. Many of them needed equipment or supplies on credit in order to start fishing. They needed boats and motors to run back and forth on a daily schedule to pick up fish as they were caught and transport them to the freezer before they spoiled.

Debt upon Debt

Soon I was in debt way over my head. At first, I wasn’t too worried because I figured since my motives were to produce funds to provide air-ambulance flying, missionary work, and jobs for the poor, God would automatically be very pleased with me and bless our business. I thought it would be no problem to pay all the related debts. I wouldn’t have gotten so deep in debt if the business had just been for personal gain. But since this business was really for God, I took as much money as I could borrow and counted on God to pay it back.

I found out that there’s a tremendous amount of planning and coordination involved in an operation like this. We had over fifty full-time and about two hundred part-time fishermen who sold fish to us. That meant we handled about 250 separate accounts. Some of the fishermen had outboard motors and looked to us for fuel, parts, and service. Many of the fishermen wanted to buy motors or upgrade their current one – all on credit, of course. My brother and I took out a Johnson Motors distributorship, so we soon had another big debt.

By this time, I was transporting fish as fast as the little Cessna 170 could go, and its engine started to complain. One morning it quit three times on the way to the farm. This resulted in three separate forced landings, which fortunately all turned out okay. I checked the engine and replaced some intake manifold hoses that were rotten. I also found and cleaned out some sediment in the fuel screen. I thought I had taken care of the problem, so I loaded the fish and set out for Villavicencio. Halfway there, the engine acted up, and when I arrived in town, the temperature gauges were past the red line and buried in the high end of the scale. I decided it was time to retire the old engine. It had run faithfully well past its recommended overhaul time.

At this point, I made another mistake. Instead of just buying a new engine for the 170, I listened to a local Cessna dealer who wanted to sell me a new airplane. I was under a lot of pressure because the cold-storage facility was full and overflowing at Chaparral, and I needed to move fish immediately because my bank debts were coming due. I also needed to receive more fish from the fishermen in order to recover the money I had loaned them. The Cessna dealer showed me a nice year-old Cessna 182 worth $50,000 U.S. He said not to worry about a down payment; I could take care of it later.

The plane was beautiful and able to carry 50-percent more than the 170 with about a 40-percent increase in speed. Coupled with a greatly extended range due to much larger gas tanks, the new plane was ideal for my needs. I took it without thinking twice about the implications of this new debt at a very high interest rate.

The next month we entered the dry season. Unbeknownst to me, fishing gets very slow in the dry season. The fish burrow into the cool mud at the bottom of the river and kind of hibernate until the rainy season. If the river is shallow, as is the case in other areas of Colombia, this makes for excellent fishing. The Guaviare, however, is very deep (over ninety feet in places), and our main fishing is limited to the rainy season. We had three very slow months in which we lost money and were unable to meet our obligations.

In April, when the rainy season began, it was of absolute necessity that everything go well with the fishing if our business was to survive. I decided we needed help selling the fish in order to make a bigger profit margin. My old friend Ricardo Trillos no longer worked with the Catholics; he was presently employed as a salesman for a large hardware store. I talked him into working with me as a partner in marketing for the fishing operation. We worked hard and were soon catching up on our payments. I trusted Ricardo’s marketing expertise to pull us out of our financial mess, but unfortunately, Ricardo wasn’t any better at managing finances than I was, although he was an excellent salesman.

Then I made another mistake and learned a lesson in Colombian politics the hard way. I got caught up in a small-town fight between different political factions and was thrown in jail on trumped-up charges. Ricardo did everything possible to get me out and finally succeeded after about a week. During that week, one of our employees rolled our jeep and demolished it, losing a load of fish he was carrying.

Immediately after this, my father returned from the States and determined that we were on the verge of bankruptcy. Any further incidents could push us over the edge. Dad blamed Ricardo for some of the financial problems and for sloppy bookkeeping and fired him to cut overhead. I was really the one responsible for our financial situation, but I didn’t accept my share of the blame.

Battling Planes

I worked harder than ever and tried to make up for the lost time. We were about halfway through the rainy season, and the fish were plentiful. One morning, I took off from San Martin in the 182 with a load of supplies for the fishermen. As I made my final approach to the fish house airstrip, I was surprised to see a large, twin-engine airplane on the ground at the far end of the strip. I landed and taxied cautiously to the house. Guillermo, my employee in charge of the fish buying operation, met me and told me the story.

The large twin-engine airplane (it was a Howard 350 with 2,500-horsepower engines) had landed at dusk the day before. It was out of fuel and unable to land anywhere else due to bad weather. Four Americans were aboard. The pilot said he was a retired colonel from the U.S. Air Force, and he and his crew worked for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Due to the short runway, the large airplane had run off the end of the strip and halfway into a plowed field at the end of the runway. It was hopelessly stuck in the wet ground. Chaddy and Guillermo had worked most of the night with the tractor trying to get the airplane out of the mud but to no avail. Early in the morning, a speedboat with what appeared to be mafia personnel in it came and picked up the pilots. They had left just before I arrived.

“Guillermo,” I said, “I think this airplane probably belongs to the mafia,2 and those pilots told you a lie so that you would help them. I’d better get the police so we won’t be blamed for the appearance of this United States–registered plane on our property.”

2Mafia in Colombia and for this book’s purpose denotes anyone involved in narcotics trafficking; it does not refer to ethnic Italians.

Fortunately, the “mafia” airplane was empty inside and not carrying drugs. They probably were coming down empty to pick up a load of marijuana or cocaine. I quickly flew to the new police station in Mapiripan, fifteen minutes’ flight time away. I told the local police commander the story and asked him to set up a checkpoint on the river to stop the mafia speedboat. He appeared more interested in the airplane, so I took him and one of his men back to Chaparral with me in the Cessna 182. I was relieved to have him take over the responsibility for this huge airplane on my property.

As we were walking over to inspect the plane, a T-33 jet fighter plane (also known as an F-80) appeared out of nowhere and started shooting its six .50-caliber machine guns at us. I told the policemen to stand where the fighter pilot could see their uniforms. They did so, but the T-33 continued making passes over us, and the policemen were forced to run for cover. Some bullets went close to my new Cessna 182, and I thought, “I’m not going to let them shoot up my fifty-thousand-dollar airplane; it’s not even insured against something like this.”

I knew it would take the jet fighter plane a minute or so to turn and make another pass, so I climbed into the 182 as soon as the T-33 was past us and started the engine. The police commander hopped in the other side. I firewalled the throttle and took off. Unbeknownst to me, there was a second fighter plane on top of us at thirty-thousand feet. This second T-33 dove at us as we made our takeoff. We were almost 100 feet in the air when I saw this second fighter. It was coming straight at us with its machine guns blazing. Six faint red lines of tracers converged somewhere under my left wing. Instinctively, I lowered the nose and made a hard turn to the right, and the fighter tried to follow my movements. I saw the wings of the T-33 tremble as the jet approached a high-speed stall in its efforts to turn with me. Puffs of smoke came from the machine guns in the fighter’s wings, but fortunately, the six lines of tracer bullets now converged behind us, as we could turn much faster than the T-33, and the fighter’s tremendous speed carried it past us. I leveled the 182 out about three feet above a large swamp. I couldn’t believe we were still alive.

All of a sudden we heard whump, whump, whump. The first T-33 had turned around and was firing at us from behind with machine guns and possibly even rockets. Something hit the swamp just under our tail and blasted debris up into the air, doing minor damage to the 182’s tail. I zigzagged as sharply as I could while heading for the edge of the jungle.

The police commander screamed something at the top of his lungs. I told him to shut up, look out the back window, and tell me when the fighter was back on our tail. This he did.

The T-33s made several more passes on us until either we lost them or they ran out of ammunition. I flew all the way to Mapiripan by zigzagging at low level. When I went to reduce power for landing, I found the power levers were all in the full-forward, full-power position. I had been so upset by the fighters that I’d forgotten to pull the power back to cruise after takeoff. Fortunately, the 182’s engine is rated for continuous full-power operation.

I landed and pulled off the runway to park. Only after I shut the engine off and started to climb out did the full shock of what had happened set in. The police commander was in worse shape than I was. His knees knocked together so badly that it was several minutes before he could even walk. He wasn’t used to riding in airplanes, let alone the maneuvers I had used to keep the fighters from hitting us. Most of his remarks about the Colombian Air Force were unprintable. We hurried back to the police station and used their radio to inform headquarters of the situation, requesting they call off the air force before they killed someone at Chaparral.

We learned later that the air force pilots thought the mafia pilots were being evacuated in the Cessna 182. They had mistakenly attacked us. The next day, I went to the air force base and talked to the commanding colonel. He said he was sorry about what had happened and that the offending fighter pilots were locked in the brig. He claimed that he only granted permission to fire a warning burst into the river. It wasn’t clear to me if the pilots were locked up because they were overly ambitious or if it was because of their poor marksmanship! I decided to accept the colonel’s apology and leave it at that. The colonel was worried I might sue the air force, but I assured him I wouldn’t.

Mafia Pressure

Later that week, the colonel sent a company of paratroopers to guard the mafia airplane and repair the damage to our runway. They filled in holes and then widened and lengthened the run[1]way in preparation for flying the Howard 350 Super Ventura from Chaparral to their base. Soon we had an extremely nice runway, courtesy of the Colombian armed forces.

After they finished the runway, an air force pilot arrived to fly the big mafia plane out. He looked at it and measured the runway; then he looked where he would have to pass over our house. With less than three feet of clearance between his wingtip and our roof, he said this wasn’t enough of a safety margin for him. The length of the runway was marginal, so if anything went wrong, there would be an accident. He said the Lockheed Howard 350 was a very nice airplane, but as far as he was concerned, it looked like an elaborate 5,000-horsepower coffin.

The paratroopers were withdrawn and replaced by a squad of six air force guards. I had been impressed with the para[1]troopers’ discipline, training, and manners, but these new guys were different. They decided to set a checkpoint on the river. If a boat didn’t stop, they would fire a warning shot. If the boat owners didn’t offer cigarettes, money, or liquor for the guards, they would have a long delay. Our fish business suffered because most of the fishing was done at night. These guards were very nervous at night, so they would fire their weapons at anything that moved. After a couple of close calls, the night fishermen stopped delivering fish at night. Many of them didn’t have ID cards or draft cards because they lived in the remote country, so they were scared to come any time, day or night, for fear of being hassled by the guards. Fish production was reduced to about 25 percent of what it had been. I was having difficulty making my payments to the creditors and was so far behind in airplane payments that it was a wonder they didn’t foreclose on the 182.

A whole year went by without any change, and I was forced to look for other income to avoid bankruptcy. I started flying supplies and meat into small jungle towns that could be reached only by air. On the return flights, I’d haul dried fish. It was during this time that I contracted to buy the fish production of Tomachipan. I was so far in debt that it was difficult to even meet the interest payments. Many of the fishermen who owed money had quit fishing and were now farming marijuana. Unfortunately, when they sold their lucrative crop, they would forget to pay their debts. It was a case of easy come, easy go. In spite of the seriousness of the situation, it was disappointing to see what these poor people spent money on when they suddenly had a large amount for the first time in their lives.

Many got into drug cultivation because it appeared to be a wonderful opportunity to have things they’d only dreamed about. Now they were able to feed and clothe their families and maybe even send their children to high school. If a family member became ill, they would be able to pay for doctor bills and hospitalization. I thought it was a terrible paradox that the money spent by some affluent American kid on drugs – with probably disastrous consequences to his life and character – could actually be used to pay for the education of a poor kid in Colombia who’d otherwise never have a chance for an education. However, when these poor people actually received the money that they’d always dreamed of having, only a small percentage was spent on worthwhile projects that would help them in the future. Instead, they spent their money on portable generators, fancy speedboats, video equipment, and all kinds of junk that was completely useless to them after the marijuana bubble burst and they were poor again.

At this time, the marijuana business was so profitable that almost everyone in our area scrambled to get a piece of the action. They would say, “If the rich Americans want to buy pot, that’s their problem. We aren’t hurting anyone. What’s the matter with us making a little money for the first time in our lives? We aren’t using the drugs here in Colombia.”

We were among the last in our area who still tried to make an honest living, and we were about an inch from bankruptcy. My friends would come and argue with me, saying, “It’s impossible to make a living here if a person doesn’t participate in the drug trade.” I tried to warn them of the negative consequences by telling them of the terrible damage drugs caused North American youth, but my words fell on deaf ears.

The drug business caused negative effects on Colombian culture as well. The local law enforcement officers were soon corrupted by the drug traffickers. A high percentage of the drug bonanza was spent on liquor and vice. The very worst elements of Colombian society descended on the area in search of easy money. Bodyguards and hired gunmen were in demand by rich mafia figures. Fighting and violence erupted as different mafia factions3 battled for turf and the right to buy marijuana in a given area. Communist guerrillas moved in on the most lucrative areas and levied a tax on the drug growers that was used to finance terrorism and revolution. Since marijuana was illegal, the poor campesino families who grew the pot were open to extortion from all sides. They were forced to pay the crooked law enforcement personnel, the mafia, and the communist guerrillas. The dreams and plans that led the average Colombian farmer into growing marijuana turned into night[1]mares and illusions.

3More than twenty-five major drug rings operated in our area, so the proper description for crime in Colombia is disorganized, not organized.

At the same time, my financial condition steadily deteriorated. Instead of accepting at least part of the blame for my predicament due to my inability to plan and my penchant to borrow, I blamed everything on the mafia. It was their fault for flying that airplane onto my airstrip. I also blamed them for the lucrative marijuana industry that attracted the fishermen, caused them to plant pot, and tempted them to not pay the money they owed me. I wanted to make the mafia pay for all the damages they had caused me. I was at my wits’ end trying to get rid of the mafia airplane parked at Chaparral with its air force guard disrupting my fish business.

I felt like I was in limbo: the air force wouldn’t fly it out, but they wouldn’t abandon it either. I considered flying it out myself, and the air force at one point authorized me to do so, but pilot friends of mine cautioned against it. As I think back on it, I’m glad I heeded their advice because at that point, I didn’t have the experience to fly something like that on a short, narrow runway.

Pedro’s Deplorable Plan

One day I heard a rumor the mafia was negotiating with the government to pay the fine they owed for violation of Colombian air space in a U.S.-registered airplane. The Howard 350 would be returned to the mafia upon payment of the fine. I figured that by law they should be liable to reimburse me for the damages they had caused. I was talking this over one afternoon with my friend Pedro. He was head of the civil defense for eastern Colombia and had named me head of the Civil Air Patrol for our area. We had been on several daring search-and-rescue missions that were the talk of the town. I stayed at Pedro’s house when I was in Villao. Unbeknownst to me, Pedro was also very involved with the mafia. Pedro remarked that he “just happened to know” the people who had landed that airplane at Chaparral and offered to arrange a meeting.

The mafia guy who came to our meeting looked cruel and ruthless, and his bodyguard looked even worse. Yes, he was sorry his airplane had caused me so much inconvenience. Yes, he would pay damages as soon as he regained possession of his plane and was able to remove it from my property. He said he’d appreciate it if I would fly some mechanics out to work on the plane before his pilots picked it up. Of course, I must be careful to keep my mouth shut about all of this. If I were to breathe a word about any of this to the press, or the authorities in Bogota, or the U.S. government, he would have me killed right away. Our meeting lasted less than five minutes.

I shuddered and asked Pedro if these guys really would kill someone at the drop of a hat over some minor misunderstanding or rumor. Pedro replied, “Don’t worry about it; those guys always talk like that.” I did feel uneasy though; something about the two mafia characters made cold shivers run up and down my spine. I decided I had a Christian moral obligation to do something to try to stop the drug traffic. I had tried in the past to work with the Colombian authorities on this, but corruption was rampant throughout all the law enforcement agencies, and it was extremely dangerous to give them any information. From time to time, I would find an honest Colombian law enforcement officer, but I could never be sure that there wasn’t a bad apple around who would repeat what I said to the mafia.

I determined to contact the American DEA in Bogota. I asked a Colombian police officer, whom I respected, to introduce me to an American DEA agent. I told him what happened in our area and invited him to come with me to see for himself. He rather coldly informed me he didn’t have time to check out all the rumors that people told him in his office. I tried to convince him that I was speaking the truth, and I told him of the meeting that Pedro had set up for me with the mafia figures; I even gave him their names. The DEA agent said, “I’m real busy right now; I have a lot of paperwork to take care of. Why don’t you gather more information and then come back and see me. If these mafia people ask you for a flight that doesn’t involve hauling drugs, go ahead and do it to see what you can find out.”

Now I come to a part in my story I would rather forget and not tell. If it wasn’t that I am writing this in a guerrilla camp with armed guards watching my every move, I would be tempted to leave this out. Most people wouldn’t believe this portion anyway. My chances of getting out of here alive don’t look good right now, but the guerrillas have been extremely interested in this book. Those not on guard duty stand around my typewriter and wait for the next page to be finished. Some read over my shoulder and ask questions, which I sometimes type right into the book and answer.

A guerrilla named Elkin, a nineteen-year-old explosives expert, just asked me if I have ever been involved in marijuana trafficking. I will tell the truth. Maybe these young guerrillas could learn something from my mistakes. They really enjoyed the story about my being shot at by the T-33s. The truth is I never participated directly in marijuana trafficking. I did get a little too close to it one time, and this is what happened. Boy! Did I learn my lesson!

I was napping in a comfortable hammock at Pedro’s place one nice Saturday morning when the telephone rang. Pedro went over and answered it; I was too sleepy to pay attention to what he said. After awhile, he came over and woke me up.

“Would ten thousand dollars be enough to keep the Cessna people from foreclosing on your 182?” he asked me.

I sat up in the hammock and perked up my ears. “It might be enough,” I answered.

“Well,” Pedro replied, “my friend from the mafia just called, and he wants me to take care of some urgent business for him. If you will do a flight for us in your 182, there is ten thousand dollars in U.S. money in it for each of us.”

“Come on, Pedro,” I answered. “You know I have a set policy against flying drugs in my airplane. You’ll have to get someone else.”

“You don’t have to fly any drugs to make the ten grand,” Pedro explained. “It’s like this. An airplane from the U.S. is on its way down for a load of pot, but the plane is headed for the wrong airstrip. Since it is already in the air, it can’t be recalled. All you have to do is fly me out there. I’ll climb on and guide it to the right airstrip where the load is ready and fuel is available. I’ll make sure it gets loaded and refueled. You can pick me up again the next morning after the drug plane has already left. It’s too late for me to get someone else. We have to leave right now. If you don’t go, that poor pilot will lose his airplane and go to jail. There isn’t even any gasoline at the airstrip he is headed for. Look at it this way – all you have to do is transport me to one location and pick me up the next day at another. It’s just a simple air-taxi flight, and you make ten grand. You’ve lost a lot of money lately, and it was due to that mafia airplane that landed at your farm. Now’s your chance to get some of it back. You really have this money coming to you. Let’s take advantage of this situation.”

Pedro finally convinced me after an hour or so of argument. I thought, well, maybe I’ll be able to obtain some real conclusive evidence for the DEA. Then they will believe me and start cracking down on all this drug traffic. We went directly to the airport where I had left the Cessna 182. As we took off, I felt very uneasy about this situation, but it was too late to chicken out.

We headed for the right airstrip first, so I would know where to pick Pedro up the next day. Pedro told the men there to get ready to load and to light a large bonfire at each end of the runway in case he got there after dark. It was already quite late. We continued on to the airstrip where the other plane was supposed to arrive. There it was – a Beechcraft Queen Air. The pilot’s name was Joe and he was glad to see us. It was now 6:00 p.m. and getting dark. I started to tell Pedro that it wasn’t a good idea to fly after dark and that he should wait until morning. He insisted that they had to go to the other strip right away and asked me to fly along in my plane. He wanted me to guide Joe to the other strip because he couldn’t find his way there in the dark. I was familiar with the area, so I shouldn’t have had any trouble. All of a sudden a young kid ran up and said, “There’s an army patrol boat coming up the river. If you don’t leave immediately, you’ll be caught.”

I didn’t want to sit around and explain to the army what I was doing in a clandestine airstrip without a flight plan. I barely had time to synchronize a radio frequency with Joe, and we were on our way. Pedro was onboard Joe’s plane. I asked Joe how he was fixed for fuel and he said, “Fine.” He had over two hours’ worth.

We were flying wingtip to wingtip with just our rotating beacons flashing in the growing darkness. In five minutes it was completely dark. I saw some lightning flashes on the horizon and had a gut feeling that this was going to be a bummer. We encountered some turbulence and then some light rain. The lightning flashed much closer now, so I descended to about two hundred feet above ground level and flew along, shining my landing lights on the ground. Joe followed above and behind me.

I found the airstrip we were looking for. The storm had almost reached it, and great gusts of wind blew me off course every time I tried to line up on final. I couldn’t see it very well because the bonfires hadn’t been lit on the ends of the runway. I decided to buzz the house and find out why no one was at the airstrip. It was an hour’s walk or ten minutes in a jeep from the house to the airstrip. There was a Coleman lantern lit in the house and I headed for it.

Unfortunately, Joe and Pedro got the same idea at the same time. The house was on top of a high hill. At night it is impossible to tell where another airplane is going by just looking at a rotating beacon without any position lights. When I finally realized that the Queen Air was heading for me, it was right on top of me. It came in at an angle that made it very difficult to see in the driving rain. They seemed to be a little above me, so I went down as far as I could. It was a very near miss. The prop wash of the larger airplane shook the 182 and blew me even lower. I hit something, which turned out to be the radio antenna at the house. A piece of the wire looped around my landing gear and made a whistling sound in the slipstream. I pulled up and turned on my position lights. Joe did the same. Both of us were shaken.

Down below, the men from the house headed for the airstrip in a jeep. The driver looked at the airplanes instead of the road, ran over the side of a steep hill, and rolled the vehicle. That put them out of commission for several hours.

Back in the house was a lady with her two children. She became so scared when the two airplanes buzzed her home that she grabbed the Coleman lantern and threw it over the side of the hill, which put it out and caused both of us to lose our point of reference. At that moment, the main wave of the storm hit. Joe and I had all we could do just to keep track of each other. It was a severe storm and the lightning flashed very close. It blinded me and several times almost caused me to lose Joe.

I still had enough fuel left to fly to the air force base and make an instrument approach. I mentioned this to Pedro, and we decided we would have to go there. Pedro would use his status as head of the civil defense to get us off the hook and say that he had captured Joe and was bringing him in for a citizen’s arrest. Poor Joe would lose his airplane and go to jail, but that was better than crashing in the jungle, out of gas in the middle of a storm.

We explained all this to Joe, but there was one problem. The Queen Air was too low on fuel to make it to the air force base, and there were no other instrument approaches in east[1]ern Colombia. In that area, night flight was prohibited by law for obvious reasons.

I now had a tough decision to make. I could depart for the air force base and save myself and the 182, or I could stick with Pedro and Joe and apply my expert knowledge of the area to find an airstrip outside the storm. If I left, what would I ever say to Pedro’s wife? I decided to stay.

I radioed Joe and told him we would turn south. Maybe we could find a river and ditch the airplanes. That would be better than crashing in the jungle. The storm’s intensity diminished by about half as I looked down and saw two lights. It looked like an airstrip, so I told Joe to circle overhead while I went down to check. Everything seemed fine and I prepared to land; I reduced power and applied full flaps. My forward-looking landing light picked this moment to burn out. My other land[1]ing light angled down vertically. I didn’t see the house until I was right on top of it.

I quickly applied full power just as my right landing gear grazed the ridgepole of the house. It took the airplane a few seconds to respond to the power. We continued down into the vicinity of the backyard of the house and headed straight for an old, rotten split-palm fence with some leaves leaning up against it. The 182 was starting to fly again, and we were about three feet in the air when we hit the top of the palm leaves leaning against the fence. I later deduced that this rotten palm lean-to must have been the local chicken coop. I don’t know how many chickens went through the prop, but it must have been a few! One intact chicken body came through the prop and hit the windshield with a resounding blow. The rotten palm leaves gave way, and we were out the other side, flying again.

I checked for damage. The engine seemed okay, and the prop wasn’t vibrating. I radioed Joe that it wasn’t an airstrip – just two houses about a half mile apart.

I climbed to where the big Queen Air circled, and we resumed our journey south. Joe was down to fifteen minutes of fuel. I had a little over thirty minutes. It was still raining lightly, and our situation looked hopeless. Pedro took over the radio on the Queen Air so Joe could give the airplane his undivided attention. Five minutes passed. I prayed fervently to God and told Him if He got us safely down on the ground, I would never again in all my life have anything to do with a drug operation.

I checked my automatic direction finder (ADF), and according to the San Jose beacon, we were hopelessly lost over the jungle. I chose to ignore the ADF because sometimes mineral deposits in the area caused it to read incorrectly. Pedro called me to say one of their engines had quit due to fuel starvation. At this moment we flew out of the storm. I recognized the lights of Mapiripan ahead and the faint outline of the Guaviare River. Joe got the dead engine started again by switching tanks. He was using the last dregs in each of his tanks. The engine quit again and this time he had to feather it (which is an emergency procedure done to reduce drag by bringing the propeller blades of a dead engine parallel to the slipstream).

I located the airfield we had departed from almost three hours earlier and dove the 182 toward it, hoping someone would light the field. A faint light appeared on one end of the airstrip, but Joe couldn’t see it. I guided him around onto final. The Queen Air was low and to one side of the runway. It was hard to land at night with one engine inoperative. They ran through the top of a mango tree on short final, which did minor damage to the left wing. Finally, they were down.

I wondered why they didn’t move the airplane off the run[1]way. I waited for several minutes before finally deciding to land the 182, even though the Queen Air was in the middle of the runway. I landed and pulled off to one side of the strip. The 182 had less than twenty minutes of fuel remaining. As I walked toward the house, there was an eerie silence, and I thought, “This is funny! Where are Pedro and Joe?”

It was now about 9:00 p.m. A three-quarter moon was rising on the horizon. The weather had cleared and I could see a few stars. There was a small house off to one side of the runway. I saw the faint glow of a dying wood fire in the open kitchen outside the house. “Maybe that’s where Pedro and Joe had gone,” I thought. As I stumbled along through the bushes to one side of the airstrip, I found a path that seemed to lead toward the house. It was uncanny; the runway had been lit, apparently with flashlights, but where were the people? I feared something was wrong. It was too quiet.

All of a sudden I heard the sharp clash of an M1 carbine slide being racked. A flashlight beam caught me square in the eyes. Five policemen stepped out of the bushes with their guns leveled in my direction. “Freeze where you are! Don’t move!” one of them yelled. My heart sank. After what seemed like an eternity of silence, although it was probably only a few seconds, the police commander called me by name. I recognized his voice. He was the same man who had been with me in the 182 the day the air force fighters had tried to shoot us down.

Meanwhile, Pedro stepped out of the bushes behind the policemen. He had a huge .44 Colt magnum six-shooter. “You’ll never take us alive,” Pedro announced in a calm, smooth voice. “My men have you completely surrounded,” Pedro bluffed. “Now let’s be reasonable and talk this over.”

Back in the bushes, Joe coughed. The situation grew very tense. The policemen didn’t know how to react. I expected shooting to start any moment with me in the worst possible position. I told Pedro that this police commander was my friend, and he should put away his gun. The policemen, at a command from their leader, lowered their carbines. My police friend came forward and gave me a big abraso, or hug. He then introduced me to his men as the man who had saved his life during the air attack. I introduced him to Pedro and everyone shook hands. Latin America runs on a friendship system, and this incident was a prime example.

I learned from my friend that the police were the ones who lit the runway with their flashlights. They had received a report about our six o’clock takeoff and had been investigating the incident when we happened to return three hours later. My friend, who knew my family background, wanted to know how in the world I had gotten myself involved in what was obviously a drug deal, even though the planes were empty. All Pedro’s suave logic that I had accepted hook, line and sinker a few hours earlier seemed utterly stupid as I tried to explain to this police chief how I had gotten involved with this whole mess. I had never felt so ashamed and embarrassed.

My friend heard me out and finally said, “Well, one favor deserves another, and I certainly owe you one. So, I am going to let you all go this time. You had better watch it though. You’re liable to get killed flying around at night like this.” The policemen informed me that the army patrol boat that we were worried about earlier had left the area.

I heard someone swearing a blue streak in English. The voice wasn’t Joe’s. I took a few steps in the direction the voice was coming from and came face-to-face with another American named Peter. He was about twenty-five years old, and he was mad. Peter turned his attention on me and included me in his expletives. “You may think that you’re blankety-blank good pilots,” he cursed, “but what you did tonight was blankety[1]blank-blank-blank stupid.” It turned out that in the morning Peter planned to use the same airfield to dispatch a DC-7, one to be loaded with twenty-five tons of marijuana. His men had been moving bales of pot and drums of aviation fuel to the air[1]strip from the river when we landed. He was extremely upset with our arrival because he said we compromised his operation even though he’d paid off the law enforcement personnel for miles around.

Peter wanted to get rid of us so bad that he gave us seven drums of Avgas to fuel our planes. We lost no time in rolling them over to the airplanes. Joe examined the damage to the left wing of the Queen Air. His related remarks are unprintable. We couldn’t find any fuel in the tanks. I couldn’t even get any gas out of the side fuel drains. We pumped six drums of Avgas into Joe’s plane. Then we fueled my 182 with the remaining one.

Joe wanted to know about all the feathers clinging to the tail and sides of the 182. I told him about the chicken coop, and we both rolled around on the ground laughing, breaking the tension. Our nerves had been wound up almost to the point of exploding, and now we released our pent-up frustration.

As soon as we finished refueling, Pedro announced that since the weather had cleared and the moon was up, we could now fly to the airstrip where the marijuana was. Joe said, “No way.” He was finished. This was his first involvement in something like this. He had learned his lesson. He just wanted to get a few hours of sleep and then fly home empty. Pedro turned to me and offered an additional sum of money if I would make two trips in the 182 to the other airstrip and bring back the load for Joe’s airplane. I explained to Pedro about my prayer and my promise to God. I told him we ought to be thankful God spared our lives.

Peter had been listening to our conversation all this time. He turned to me and asked, “Who the hell do you work for any[1]way?” I didn’t say anything; I just looked at him. Peter sized me up for a while and must have noticed that I was different from the type of guys he usually dealt with. “No, don’t tell me,” he finally said. “You work for God. All the other members of my family are dedicated to God, and they all pray for me. I’m the only black sheep. Every time I try to do something like what I’m doing now, God sends someone over to mess it all up for me. Sometimes I get the feeling that God isn’t going to lay off until I give in to Him and straighten out.”

Peter then refused to give Pedro any of his marijuana on credit. Joe said he couldn’t haul any pot even if Pedro managed to come up with some because the timing of his reentry into the U.S. had been upset. The officials he had bribed to let him in would now be off duty.

Joe and I stretched out in the Queen Air and tried to get a little sleep. Pedro seemed to have a one-track mind however; he hired a speedboat and spent the rest of the night attempting to negotiate pot to load into Joe’s airplane, whether Joe wanted to haul it or not. Pedro’s mission was unsuccessful because no one would give him a load on credit.

Joe took off at dawn. Pedro and I left a few minutes later in the 182. Pedro was still trying to talk Joe into landing at the other strip to load. Once Joe was in the air though, he left and headed straight home. He had learned his lesson.

Peter’s prophecy was correct. His DC-7 came in the morning, and the pilots saw Joe and me taking off. Peter’s pilots thought we were the law, so they turned around and went home empty. I found out later Peter decided he couldn’t win by fighting against the prayers of his family, so he gave up and went back to the States.

Pedro and I also went home. We stopped on the way to find out why the guys at the other airstrip hadn’t lit the bonfires for us the previous night. We found them banged up from the jeep accident. Pedro wasn’t very happy with them, and that’s putting it mildly. We ate breakfast and took off for Villavicencio. Upon arrival, I ran the 182 into the hangar to have the mechanics check for damage. I collapsed into a hammock at one end of the hangar. I was still extremely frustrated and upset. I thought about the events of the previous night. I was even a little angry with God. It wasn’t fair.

Everyone else in the whole area was making money hand over fist from the drug trade. Here I was in dire financial trouble, and God wouldn’t even let me make a measly ten grand to save my airplane from being repossessed. I had gone into debt in the first place because I hoped to start the fish business and do great things for God’s kingdom with the profits. I would have never gone into such huge debt for myself. The mafia was responsible for the fish business not making a profit lately. In doing this flight, I had felt justified in receiving money that I had coming to me. It seemed a chance to recover some of my losses.

God clearly had another point of view. I should have been killed several times over in last night’s episode. Obviously, God didn’t hold me in the same category as everyone else. I had placed my life under His authority at a very early age. Now He had given me a crystal-clear object lesson that He didn’t want me involved in the drug trade in any way, shape, or form – not even to gain information for the government or to pay off debts.

At this point, my chain of thought was interrupted by the mechanic who walked over with a smirk on his face. He wanted to know why there were chicken heads and pieces of chickens under the engine baffles and on top of the 182’s engine cylinders. Was I trying to invent a new way of frying chicken? If I wanted to franchise my new product, I would have to learn to pluck and clean the chickens first because just running them through the prop was a little too messy! I gave a rueful grin as I remembered last night’s chicken coop incident. I told the mechanic to mind his own business and get back to work.

Several days later, I stopped by Pedro’s house again. He growled and informed me that I was now in trouble. His mafia friend was not only refusing to pay us anything for our night’s work, but he also accused me of being involved with the DEA and threatened to kill me. Pedro had talked them into meeting with me first, instead of just putting out a contract on me like they normally would do.

The meeting was very tense and bitter. I denied any connections with government agents. The mafia leader looked at me coldly and informed me that his organization “owned” several people in the government and that he had complete information on my meeting with them.

Pedro intervened for me at this point and told them that the mafia’s airplane that had landed at the fish operation’s air[1]strip had caused a great deal of inconvenience for me, and I was actually being blamed in some circles for my connections with it. Pedro said he could understand how I would want to go to the various government agencies and clear myself of any charges that might be leveled at me.

I also indignantly told the mafia leader that he had been the cause of many problems for me, both financial and political. Somehow I managed to slip off the hook. I went home that night sick inside with the shocking realization that not even government agents were exempt from corruption by the tremendous amounts of money drug traffickers were moving.

The lesson I learned would profit me well over the next few years. I had no desire to get mixed up in any more funny business on either side of the law. It was now crystal clear to me that the moral of this whole story is that the end does NOT justify the means.

Unfortunately, Pedro didn’t learn his lesson. He was killed a year later in a DC-6 drug-related crash in the Caribbean. The Howard 350 at Chaparral was returned to the mafia by the Colombia government upon payment of a fine. A mafia pilot flew the empty airplane out of our airstrip almost a year after it had landed there. They went to Mapiripan to do mechanical repairs on it prior to returning to the U.S. Then one day they loaded it with fourteen hundred gallons of fuel and four tons of marijuana for the return trip. It crashed and burned on takeoff, killing everyone onboard.

During the rest of 1978 and 1979, the U.S. government seemed to take a very lackadaisical attitude toward drug enforcement. I was happy to see the Reagan Administration assume a much tougher stance on drug-related issues and make great progress in dealing with these problems. The only real solution, however, would be for the American people to simply quit buying drugs. We, the American people, need to wake up and treat drug addiction as the horrible problem that it is. The fact that it takes place in slow motion shouldn’t blind us to the real con[1]sequences of drug use in our society.

Chap 9. Caño Macú, Colombia September 23, 1983

I was seated at my split-palm desk in the jungle, pecking away at the typewriter my abductors had given to me. The Spanish version of this book was coming along nicely. Yesterday, Vicente had arrived in camp. He’d taken Polaroid pictures of me as proof for my dad that I was alive. It appeared that negotiations for my release were now underway. The guerrillas had asked my family to send a known article of clothing for them to photo[1]graph me wearing. My father sent a Bible instead. Vicente took a nice photo of me holding the Bible. I also received a book of cartoons by Phil Saint, a book on bear hunting in Alaska, and some candy.

As the next page of this book neared completion, the guerrillas gathered around to read it as soon as it came out of the typewriter. Realizing I had a captive audience, I decided to give them a dose of their own medicine. I talked to them about the candy that I received from the States – a package of Giant Sweet Tarts. I told them that U.S. candy was vastly superior to anything they had ever tasted. The package contained three large candies – red, yellow, and purple. I took out the purple one and munched on it, smacked my lips, and told my audience all the while how good it was. Then I took out the red one and broke it into little pieces. I offered a piece to each one of the guerrillas. They eagerly accepted. I patiently waited until they had all finished their candy. Then I stood up with a happy smile on my face and exclaimed, “I won! That red candy had poison in it; now you will all die in five minutes!”

Nancy turned white as a sheet. Looks of pure terror flashed across their faces. One of them, I think it was Mariano, pointed his gun at me and told me if he died, he would take me with him. I gave him a weak grin and finished typing my page. After a tense five minutes had passed, I told them that they were okay, and I was just joking. I told them, “Now that you know what it feels like, you can see that it isn’t right to terrorize people.” Then I laughed and laughed. They didn’t seem to think my little joke was very funny though. I didn’t get any more candy for a while, but I figured it was worth it.

Jaime, the squad leader, had told me earlier that he joined the guerrilla movement because he wanted to fight for peace and freedom. I told him it’s impossible to reap peace when we sow violence and terror. If we want peace, we must sow mercy and love; and the only way to do that is to end our rebellion against God. Jaime picked up my Bible and leafed through it. He told me he had always been curious about the Bible but had never read it. Over the next few days, Jaime came over and talked with me from time to time. Sometimes he even borrowed my Bible and read it for an hour at a time.

One day Arnuval and Giovani asked more questions about my beliefs. “If Christianity is the solution to all of man’s problems,” they questioned, “how come it hasn’t worked? Christianity had two thousand years to change the world. Obviously, it has failed. The world’s problems are getting worse all the time. All this religious hogwash you’re talking about only confuses the real issues.”

I thought for a minute and then answered, “It seems to me that there is a difference between true Christianity and organized religion. Organized religion goes one of two basic routes: the first is when men take a concept of God and use it to build their own kingdom instead of God’s. In this type of religion, men decide what the essential beliefs about God are and organize how the church is to function. When carried to its logical conclusion, this philosophy results in clever men using the church for their own gratification, whether it is for money, power, or prestige.

“The second route is when the men organizing the religion or church really believe in God and want to be approved and accepted by Him, but they proceed with their own plans to further God’s kingdom. Large quantities of time, money, effort, and talent are spent on these important projects for God. These devout people feel that God will be very pleased with them for all the big favors they are doing for Him. I was in this category when I started the fish business. I was sure God would bless my business because of all the wonderful favors I was going to do for Him with the money I would make.

“True Christianity is a little different; it is the kingdom of God. Whatever God is the King of, is the kingdom of God. In other words, if we want to function within this kingdom, then we must receive Jesus Christ as the King. He has the right as King to make the plans; we don’t. He is the one who does the big favors for us, not the other way around. He can look into the future and we can’t. God could foresee the problems I was headed for when I started the fish business. I couldn’t, so I blundered through them. There aren’t very many of us willing to let God be King. We always think we can do things better on our own. This is why the organized religion we call Christianity hasn’t worked. We can’t blame all the world’s problems on God if we refuse to let Him make the plans. The world’s problems are the result of our own human, short-sighted selfishness. We have no case against God whatsoever.”

As the days passed, I notice subtle undercurrents of fear and terror within the guerrilla camp that had not been apparent earlier. These young men and women who appear so good-natured and happy at first are really not that way. Every once in awhile, I catch hints of something very sinister happening behind the scenes. Some of the conversations I had with various guards had been overheard by young Alberto, and he had reported them in a twisted fashion to the leadership. This resulted in some of the guards being disciplined. I’ve been informed that I can no longer speak to these guards. Several still speak to me in whispers, but we have to be continually alert for the presence of “Rabbit Ears,” as I nicknamed young Alberto.

Alberto is too young at fourteen to seriously question the guerrillas’ ideology. He absolutely worships the guerrilla commander, Vicente, as his hero and gives him unquestioning loyalty and obedience. The leaders rely on the younger guerrillas such as Alberto to keep them informed of anything abnormal that occurs within the camp. Alberto is trained and encouraged to spy and tattle on his buddies. Discipline is so strict within the camp that no one dares argue; the consequences are too severe. Therefore, the only alternative for the average guerrilla is to superficially joke and jest, while deep inside he smolders with bitterness, resentment, anger, and hatred.

Gradually, I’ve become acquainted with the way the guerrilla camp operates. A friendly guard told me in confidence that capital punishment is applied from time to time among the guerrillas. If one of them has a drug or alcohol problem, questions an order of a superior, or questions the ingrained Marxist ideology, then the punishment for a first offense is discipline – no cigarettes, no trips to town, extra guard duty, and the like. Punishment for a habitual or repeat offender is death by gunfire – shot in front of the troops. This has a notice[1]able effect on other would-be offenders. Rank-and-file guerrillas live in fear because they never know when some young zealot like “Rabbit Ears” might turn them in for some serious offense, whether it is real or imagined. As I’ve come to know my captors better, I’m shocked at some of the stories they tell about their lives.

My guards said it would be okay if I asked questions and let them talk, so I’ve started asking each one about his family and personal life. I haven’t time to relate all that I heard, so one example will have to suffice. Nineteen-year-old Elkin, the squad’s explosive expert, is the son of a Colombian army officer. His father had displayed a real macho attitude toward his wife and children. During Elkin’s early years, his father repeatedly abused and mistreated his mother. His mother’s brother, finally inflamed by what he saw, took Elkin and his three brothers to the guerrillas to be raised as terrorists as an act of revenge against their father. With a bitter frown, Elkin informed me that he would shoot his father if he ever located him. His younger brother was shot four times in the chest by a machine gun in a government ambush on the guerrillas. He has recovered, but he is still an invalid and maimed for life. Tears of hatred run down Elkin’s cheeks as he tells his story, and my heart goes out to him. He had been with the rebels for six years without hearing a word about his mother’s where[1]abouts or well-being.

For a while, I couldn’t reconcile the negative things that occur in camp with what I knew of Jaime, the leader. The men obviously like him and would follow him with great enthusiasm whatever the circumstances. It took a while to figure out what is really going on; another person, not Jaime, is responsible for squad discipline. I’ve identified the disciplinarian as Giovani; Jaime is merely the military leader. Giovani wields the real power behind the scenes. The men like Jaime but display no emotion toward Giovani. I learned from one of the guards that this dual leadership concept is in effect throughout all levels of the guerrilla organization. I gradually learned the ropes, and I’ve come to understand how to survive in their camp. This means I have to be careful what I say to Giovani and Alberto or I’ll be in hot water.

Javier, the tall and scar-faced guerrilla who replaced Manuel, is the strong, silent type. His rough exterior hides a shy, sensitive personality. One day he opened up and told me that he joined the guerrillas after his wife ran away with another man. He has a young daughter he hasn’t seen in three years. He joined the guerrillas in a rash mood of depression, but he now long[1]ingly remembers married life and his little daughter whom he might never see again. Rank-and-file guerrillas like Javier are not allowed to marry. Only high-ranking commanders like Vicente are allowed to have a wife.

The guerrillas are interested in discussing marriage as opposed to their policy of sex without long-term commitment. Some show strong homosexual tendencies. Most of them seem to feel an intense loneliness. They try to cover this with frivolous banter and jokes, but sometimes I see the need for fulfillment as an individual that each one keeps guarded deep down. I carry a picture of my wife and daughter in my pocket. I decided that I have the best example to use for personal happiness and inner fulfillment in a long-term marriage commitment.

Our camp is located in the jungle not far from several large coca fields. As many of the guerrillas as can be spared from guard duty or other camp chores are sent over to pick coca leaves for processing into cocaine. Later I was held for a while in a guerrilla-run cocaine lab. This was of unique interest to me with my college chemistry background. All the supplies for the coca fields – calcium bicarbonate, gasoline, potassium permanganate, sulfuric acid, and ammonium hydroxide – would come right past our camp on the way to a final destination.

One day I asked Giovani why the guerrillas are involved with cocaine. Wasn’t this one of the corrupt, immoral problems that causes social injustice? If they are really trying to make the world a better place to live, why don’t they stamp out narcotics traffic instead of trying to take control of it? Giovani replied that the individual members of the guerrilla organization are prohibited from using cocaine. But, he grinned broadly, “If the corrupt capitalists in North America want to buy cocaine, we’ll produce and sell them all they need. We will destroy your corrupt society with its own money. The revolution is being financed by Americans who use cocaine!”

Chap 10. Villavicencio, Colombia, 1979.

In general, being an American carries social status and prestige in Colombia. I struck up a friendship with a man named Carlos Herrera4 who was a member of the social elite because his family had significant wealth and power. Carlos owned a spray-plane company. He employed the best aviation mechanics in town, and his aircraft maintenance was first-class. I flew into Carlos’s crop-dusting base in the 170 one day, and a lasting friendship developed. He took me under his wing and provided excellent maintenance for my decrepit, old 170 at reasonable rates.

4No relation to the Carlos mentioned in chapter 1

Carlos also taught me much about jungle flying. He was an excellent flight instructor with over nine thousand hours’ flying time in DC-3s, PBYs, and crop dusters. He would sit with me and patiently teach me the basics. If he ever caught me show[1]ing off or horsing around in an airplane, his usual easygoing personality would turn serious. He’d say, “Aviation is not a circus. Now shape up and fly right.” By the time I bought the 182, Carlos had helped mold me into a smooth and professional pilot, capable of staying calm even in the worst emergency. Better yet, he had taught me to think ahead in order to avoid most dangerous situations.


After awhile, Carlos wanted to do another kind of favor for me. He decided I needed to marry into one of the wealthy, high-society families. I was soon being invited to all the major social functions. Carlos was hard at work spreading propaganda about me to the eligible, rich young ladies. I became the center attraction at parties. It was clear that whenever I wanted to get married, I could choose from among several outstanding young ladies from very wealthy and powerful families.

Deep inside, I knew it was only a dream. I could picture a certain blend of physical, intellectual, and moral attributes in my mind of the girl I wanted to marry. None of those high[1]society girls seemed to fit that image. I’d never get very far in my relationship with any of these girls before I would discover some obvious defect that would cause me to think twice about marriage, so I’d terminate our relationship. I hesitated to get into a marriage just for money and power. Dad was very concerned about me at this time, and he also was always promoting some American girl. He introduced me to many fine girls, but none of them fit my dream.

I was twenty-four and losing hope of finding my “dream girl.” Maybe I would have to compromise my best, so I narrowed the prospects to only four girls. Every evening, I would pray that God would help me make the right choice. I was uneasy and scared to death that I’d marry the wrong person.

One night I thought, “If God could create me with a dream in my mind of a specific girl who could completely satisfy my desire for a wife, then God could also create the girl who is the personification of my dream, as well as make us perfectly compatible in every way. She might not seem perfect to anyone else, but she would be for me.” Then I thought, “If this is true, then I had better let God choose the girl I am to marry. If I make the choice and blow it like I am prone to do from time to time, my life will be miserable.”

I prayed again and told God I wanted Him to choose my wife. I expected God would probably select one of the four finalists. I was astonished when thoughts of an entirely different girl flooded my brain. “Impossible!” I told God. “You can’t mean her. Why, she is from a poor Catholic family. Her mother is even an Indian. I don’t mind that, but it’s just not socially acceptable in Colombia for me to marry into a family like that.”

An inner voice seemed to say, “Well, you asked me to make the choice for you, and she is it. If I were you, I would get with it and court her before someone else takes her away. You haven’t even been nice to her recently.”


I continued to think about Marina, the girl that had popped into my mind. She really was extremely attractive. In fact, she was downright beautiful, far surpassing the other girls I had been considering. Still deep in thought, it dawned on me that Marina was the only girl I had ever gone out with who never presented an obvious character defect, such as being stuck-up, lying to me, or chasing me. I had never considered marrying her though, and just treated her as a friend. How could I have been so blind?

That part about not treating her nice recently hit me right between the eyes as I remembered our last meeting. On November 10, 1979, during the annual festival in our town of San Martin, I had a date with Marina at 7:00 p.m. to take her to a folk music contest. On the way to her house, I ran into some old acquaintances whom I hadn’t seen for years. When I finally pried myself loose, it was 8:00 p.m. I hurried to Marina’s house and intended to apologize for the delay. She answered my knock and I was surprised that she was wearing a nightgown. She coldly informed me that if I expected to take her out, I would have to come back the next night at 7:00 p.m. sharp and that now she was going to sleep. With that she slammed the door in my face. “Women sure are funny sometimes,” I thought as I left.

The next night I arrived at her house at 6:55 p.m., and Marina was all dressed up. We headed for the town square where there was folk dancing in the streets. When we arrived, we met my friend Carlos Herrera. He was accompanied by his wife and several society girls who knew me. Unfortunately, they each decided to greet me with a kiss. When I finally got untangled, I turned around and Marina was gone. “That’s strange,” I thought. “I didn’t even get to introduce her to Carlos. Well, if she wants to be like that, it’s her problem,” I muttered to myself.

Bob and Carol Geiger, an American couple who worked with my father, joined us, and we settled down to watch the colorful folk festival. San Martin is a very historic little town that was established more than 450 years ago. I was engrossed in conversation with Carlos and his friends when Carol leaned over and whispered, “What did you ever do to make that girl who came with you so angry? She just walked by with another guy, stopped right in front of you, and gave him a big kiss. You were so engrossed in your conversation that you didn’t even notice. She stomped out of here mad as hops.”

A couple of weeks later, I felt bad about the incident and wanted to apologize. Marina, however, had left with relatives for Cali – on the other side of Colombia. Several months later, I didn’t know what to do to recover. I thought I might even have to travel all over Colombia searching for her. What if she was still mad at me? I got depressed as I wondered what course of action to pursue. “It must not be impossible,” I thought, “or God would have never brought her to my attention.” I decided to go over to Marina’s house the next night; maybe her family could tell me where to find her.

I felt some butterflies inside as I headed to her house around 7:30 p.m. San Martin is a small town, and I was walking. As I approached the last corner, I was astonished to see Marina and one of her girlfriends walking down the street toward me. With much fear and trembling, I walked up to them and said, “Hi. Where are you going?”

“We’re going to a party,” Marina replied. I noticed they were both dressed up.

With my heart in my throat, I asked, “Do you have a date?”

“No,” Marina replied. “I returned from Cali last night, and no one knows I’m back yet.” It turned out the girlfriend came to Marina’s house for the sole purpose of inviting her to the party, which was at the girlfriend’s house. I timidly asked Marina if she would accept an invitation from me to the local ice cream parlor so that we could talk. Then I would take her to the party afterward. The girlfriend said that she had to get right home, so we went by her house first; then Marina and I wandered toward the ice cream parlor.

I don’t know if it was the effects of the full moon or the lovely white lace dress Marina was wearing, but we never reached our intended destination. We meandered into the municipal fair-grounds, which were deserted at this time of the year. All of a sudden, she was in my arms, and I was telling her that I loved her. She told me that she had missed me. We spent the evening strolling around in the moonlight, talking. Then I escorted Marina home where she kissed me good-night. I went back to my house, walking on air.

The next morning, I woke up and mentally kicked myself. “Now you’ve done it,” I accused myself. “You have really put your foot in it. Whatever possessed you to say all those things to Marina last night? If you ever have to end the relationship, her heart will be broken.” I began to wonder if Marina was really the right girl for me. As I meditated on this, I remembered two things my father had taught me about how to choose the right wife.

“First,” Dad told me, “take a good look at the girl’s mother. If you can’t stand your future mother-in-law, then think twice about marrying her daughter, because in twenty years your wife will probably be very much like her mother is right now.

“Second, pay attention to how your prospective bride treats her father. If she still respects and admires her father, even though she knows his weak points and defects, the chances are that she will still respect and admire you even after she gets to know your weak points and problem areas.”

I decided to apply these two tests to Marina. I was tremendously impressed with Marina’s mother after I got to know her. She was a wonderful example of a devoted wife and mother. Her figure remained trim and shapely even after eight children. I thought, “If Marina looks and acts like her mother in twenty or thirty years, I will be more than satisfied.”

I then turned my attention to her father. On the surface, he seemed to be a typical small-town politician. Underneath, however, I soon saw his strong, moral, and family-oriented char[1]acter. It was quite clear that Marina respected and admired her father. In fact, none of my future father-in-law’s eight children ever rebelled against him. They all felt the same way Marina did toward her father. I thought this was a remarkable feat on his part in this age of parent and teenager conflict.

My parents were planning to leave in a week or so for the United States and would be gone three or more months; my brother and sisters would go with them. I would be alone in Colombia holding the fort. I decided to introduce Marina to my parents before they left because we might be engaged before they returned.

Dad immediately called me to the side and gave a stern lecture about not getting involved with Colombian girls. “No telling what their motives are,” he said, “and no telling what her family’s motives are.” After Dad had taken this position, it was impossible for me to explain my true feelings about Marina, so I said nothing. I had a heart-to-heart talk with Mom, and she promised to explain things to Dad for me.


During the school year, Marina stayed with her grandmother in San Martin. About the time my family left for the U.S., Marina moved to Mapiripan to be with her parents. This was not far from Chaparral, and I flew a lot of fish out of that area. All day my thoughts somehow centered on Marina, and at the end of each day’s flying, the 182 somehow ended up in Mapiripan. I remember coldly calculating the pros and cons of marrying Marina, until one day it finally dawned on me that I was madly in love with her. In fact, I was so head-over-heels in love that I was having trouble eating, sleeping, and flying. I had several close calls with the plane, including several occasions when I flew through severe thunderstorms just to visit Marina. I finally decided that it’d be best to ask her to marry me before I killed myself. It was dangerous to fly around in a daze thinking about her all the time.

I was invited to a picnic the following weekend with Marina and her family. I’d already discussed my intentions with her father, as is the custom in Colombia. He gave me his blessing, but the final decision was Marina’s. After the picnic, I asked her to marry me. She was shocked because she had just turned eighteen and had only thought of marriage in the distant future. I pressed her for an answer, but she wouldn’t make a decision. She wanted more time to consider my proposal.

Two weeks passed and the suspense was almost unbearable. I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t live without Marina. She was one in a million. If I lost her, I’d never be the same. I presented my case to Marina’s sisters, so they could intervene on my behalf before I went insane. Matters peaked when I was invited to a birthday party for her fourteen-year-old sister, Clemencia. It was an evening party, and I arrived at 7:00 p.m.

Unbeknownst to me, another girl at the party planned a devilish scheme to break up our relationship, so she could make a try for me. This girl mixed an Indian love potion called chundu. As she served the refreshments, it was easy for her to slip chundu into my glass before she gave it to me. She thought the love potion would cause me to love her instead of Marina. I finished about half the glass when I felt odd. I got up, left the living room, and went to the kitchen. When I reached the kitchen, my sense of balance was severely impaired. There was a hardwood post in the center of the kitchen holding a roof beam. I clung to it with one hand and tried to clear my head. My future mother-in-law entered the kitchen, and I barely managed a weak grin. Inside I thought, “Oh no, I wonder if she thinks I arrived drunk!” She looked at me and then offered a cup of coffee, which I tried to drink as best I could. I knew that if I let go of the post, I’d fall to the floor. Marina’s older sister, Rosario, came in and noticed my predicament. When she saw that I was pale and dizzy, she asked if I wanted to lie down. I told her what I thought had happened, and she helped me into one of the bedrooms. The girl responsible for this prank got scared and split the party when she saw Rosario help me to bed.

I was too dizzy to sit up, and my emotions were having a tug-of-war. I asked Rosario to call Marina. I felt a strong desire to be with her. Marina came in and spent a couple of minutes with me and then she left. She was accustomed to small-town living and feared she’d spark gossip if she was in the bedroom longer. She stayed in the living room with the guests and dispelled any potential rumors. The worse I felt, the more my desire for Marina intensified. This chundu was really bad news, and I must have had an overdose. I couldn’t understand why Marina wouldn’t stay with me. Suspicion flashed in my mind. What was she doing out in the living room? With whom was she talking? Was someone else trying to take her away from me?

It was almost midnight before my head cleared enough to stagger to the kitchen. Most of the guests had gone home, but a few lingered in the living room. I sat on the kitchen table (all the chairs were in other rooms) with my back against the wall. The table was near the doorway leading to the dining room. Marina came through the doorway; I grabbed her and put my arms around her in a bear hug.

“Let me go, you’re embarrassing me,” she whispered to me.

I said, “No, I’m not going to let you go until you give me a straight answer about whether or not you’ll marry me.”

“You’re holding me too tight,” she hissed. “Let me go and we’ll talk in the morning.”

“I won’t let go until you tell me if you will marry me.”

“You’re drunk!” she exclaimed.

“It’s not my fault,” I said. “Somebody fed me a love potion, and it really spaced me out, but it’s wearing off and I feel better.”

“You just want to marry me because I’m pretty,” Marina said sadly. “When you find out some of my problems and weak points, you won’t want to have anything more to do with me. Why do you want to marry a poor half-breed like me when you can pick and choose the highest of society?”

I said, “I love you just the way you are, problems and everything. I can’t face a life without you. I think you are God’s choice for me.”

She said, “I still think that you are drunk, but yes.”

“Yes what?” I asked sharply.

“Yes, I’ll marry you,” she whispered. “Now will you let go of me and stop making such a scene?” I clung to her even tighter and started to cry. She broke down and cried too, and we really did put on a scene. I don’t remember how long this lasted, but the evening finally ended with one of my future brothers-in-law hanging a hammock in the hall and helping me into it. Marina tucked a blanket around me and kissed me good-night.

I woke up the next morning and felt like a heel. “No telling what my future in-laws think of me,” I thought. Fortunately, they knew about the chundu and didn’t hold anything against me for last night’s incident. Better still, I went for a walk with Marina, and she confirmed her decision to marry me.

“I really love you and wanted to marry you all along,” she said.

“Then why did you cause me so much grief?” I asked indignantly

“I just wanted to find out if you really loved me,” she replied, smiling sweetly.

I told Marina that I thought we should get married right away. She was aghast at the idea of getting married while my parents were in the States. “Your family will never accept me if we do that,” she said.

“Trust me,” I replied. “That is the way it has to be. I know what I am doing.”

Wedding Preparations

In Colombia there are only two ways of getting legally married: by a judge in court, a procedure that takes six months of slow paperwork, or in the Catholic Church. I knew Marina’s family would want a Catholic wedding. I also knew Dad would want a legal wedding, followed by a ceremony in a Protestant church. I could not wait six months while this type of explosive situation existed between our families. If we simply got married, I was quite certain that my family would accept Marina, and we would sidestep a problem that could bring lasting damage to the relationship of our families. After I convinced Marina of all this, I still had to convince her mother. After I succeeded in that, I had one more problem.

The Catholic priest I consulted said that it was impossible to marry us because I wasn’t a Catholic. There was a history of friction between Catholics and Protestants in Colombia, and this type of thing just wasn’t done. I spoke with several other priests and received the same answer. I could be married in the Catholic Church only if I allowed myself to be baptized as a Catholic first. I felt my marriage vows should be made directly to God and not to any sectarian church. It would be wrong for me to join the Catholic Church just so they would marry us. Dad was going to have a hard-enough time accepting a Catholic wedding. There seemed to be no solution. My parents were due back from the States in less than four weeks. I prayed that since this marriage was God’s idea in the first place, then He would have to work things out because I couldn’t seem to get anywhere.

I remembered one priest I hadn’t talked to yet. His name was Father Joel Martinez, and he presided over the parish of San Martin. He had a reputation for being very strict, so I hadn’t approached him. I finally went to see him and found out he was a dedicated Christian. He listened to my story and wanted to help. He felt he could convince the bishop to issue a special dispensation for a marriage of mixed religion. It was Friday and Father Martinez promised an answer on Monday morning.

Marina and I went to see Father Martinez early Monday morning; the answer was yes, and all the paperwork was in order. We were required to take a premarital orientation class, but the next class would not begin for three weeks. I nervously explained to Father Martinez that we didn’t have three weeks. He eyed us suspiciously and Marina blushed. I quickly explained the situation with my parents and how I felt it was important to proceed with the ceremony as soon as possible. Father Martinez said, “I have a full schedule this month, but I do have tomorrow night free. If you will come at 9:00 p.m., I will give you a special marriage orientation class. Then I could marry you on Thursday.”

We furiously prepared for the wedding. Marina needed some things, so we went shopping in Villavicencio. On the way home, a terrible storm arose and our bus broke down. It was 11:45 p.m. when we finally arrived in San Martin. It appeared as though we missed our only opportunity for the marriage orientation class. Father Martinez would be in bed, and he was a stickler for rules. I knew he would not make an exception and marry us without it. Our hopes were dashed.

Marina said, “Well, let’s knock on his door anyway; what have we got to lose?” With much fear and trembling, we knocked on the parsonage door at midnight. Father Martinez opened the door and invited us in. He made us coffee when he saw we were wet and shivering. From midnight to 3:00 a.m., he gave us a special marriage orientation class. His sound advice served us well many times during our first year of marriage.

Our wedding was set for Thursday, two days later at the 5:00 a.m. mass. My financial situation was a complete disaster with many bank loans overdue. I was being hounded by lawyers from one of the major banks. I was also writing post-dated checks to obtain funds to keep the fish business operating. Some of these checks were past due, and in Colombia, writing a bad check can result in an immediate jail sentence without bail.

To make matters worse, our mechanic had started the 182 to heat the oil prior to changing it, but he left the plane running on the ramp – unattended. The parking brake slipped, the plane traveled across the ramp and hit a parked car whose owner was threatening to sue me for damages. With the propeller demolished and the engine damaged, repairs would be almost $12,000. Fortunately, I had rebuilt the 170 with an overhauled, chrome engine donated by our friends in the States.

I owed a lot of money. With bad credit, there was no way to raise money to repair the 182, and without it, I was doomed. The 170 didn’t have the payload or the range to fly deep into the jungle where the moneymaking flights originated. It would only be a matter of time before foreclosure, and I’d probably be jailed for writing bad checks anyway. If I could get the 182 running, there was a faint possibility of enough incoming money to stave off my creditors. The engine and the prop to the 182 had been overhauled, but the Cessna company wouldn’t release it until I paid the full $12,000 because I had too many overdue purchase payments on the plane itself, and my insurance had refused to cover the expenses related to the accident.

Armando’s Offer

The day before the wedding, my friend Armando showed up. The last time I had seen him, he was the head of the secret police in our area, but since then he had resigned. He was now making a fortune by smuggling marijuana and cocaine. He heard I was having financial difficulties, so he came to see if I needed help. I told him about the situation with the 182. “No problem,” he said. “If you had the money, how long would it take you to get the plane flying?”

“Oh, about three days,” I replied.

“It’s a deal,” Armando said.

“What’s the deal?” I asked.

“I’ll give you the money you need to get your prop and engine out of hock,” continued Armando. “In four days, I need you to fly a shipment of drugs to the Guajira peninsula in northern Colombia, and then we’re even. I’ll need more flights from time to time, and I think I can advance you money against future flying if you need more. In fact, I have my briefcase full of cash right now. See, I’m not kidding. You don’t have to worry about a thing. I’m representing some very wealthy and influential people. Security is no problem for us. It is impossible for you to get caught because everything on this mission has been arranged.”

“I can’t do it, Armando,” I replied. “I’m getting married tomorrow, and besides, you know I have a strict policy against anything to do with drugs.”

Armando didn’t want to take no for an answer; he wanted me to delay the wedding for a week. He said, “What good will it do you to get married if you go bankrupt? Think it over and discuss it with your fiancée. I’ll be back in two hours for your answer.”

If I hadn’t been under such extreme financial pressure, I wouldn’t have considered Armando’s offer. But I thought about the consequences of bankruptcy, the embarrassment to our families, and of my new wife-to-be. Maybe I should make this one flight for Armando to get the 182 flying again. I would then be able to continue my usual legal jungle flying and pay my bills. Suddenly, I remembered the night flight with Pedro several years before – especially that the end does not justify the means. God had very clearly taught me that lesson, and I knew what I had to do.

When Armando returned, I firmly and forcefully told him that I couldn’t accept his offer with or without any exceptions. Armando finally tired of arguing, picked up his briefcase, and left. I breathed a sigh of relief. I felt a firm conviction I’d done the right thing. After Armando left, it seemed silly to have even considered his offer. After experiencing what was clearly God’s hand in arranging my marriage, I grew in confidence that God would see me through this financial crisis if I just kept my nose clean.


We married on Thursday, August 28, 1980, and Father Martinez performed the ceremony as planned at 5:00 a.m. When Marina and I held our candles together and merged the two separate flames into one, I was choked with emotion about its significance. We felt a strong commitment to one another and to God. The fact that we were from different church backgrounds seemed irrelevant.

I tried to keep the wedding a secret, but about fifty close friends found out and gave us a breakfast wedding reception at a local motel. From there we rented a taxi for a five-hour ride over the scenic Andes Mountains into Bogota. Marina was happy, but very tired. She fell asleep with her head on my lap as we traveled the winding mountain road. It was a clear day, and I was awed by the great beauty of the fourteen-thousand-foot-high mountains. Crystal streams rushed along the edge of the road from time to time. I even saw three spectacular waterfalls simultaneously. I looked down at the sleeping, almost-angelic face of my new wife and a great sense of responsibility washed over me. She trusted me completely. Would I be able to live up to that trust? Would I be able to provide for her and for our future children? I decided to forget my financial troubles until after our honeymoon.

That evening we boarded a jetliner in Bogota for a two-hour flight to San Andres Island in the Caribbean. I had written another post-dated check to a friendly travel agent for the tickets. We spent an enjoyable two weeks in this tropical island paradise. I had obtained a new credit card to which I charged our expenses.

On the third day of our honeymoon, as I read the newspaper, an item caught my eye. There had been a drug bust in the Guajira. The details weren’t too clear, but it appeared to have been Armando and a pilot he had hired. A special army patrol caught them landing with a shipment of drugs. Their airplane was confiscated, and they were facing the possibility of long prison terms. I praised God that I hadn’t listened to Armando.

I sent a telegram to my sister Sharon that just said, “Honeymoon/San Andres/Love Russ.” Then I wrote a long letter to my parents to explain the situation. Back in the States, everyone thought the telegram was a joke, but the follow-up letter really shook them. My parents were shocked that they hadn’t even been invited to the wedding, but overall they took it quite well.

Paying Debts

When we returned to San Martin, I worked with renewed dedication to face my creditors. I obtained several well-paying contracts with the 170. Money came in and enabled me to pay the credit card bill and some post-dated checks. I was amazed at how much my outlook on financial matters changed after marriage. God worked on me regarding financial integrity. I longed to be completely free of debt; I realized I was a slave to my debtors. I owed so much money that I hadn’t been able to produce enough income to even make the interest payments on the loans for the fish business. Compound interest is very subtle in how it turns a seemingly stable financial situation into a nightmare when the business suffers a few unforeseen setbacks. Embargo proceedings had been initiated against me at various levels, which added astronomical lawyers’ fees to my bill. The bank presidents who had been so friendly and eager to make me a client earlier showed no mercy now that I was in deep financial trouble. It was clear that I would have to quickly come up with a very large sum of money or go completely under.

My parents had been delayed in the States, but I finally received a telegram that gave the date of their arrival home. I decided to go to Bogota with Marina to meet them at the airport. This resulted in our first marriage fight. Marina was frightened to go with me and face her in-laws. I had to pressure her to get her to accompany me. Everything went well, just like I thought it would when we got married. Dad invited us to lunch at a fine restaurant as a way of showing us there were no hard feelings.

Several months later, Dad confirmed to me that I’d done the right thing regarding the marriage. I was glad to hear this because I rarely did anything against his wishes. Dad told me he thought Marina was the right wife for me and that he couldn’t figure out how or where I had found her. He said he thought the marriage was ideal and was pleased no one had messed it up.

Marina and I made it clear to each other from the start that we wanted God to be at the center of our marriage. One night we discussed the growing, lucrative cocaine business. Several friends were making a lot of money as they worked in the drug trade. Moral and social stigmas against the cultivation and trafficking of cocaine diminished to the point that it seemed nearly everyone was either involved or wanted to be. We decided to sever our ties with some friends to avoid any association with the trade. Marina was concerned that I might be drawn into the drug business due to the enormous financial pressure I was under as I tried to save my business from bankruptcy.

The next morning another old friend drove up to our house in an expensive new car. He had a wealthy mafioso with him from Medellin, the capitol of the South American drug trade. They offered six million Colombian pesos if I would buy coca base (unrefined cocaine) for them. As a pilot, I could fly to the areas where the coca base can be cheaply obtained. It was an opportunity to make a lot of money. They wanted a deal of this size several times a month. They had the payout money with them, ready for me without any strings attached. They wanted to return in a week to pick up the transported coca base.

This time I did not think twice before I said no. In no uncertain terms would my relationship with God permit me to agree to their offer. I proceeded to tell them in a diplomatic manner what I thought of drug trafficking. I consider it to be trafficking with human souls, which are destroyed by their drugs. I knew that God’s favor was much more important than my financial problems. I had a gut feeling that very soon the drug traffickers, as well as the corrupt, bribe-receiving authorities who catered to them, would reap what they sowed. They cautioned me to remain silent concerning their offer and drove away.

I prayed that God would intervene in my financial situation. I admitted that most of my financial problems were due to my lack of planning. I told God that if He would help me out of debt, I would never borrow another cent without His approval.

When I returned to the bank that had the embargo on me, I was in for a big surprise. Their lawyer and manager were in jail and charged with fraud and extortion. Six people had filed charges against them, so the bank was swarming with auditors from the main office. In the process they determined that my case had been improperly handled. I met with the chief auditor and the regional manager of the bank; they apologized and refinanced my loan. Additionally, they forgave most of the previous interest charges and all the lawyer’s fees, which saved me thousands of dollars.

The good news at the bank was followed by a run of fish at Chaparral. For the first time in our fish business, we were able to catch a large quantity of fish that sold for over twice the usual price due to poor catches in the other areas. In ten days, we earned almost $15,000 and were able to pay for the repairs to the 182. After I made the payment, the Cessna aircraft dealer refinanced my overdue loan. I praised God for having mercy on me.

With the Cessna 182 back in service, I worked extra hard to pay my other obligations by flying meat and food to the distant jungle towns that had no road access. I also saw an opportunity to fly gasoline into the jungle for use in outboard motors and generators. It was dangerous to fly gas over the jungle, and few pilots would take the risk. Their reluctance drove the price of flights up dramatically, so I was able to meet my financial obligations and continue benefitting from this development for nearly two years.

With over 150 gallons of vehicle gas in the cabin and 80 gallons of Avgas in the wing tanks, it was potentially a very explosive situation. Any accident would likely cause the air[1]plane to burn. The airfields I used were all short and narrow with trees surrounding them, and the area was known for its poor weather. With the frequent rains, the strips were often wet, muddy, and very treacherous.

Sometimes a terrible fear of crashing and being incinerated would grip me. Any engine failure over the trackless jungle would spell the end of me. If I had not been under such severe financial obligations, I would never have pursued anything this dangerous. Fear is a terrible enemy. I learned to deal with it, but I was never completely free of it. When I felt that icy knot of fear building in my stomach, I would commit myself to God and sing as loud as I could over the noise of the engine.

Marital Tension

Over the years, I had acquired a very high opinion of myself due to being naturally optimistic. I had considered myself a decent Christian young man until after marriage. Problems that I covered up as a bachelor could no longer be hidden. I loved Marina with all my heart, but I soon found she seemed to have an uncanny ability to identify and irritate my weaknesses. We quarreled over many seemingly insignificant incidents. Sometimes our arguments would escalate into full-fledged fights. Fortunately, we realized it was important to reconcile our differences after an argument, but our marriage conflicts became increasingly more difficult to resolve.

I noticed a fundamental difference in the way men and women think. We sometimes seemed to be on different wave[1]lengths. I would focus on what had just occurred and was disrupting our relationship. I considered most of these things to be relatively minor. Marina would add the present incident to a long list of previous offenses, which began with our fight at the folk festival in San Martin before we were married. She would then negotiate from that position. Therefore, every time we had a fight, it kept getting harder and harder to reconcile our differences. I soon became worried about the direction our marriage was heading. I was shocked to notice that the majority of our fights seemed to be mostly my fault. As the pressure in our marriage became more intense, I noticed all kinds of dark, ugly traits in my character that were threatening to destroy our relationship. Our “ideal marriage” was soon in serious trouble. I feared that someday one of our fights would go too far and I would lose Marina. I couldn’t face life without her, but when she was mad at me, she could insult me and rake me over the coals like no one else could do.

I read books on psychology that described our problems to a tee, using fancy language to do it, but the information still failed to help much. Most of these books just made me more frustrated after I read them. As I became more and more con[1]fused, our marriage continued to come apart at the seams.

Our fights would start like this: First, I would have a bad day; something would go wrong in my work, and I’d be upset. I’d come home and Marina would do or say something that would set me off. I’d insult her with a derogatory remark. She wouldn’t appreciate this, so sometimes she’d react and insult me in return. I would then let loose some of my pent-up frustration and make a remark that would really hurt her feelings, such as, “If you talk and act like this, you must not love me anymore,” or “What kind of a Christian are you if you treat me like this?” I’d usually regret my words and try to patch things up, but she would feel so hurt that sometimes it would be a while before she’d speak to me again. It would sometimes take several days to get things corrected. I was concerned that I would eventually do or say something in anger that might permanently damage our relationship.

Sermon on the Mount

One day I ran into Ricardo Trillos. Ricardo was still studying the Sermon on the Mount, and he now understood parts of it better. God had been dealing with his marriage and applying the sermon to Ricardo’s family life. I joined Ricardo in his Bible studies of Matthew chapters 5 through 7 and soon understood parts of it as well. Matthew 5:22 hit me right squarely between the eyes. Jesus said, “You have been taught, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ but I say, whoever even so much as harbors a grudge in his heart against his brother has killed him already and deserves to be brought to trial for murder. Whoever says to his brother, ‘You fool’ (the Greek word literally means “empty-head”) should be brought before the Sanhedrin; and whoever calls his brother ‘apostate’ (the Greek word literally means “empty-heart”) is in danger of hell’s fire.”

Jesus’ teaching precisely described my marriage fights. Initially, I let anger build inside; then I’d release it by insulting my wife’s intelligence. Finally, I would question the inner motives of her heart and devastate her feelings, which put our relationship into a tailspin.

I realized that it takes two to fight and even a small incident can start a downward spiral of cause and effect with the potential to destroy a marriage. I remembered my childhood at boarding school when another boy stepped on my toe. I’d step on his toe twice as hard to pay him back and to teach him a lesson. Unfortunately, the other boy never learned the lesson and nearly always got mad and punched me in the nose. The original minor incident would escalate into a wild free-for-all fistfight.

Jesus’ words hit me hard when it became obvious that He ran His kingdom on a different basis from mine. According to His words, I was in bigger trouble than I had imagined. I studied further and discovered that His teachings centered on the Golden Rule: “Do as you would be done to.” He also said, “Don’t judge and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn and you won’t be condemned.” I realized that Jesus encouraged mercy and gave others the benefit of the doubt as to their heart motives. I started to apply Jesus’ teachings in my marriage.

As I understood Jesus’ sermon better, I’d apply it to my situation. Soon Marina and I were in a positive, improving, upward-bound relationship with God in the center. I had discovered the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount just in time.

I saw that most people want to do the right thing, and none of us enjoy problems, bitterness, strife, or violence. It’s all too easy, however, for us to get trapped in a negative, vicious cycle. Jesus’ description of the problem in Matthew 5:22 holds true for most failed marriages, broken friendships, split churches, and even severed international relationships. First, anger and resentment build up; then the insults fly. Finally, the other party’s motives and intentions are questioned and condemned. This sets the stage for physical violence to begin. Many terrible wars have begun with minor incidents that simply escalated out of control.

As I was writing this in the guerrilla camp, news came on the radio about the downing of a South Korean airliner by the Russians. Even the guerrillas were shocked by this report. My guards tuned their shortwaves to the Voice of America where we heard a press conference by President Reagan. Some of the guerrillas were impressed when the president said the U.S. would not retaliate with violence, but that we would use every nonviolent means to impress upon the Russians that this action was unacceptable international behavior. Reagan said he would like to draw Russia into the camp of peaceful, law-abiding nations in the interest of world peace. The next day, the guerrilla leaders issued orders to prohibit me from handling the radio and strictly ordered the guards to only tune in to Radio Moscow or Radio Havana Cuba.

It was interesting that the Soviet-controlled radio stations gave different accounts of the incident, depending on their target audience. The broadcasts aimed at Central and South America flatly denied shooting down an airliner. They called it a spy plane. The broadcasts on the higher wavelengths aimed at Europe and Japan admitted shooting down an airliner, but they claimed it had been done in the interest of national security.

In aviation, there is a maneuver known as a tailspin. If the pilot attempts to climb too fast with the rudder off-center, the airplane will pitch down and spin. The harder the pilot pulls back on the controls in an effort to go up, the worse the spin gets. Soon the airplane is out of control in a vicious downward spiral. Adding more power only causes the plane to spin faster. There is only one way to recover from a tailspin and avoid a fatal crash. The pilot must apply opposite rudder and then let go of the controls. The plane will then stop spinning by itself.

Ricardo and I discovered that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches how to get our lives on a positive, upward spiral that is the reverse of a tailspin. C. S. Lewis wrote in his book, Mere Christianity, “Good and evil are not static. They are dynamic. Each one continually feeds on itself just like compound interest in the bank.”5 Thus, good is continually getting better, while evil is continually getting worse.

5C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1952).

John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus by preaching, Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:2). Then Jesus began His ministry and said, The kingdom of the heavens has come (Matthew 10:7). Jesus later said to His disciples, The kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21). The Sermon on the Mount explains how to enter the kingdom and how it operates, contrasting it with the way things work in the world. Ricardo and I found that the order, or sequence, which Jesus teaches is just as important as His themes.

Jesus began His sermon by saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens (Matthew 5:3). Maybe the people who expected Him to preach on fire and brimstone were a little disappointed, but Jesus taught a positive message from the start. C. S. Lewis wrote, “Negatives are rarely useful in a debate, even when they are true.”6 Jesus pioneered this concept. The Greek word Jesus used that has been translated poor in spirit literally means “beggarly.” Jesus is describing a person who doesn’t have a spiritual cent. Jesus says the way into the kingdom of heaven is for us to declare spiritual bankruptcy. We can’t make a deal with God because we don’t have anything to offer. Everything we have originated from Him. The only way for us to enter God’s kingdom is for us to admit our faults, acknowledge we can’t make it on our own apart from Him, and fall upon His mercy.


Jesus then said, Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4). When we admit our mistakes and faults, and the full realization of how badly we have messed up sinks in, our natural reaction is to mourn. But cheer up! If we pay attention to Jesus, we will be comforted.

Jesus continued, Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). I had a hard time understanding the word meek and reconciling myself to it. I thought that a meek person would be a milquetoast, doormat, wishy-washy individual who lets everyone trample all over him. I didn’t understand what Jesus meant until I studied His words in Spanish and also looked up the word in Greek. I found that the word used for meek7 has no direct translation into English. In Greek, it means an attitude of heart and mind. In Spanish, manso comes close to portraying its full meaning. An example is found in the way manso is applied to horses. The horse that is manso is perfectly trained and completely obedient to the rider. It will permit the rider to guide it with a light pressure on the reins without having its spirit broken. It could be a thoroughbred and high-strung, but it has yielded its own plans and allows the rider to lead. This is a good example of true faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus wants us to permit Him to fit us into His master plan instead of us trying to fit God into our plans. He promised to completely fulfill and satisfy us if we allow Him to direct our lives.

7The Greek word is praos (πρᾷος).

Jesus continued His sermon by saying, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied (Matthew 5:6). Righteousness can be defined as “doing what God wants or requires.” After we enter God’s kingdom by admitting our problems and yielding our plans, we develop a desire to get our act together and do things right. Some of Jesus’ thinking starts to overflow into our minds, and we begin to do what God wants because that’s what we now want. The Bible says that God wants to write His laws on the “tablet of our heart” (Proverbs 7:3). The apostle Paul said, Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). The Christian life isn’t a legalistic list of dos and don’ts that we struggle to keep in our own strength. It is a dynamic, vibrant, delightful relationship with the Creator of the universe.

Here we have the basic Christian message of repentance and faith. We know that struggling through life’s problems in our own strength is not the answer. On the other hand, if we just sit back and do nothing and expect God to do everything for us, we are disappointed when nothing seems to get done. What are we to do? I struggled with this for several years. Deep inside, I knew that there was something missing from my Christian experience. The same thing seemed to be missing in many of the churches I attended. What was missing?

Are you beginning to catch a glimpse of the incredible structure and understanding of cause and effect that make Jesus’ sermon such a masterpiece? It isn’t by chance that next Jesus said, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7). I didn’t understand this until one evening when I reflected on my flying career. I had flown over four thousand hours with almost half of it over the jungle. In eight years of flying over treacherous terrain, I never had even a minor accident. Many other pilots had been killed or maimed as they flew in the jungle. Others had demolished their airplanes. Even the missionary pilots, who had some of the best safety records in South America, were averaging a major accident every twelve hundred hours of flight time.

I prayed and asked God what was going on. Why did I uniquely receive special treatment? Other pilots had experienced terrible accidents while flying over jungles or mountains in Colombia. I knew that I wasn’t any better than many of the pilots who were killed in flight accidents; some of the casualties were better Christians than me too. I pressed God for an answer as to why I was being treated special. I had encountered more close calls than anybody, yet here I was unscathed, while other pilots made one mistake and lost their lives.

My mind suddenly flashed back to a scene years earlier when I was working on that house in Mapiripan, just before Dad and Ricardo arrived in the 170 for the first time. I recalled my prayer commitment to never turn down a needed mercy flight because of financial considerations. I kept that promise all those years. I heard a quiet voice deep inside me – a voice that over the years I learned to identify as the still, small voice of my Lord. His voice said, “You never turned anyone down who asked you for mercy, so I never turned you down when you were in need of my mercy. Even when you got out of line with that flight for Pedro, I kept you safe and taught you a les[1]son you needed to learn.

I was completely overwhelmed. For a few seconds, I caught a glimpse of how important mercy is to God. Jesus’ teachings center on mercy. That’s what Jesus’ earthly rescue mission is about. He wants us to put an attitude of mercy to work in our lives. He wants us to treat our fellow man in the same manner that we would like God to treat us.

Think about what a difference a merciful mentality could make in our actions and reactions every day. How many times a day do we pass up opportunities to have mercy on someone? Jesus said later in the sermon, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Over the centuries men have called this the Golden Rule. Mercy is also known as the Golden Key to inner peace and joy. The guerrillas removed my wallet, my watch, even my comb. They tied me with rope, separated me from my family, and damaged my plane. They are asking ten times more money for my release than my family is able to pay. Yet through this entire experience, I found that when I put Jesus’ merciful mentality to work and refuse to let my mind dwell on negative thoughts of hatred, bitterness, resentment, or revenge, no one is able to take my inner peace and joy from me.

Following Blessed are the merciful, Jesus said, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8). If admitting our faults and acknowledging our need for God with a poor in spirit attitude causes us to mourn, and if yielding our plans and letting God direct our lives with a meek attitude leads to a strong inner longing to clean up our act and do things right with a hunger and thirst for righteousness, then could a merciful attitude result in a pure heart? I think so.

Jesus described people as “peacemakers” who put a merciful attitude to work in their lives and give others’ inner motives the benefit of the doubt. Jesus continued by saying, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God (Matthew 5:9). There is an acute shortage of peacemakers in our world today. As you learn to use mercy, the Golden Key, you can be a peacemaker in your own home with your family or maybe at work. When Jesus’ teachings are at work in your life, you can influence everyone you come in contact with.

Blessed are those who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens (Matthew 5:10). Jesus’ seventh beatitude ends the same as His first. He wants to launch us off on a breathtaking, uplifting spiral of mercy and love that has no limits, much more exciting than Space Mountain at Disney World. He wants to help stop the fatal tailspin that most of us have been in. Jesus’ beatitudes describe a wonderful, positive, upward spiral of cause and effect that can transform us into mature “sons of God.”

We can witness creation as God takes selfish, proud, rebellious humans who are doomed to death and failure and makes them into sons of God who are magnificent, glorious creatures with whom He can spend eternity. Jesus said that we will be persecuted when we adhere to what we know is right. He didn’t promise us a bed of roses in this life. He promised us that during our time on earth He will eradicate our selfishness, pride, and rebellion if we authorize Him to do so. The treatment is sometimes painful, but He must dig deep enough into our lives to get at the root of our problems. There is no place in heaven for another human ego trip; justice and mercy are required and must go together.

In order to avail ourselves of God’s mercy, we must first recognize that He is just. As Christians, we must be willing to give individuals the benefit of the doubt by extending a merciful attitude, while at the same time we must be willing to stick our necks out for what we know is right. We must oppose evil with every legitimate means at our disposal. Can you understand now how Jesus loves the sinner but hates the sin?

As I was typing this last paragraph, one of the guerrillas, Mariano, asked a question. “Why did Jesus die? If He was really God, like you say, wouldn’t it have been enough for Him to have just left us His message on mercy and love? That you claim He died proves that you just made this all up. If I was God and came to earth like you say Jesus did, I wouldn’t have let anyone nail me to a cross. I would have called down the angels and defended myself. An all-powerful God would have never let Himself be put to death.”

I responded, “Jesus died because in a spiritual sense we’ve all been kidnapped. We have been kidnapped by our own selfishness. Our pride doesn’t let us admit when we are wrong. This has led to our rebellion against God. Selfishness, pride, and rebellion have held the whole human race captive, just like these three loops of rope around my neck and arms are holding me captive here in the jungle. If we continue going our own way, we will die and be lost.

“Jesus came to pay the ransom for us. He came and broke the power of sin and death. Yes, He died, but then He rose from the dead victorious. Now He is standing by to help us through life’s problems. If we place our lives under His authority within His kingdom, He will pry our fingers loose from the problems we insist on clutching. We are like the student pilot who enters a fatal tailspin; like the panic-stricken novice who can’t let go of the controls, even to save his own life. The harder he pulls back on the stick, trying to go up, the worse the spin gets, and the faster he loses altitude.

“Jesus is like the expert flight instructor who wrenches the controls away from the terrorized student pilot. He soon has the plane climbing nicely to a safe altitude. He then lets the student try it again. Now, if the student pilot continues to fight the instructor on the controls, there are only two courses of action open to the instructor. Most instructors would just land the airplane and tell the student to find a new instructor. The only other alternative is for the instructor to let the student make another mistake in the hopes that he will scare himself badly enough to pay attention to what the instructor is teaching him. Fortunately, Jesus seems to have a lot more patience than most flight instructors I have known.”

Author’s Note

I finished the final chapter (10) of the original book at noon on the fortieth day of captivity. I sent the forty completed pages of typewritten manuscript along with Vicente for delivery to Manuel, who was in a different camp. Chapter 9 has since been rewritten, several places have been abridged, and – decades later – the book was edited from start to finish to improve readability and enlarged to include additional concluding resources. Otherwise, the book is essentially what I forwarded to Manuel on my fortieth day. As much as is reasonable, I wanted to keep it true to the original text. If you have difficulty accepting any of its contents, remember I wrote it while being held captive in a guerrilla camp.

Sometimes I think that there are two worlds: a spiritual world and a physical world. Occasionally, while living in the physical world, we get a glimpse of the world to come. It presently seems this physical world is the real world, but someday it will fade away, and we will face reality Himself. We will be required to render a personal accounting to our Creator, the King of the universe. Are you prepared to meet Him face-to-face?

Additional Content

Chap 11. Caño Macú, Colombia September 18, 1983.

Time in this Marxist guerrilla camp has had a profound effect on my life.8 After I changed my outlook and realized this is an opportunity instead of a disaster, many positive things occurred. Just a month ago, I thought that I knew it all and that I was 100-percent right and they were 100-percent wrong. I have the ability to look at my life more objectively now and to even learn from the guerrillas. Jaime and Manuel taught me the most; through my experiences with them, I witnessed the principles of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in actual practice. In this most difficult situation, I experienced a fierce inner struggle about how to react to my captors. As I learn to put aside my own plans and ideas and rely on Jesus’ plans instead, many exciting things transpire.

8 Author’s note: This chapter consists of excerpts from my English notebook, which was written in captivity but was not included in the book for Manuel. A few days after I gave the original book to Manuel the guerrillas moved me in a large canoe with many guerrillas a couple hundred kilometers upriver.

From the start of my captivity, I felt that God had a purpose in allowing me to be kidnapped. I thought that maybe He wanted me to witness for Him in the midst of this atheistic, Marxist society. This feeling is accompanied by severe depression when I think about the shoot-out in the banana patch and the lie that I told Jaime about my gun. Maybe I blew things so badly that it would be impossible for me to influence my captors for God in a positive manner.

My initial, almost subconscious, reaction to the kidnapping had been to lie and shoot my way out. I had been telling God for years that He is the King of my life, but when I got into a difficult spot, what did I do? I resorted to lies and violence without even consulting Him. What if God permitted my kidnapping for a purpose? If God has sent me to this guerrilla camp as His messenger of truth and peace, then from the start I couldn’t have failed more miserably.

Day after day, I learn other important lessons. I find that as I enter into the spirit of Jesus’ beatitudes with an attitude of the poor in spirit and admission of my faults and mistakes, God is able to use my failures – even the worst ones – for good. I realize that a person doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be effective for God, but we do have to be honest. The fact that I admitted my mistake in telling Jaime a lie about my gun had a profound effect on my captors. I don’t have much success winning the guerrillas to my point of view when I debate ideologies. They are impressed, however, when I tell them about my mistakes and problems and about how God has intervened and helped me time and time again. I tell them with heartfelt conviction that I don’t believe that God has done so many things in my life – watching over me, protecting me, and patiently teaching me many important lessons – just to abandon me now. I am confident that God will see me through this experience.

Some of my captors have been touched by the book. Jaime told me that he regrets kidnapping me and he is making every effort to be nice to me. He built a desk for me to use for writing and placed his spare tarp over the top so I can write even when it rains. Jaime gave orders that I can ask for anything I want to eat whenever I want – even at night. I am still tied with the nylon cord, but sometimes Jaime removes it for the afternoon. He says he is under strict orders from Vicente to keep me tied up, but as long as he is present, he can allow me to be loose. Boy, does it feel great to be free of that rope!

Arnuval seems sad and depressed. When on guard duty, he rarely speaks anymore. He just sits with his head bowed. Yesterday, I asked him if anything was bothering him. He thought for a while and remarked that he wished he could be a Christian like me. He said, “I think you are right, but I made a serious agreement with this guerrilla organization when I joined. If I go back on my oath of allegiance, they can kill me. I have been thinking it over, and it seems impossible to reconcile the teachings of Jesus Christ with our Marxist ideology. For now, I will have to continue as a guerrilla. It’s too bad that I didn’t meet you before I joined the guerrillas.” He gave me a sad look and didn’t speak to me again for the remainder of his three-hour shift of guard duty.

I learned that each new guerrilla member is sworn in on Simon Bolivar’s sword9 (which was stolen from a museum) with an oath of allegiance to the international Marxist ideology. The oath ends with the statement, “We will fight unto death against the Yankees, the enemies of all mankind.” This statement has also been included in the Nicaraguan Sandinista national anthem. Any member of a Marxist guerrilla cell who wants to leave the movement and no longer participate in their violent solution to third-world problems is branded an oath-breaking traitor. Many sincere, well-meaning individuals join the Marxist guerrilla ranks only to find that guerrilla leaders are interested in personal power instead of the welfare of common people. Unfortunately, by the time a new guerrilla makes this discovery, he is trapped and unable to leave the movement without being hunted down and killed.

9Simon Bolivar is Colombia’s equivalent of George Washington in the United States.

I have been praying for my captors every evening. I started by praying for just one to enter the kingdom of God. I think that if even one comes to know Jesus Christ and puts Jesus’ beatitudes to work in his life, my entire experience will have been worthwhile. I’ve also been praying that God would grant me guidance to go forward. Should I try to escape again, or should I just relax and let God get me home safely? I don’t want to make any more mistakes, so I am asking God to provide definite instruction on what to do.

The Star

On my thirty-sixth day of captivity, I woke in the night with a bright light shining in my eyes. It was a sharp, piercing beam of light that I couldn’t even look at until my eyes adjusted. At first I thought it was the guard’s flashlight. Then I noticed it was a brilliant star shining through a hole in the trees. I asked the guard for the time, and he said it was four in the morning. I repeated my question, wanting to know the exact time. “Four zero zero a.m.” replied the guard.

I looked at that star and couldn’t believe that it was shining through a tiny hole in the trees at a precise angle to come under the tarp that stretched over the hammock and hit me square in the eyes at exactly 4:00 a.m. My hammock is pitched in a way to position my head in the perfect spot to see the star. In five minutes, the star disappeared behind the trees. I decided it was Venus, the morning star.

Today is my thirty-eighth day of captivity, and I’m enjoying a Bible, a letter, and a few other things that I received from home the previous day. We had a thunderstorm last night, so I took advantage of the noise made by the wind and rain to sing at the top of my lungs inside my hammock without the guards being able to hear. It was a terrible storm; lightning flashed very close to our campsite, and many dead limbs crashed down and made a fearful noise. The wind whistled through the tops of the tall trees, and I felt my hammock move as the two supporting trees swayed back and forth.

I stayed awake all night in the hope of seeing the morning star again at 4:00 a.m. I can’t get that star out of my mind; it was so beautiful. I remember in the book of Revelation that the morning star is promised to overcomers, so I am praying and asking God to make me an overcomer. The sky cleared, the rain stopped in the early-morning hours, and the star finally appeared low over the horizon with a bright glow, shining through a small hole in the trees.

I asked the guard for the time and he answered that it was 3:00 a.m. I just had to see the star better, so I told the guard I had to answer a call of nature, and he handed my shoes to me. With my gaze fixed on the star, I stood up. In doing so, I unwittingly bumped my head on the tarp above me. A lot of water had collected in the lower corner, and all of it poured over my head. Javier was the guard, and we both laughed about my “automatic shower.” In a minute, the star slipped behind the trees, and I got back in the hammock.

An hour later, precisely at 4:00 a.m., the star appeared in the larger hole in the trees where I first saw it yesterday. I told Javier I had to get up again, and he gave me permission. I put my shoes on and stood up; I hit my head on the tarp again and got another dose of cold water, right down my neck. I started to laugh about it, but all of a sudden I stopped laughing. I had emptied the water from the tarp the first time I got up. It hadn’t rained since. Where in the world did that additional water come from?

I looked at that great big, beautiful star. It was several times brighter than I can ever remember seeing the morning star before. Its light wasn’t soft and pale like the moonlight. This star gave off light that was sharp and focused, a light that seemed to penetrate right into my brain. Could this be similar to the star that the wise men followed to Bethlehem when they witnessed the birth of Jesus Christ so many years ago? Was it the famous Star of David?

As I stood in amazement, awe, and appreciation, I noticed that another star had risen on the horizon, following the exact path of the morning star. It was a faint little star, and it was now in the small hole in the trees, way down on the horizon where the morning star had been at 3:00 a.m. I was fascinated by all of this.

After a few more minutes, the pale red glow of dawn appeared. When it was light enough to read, I opened my Bible. Today is the very first morning I have a Bible to read. It fell open to Revelation chapter 22. The words seemed to jump out of the page at me. I AM the root and the offspring of David and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that hears say, Come. And let him that is thirsty come; and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely (Revelation 22:16-17).

I am completely overwhelmed. Things started falling into place, and I am finally able to understand this morning’s object lesson. The morning star is symbolic of Jesus Himself. Jesus wants to share Himself with the overcomers, not just give them Venus as a present. The object lesson is now very clear. If I follow Jesus, as that faint little star followed the exact path that the morning star took, I will freely receive the water of life. In fact, I received a symbolic double dose right on top of my head this morning, just to make sure I got the picture.

I was staggered! I had prayed and asked God to direct me. I would have been content with a dream or any small sign. He responded to my prayer by arranging for huge heavenly bodies to shine through little holes in the thick canopy of leaves at precise angles with the exact timing to hit me square in the eyes with a penetrating beam at 4:00 a.m. while I lay in my ham-mock – waking me up! The jungle is so dense that normally it is impossible to see a star from any angle, let alone see one from under the blue tarp that hung over my hammock.

Great joy welled up inside me. God is in control of this situation and the whole universe, for that matter. These guerrillas are nothing compared to Him. Nancy just served me a cup of coffee, so I started telling her about the star. Suddenly, I was amazed to notice a six-pointed Star of David on a gold chain around her neck. How come I haven’t noticed that before?

As I sipped my coffee, I wondered about my prayer asking God to rescue one of my captors. What a stupid prayer! I should have prayed for a total victory. I should have prayed that God would see fit to rescue all of my captors from the vicious tail[1]spin they are trapped in. From now on, that will be my prayer.

My fortieth day in captivity fell on September 22, 1983. I again saw the star at 4:00 a.m. The moon was full the previous night, and it thrilled me to watch it set while the morning star rose. Throughout the day, I think about how we can’t see the sun when it is night, but the moon can still reflect the sun’s light to us.

I see a spiritual parallel. Many people in this world today are living in spiritual darkness. They haven’t developed their spiritual senses, so it is impossible for them to perceive God. Jesus gave His followers a new commandment just before He departed, saying, Love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall everyone know that ye are my disciples (John 13:34-35). Christians can reflect God’s love toward those living in spiritual darkness. Just as the moon is always either waxing or waning, Christians are either becoming more or less effective for God.

This morning as I paced as far as this nylon cord will allow, I decided that God is really after my “free will.” I struggled for a while with this idea. It seems that if I completely give my decision-making to God, I will cease to exist as an individual. I think about how badly I want to run away from this guerrilla camp and see my wife and little baby daughter again. If I let God make all the decisions, I might never see them again. I might never leave this guerrilla camp alive. I can think of many Christians who were martyred. My own desire is to break away from the guerrillas as soon as a decent opportunity presents itself.

Still, I thought, anyone who can arrange for whole planets to shine through little holes in the trees just to teach me an object lesson must know what He is doing. I prayed and told God that I am willing to do whatever He sees fit. I told Him that He could do anything He wants with me and that I trust Him completely. A great sense of peace came over me. It is clear that my job from that point on is to do and say what God wants done and said in this camp. It is God’s job to take care of my safety and get me home when my mission in this guerrilla camp is accomplished. If I get killed, that is for God to decide. Since I am working for God, I will trust Him to take care of my wife and baby and not worry about them.


The morning star keeps waking me up at exactly 4:00 a.m. On this fortieth day of my captivity, at 4:00 p.m., a bolt of lightning hit our camp right between Jaime and Elkin. Both of them were dazed, and Jaime even smelled a little burnt afterwards. The strong smell of ozone lingers in the air. With the lightning blast, a dry limb crashed on top of my desk and tore down the tarp, so I had to move over to the hammock to keep dry.

The manuscript is exactly forty pages – typewritten, closely spaced, and both sides utilized. I am beginning to wonder about all the number 4s and 40s. I had been impressed with these numbers since my kidnapping began. As I think about the number 4, I read in the book of Genesis that on the fourth day of creation God created the sun, moon, and stars. In my Spanish translation, it says the stars were created to herald special dates and events. Can the number 4 be a heavenly number? These thoughts are rushing through my head. What about the number 40? I remember Moses and the Ten Commandments. Could the number 10 be symbolic of God’s justice in the Bible? Four times ten equals forty. Could the number 40 be symbolic of God’s heavenly justice, like when it rained for forty days and forty nights, and only Noah was saved from the flood because he listened to God and built an ark? Is it God’s heavenly justice that placed me in this guerrilla camp, separated from my loved ones for forty days?

Wait a minute! Jesus said that whatsoever ye desire that men should do unto you, so also shall ye do unto them, for this is the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12). Jesus relates His teachings on mercy to the law of Moses. Could the number 40 also be symbolic of God’s heavenly mercy? Is it similar to when King David reigned over Israel for forty years and brought peace and prosperity to the land? Is this kidnapping really God’s heavenly mercy on me in disguise? Has God decided to have mercy on me and teach me many things here that I couldn’t learn in normal circumstances?

As the rain pours down, it occurs to me that there is no upper limit on what God can do through this experience. It looks like the guerrillas did me a favor in kidnapping me. I find this thought amusing enough to chuckle to myself. This experience is a tremendous opportunity to learn important lessons that I would never have learned in a million years of ordinary life! Better still, I have a golden opportunity to influence many of these young guerrillas for good.

I am still thinking about that faint, little star that appeared on the horizon and followed the same path as Venus, the bright morning star. Every day before dawn, Venus, the planet of love, shines through that small, lower hole in the trees close to the horizon at exactly 3:00 a.m. Then at 4:00 a.m., it shines through the larger, higher hole, and this faint, little star comes into view in the smaller hole. This causes me to wonder if the number 3 is also significant, so I opened my Bible to chapter 1 of Genesis to read that God created the fruit-bearing trees and seed-bearing plants on the third day of creation. Is the number 3 symbolic in the Bible of fruitfulness? I remember that Jesus started His ministry when He was thirty years old. He died when He was thirty-three. It amazes me to read the Bible and discover that every detail seems to be spiritually significant while also being historically accurate. I have the distinct impression that if I keep my eyes on Jesus and follow Him just like that faint, little star follows the path of the morning star, my life will also be fruitful.

Numbers are symbolic in the Bible, especially in the book of Revelation. I was intrigued with the number 666, which is the mark of the beast (Revelation 16:2; 19:20), and the number 6, which is the number of man. Man was created on the sixth day of creation. In the Bible, the number 100 is symbolic of God’s plan. Noah spent 100 years building the ark to God’s specifications (see Genesis 5:32 and 7:11). Abraham had Isaac when he was 100 years old, and so on. Remember that 3 is symbolic of fruitfulness (33⅓ x 3 = 100). God’s plans are fruitful no matter how you factor them. Therefore, 600 would be symbolic of man’s plans. Ten is symbolic of justice (the Ten Commandments) or mercy (Jesus says that the Golden Rule equals the law of Moses). Therefore, 60 would be man’s justice or man’s mercy. On the first day of creation, God said, Let there be light, so 1 is symbolic of light. Therefore, 666 in spiritual symbolism is man’s plans according to man’s law, illuminated by man’s light. This is the mark of the beast or the mark of man’s rebellion against God.

News and Politics

Last night (several days later), Elkin permitted me to use his small shortwave radio for a few minutes. I tuned in to the American armed forces station to listen to the news. The guards aren’t supposed to let me use the radio, but Elkin made an exception. I think his conscience is bothering him for participating in this kidnapping, so he is being nice to me.

I heard a White House press conference and was impressed with President Reagan’s message and with how he fielded questions from very hostile reporters. The president did not become ruffled. He simply refused to get upset or uptight when reporters viciously insulted and attacked him and his policies. Listening to President Reagan makes me feel warm, proud, and glad to be an American. I’ll try to follow the president’s example and not let the guerrillas’ questions push me to get uptight. I wonder if President Reagan has read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. I sense that he has because he practices Jesus’ Golden Rule almost perfectly.

I continued listening to various news reports until all of a sudden I heard something that upset me. Commentator Dan Rather announced that President Reagan was receiving criticism from the right-wingers for not taking any drastic retaliatory action against the Soviets for their downing of the South Korean airliner. Rather said the president was accused of blowing a unique opportunity. They said this was one of the most blatant acts of Soviet aggression to occur in our lifetime, and President Reagan replied only with rhetoric in response to violence.

I have been thinking about Rather’s statement, and the more I think, the more upset I become. Sitting in the middle of a guerrilla camp, I am witnessing firsthand the tremendous buildup of the international communist forces. Thousands of Marxist guerrillas in southeastern Colombia control almost every phase of the lucrative cocaine traffic. These guerrillas are making astronomical amounts of money that they spend on weapons and terrorism. Right now, these forces are not interested in publicity or confrontation. They are content to sit quietly and milk the drug trade for all its potential. The KGB, utilizing its well-trained Cuban counterparts, influences everything. All over the world, Soviet-controlled forces are silently gathering strength in obscure, unlikely areas. It is only in a complacent America that Rather’s characterization of the isolated incident as one of the “most blatant acts of Soviet aggression” is taken seriously and believed by many. What I am witnessing is far more serious and constant.

From my vantage point, the Soviets are obviously securing and controlling everything they possibly can. It looks like the South Korean airliner incident is just a small part of what is already occurring. I hate to consider the degree of Soviet aggression we’re liable to see in our lifetime if America doesn’t wake up and oppose their larger, global threat. Most Americans have been lulled to sleep on world issues; then when something visibly goes wrong, they criticize and blame our president, congress, or secretary of state. The root causes of some problems lie closer to each citizen than many admit. Our American government simply reflects the will of its people.

If American citizens lose their will to oppose what is wrong and stand for what is right, how can we expect anything different from our leaders? We can do many things to help and support our country when it faces difficult, trying times. We need to lay aside petty differences and party politics and pull together as a nation. If we put our selfishness and pride to the side and honestly seek to do what is right, God can bless our nation today just as He has in the past. What’s happened to our national motto, In God We Trust? The last time I saw our motto, it was printed on the side of a stack of crisp hundred-dollar bills in the filthy hands of a narcotics smuggler deep in the jungles of Colombia, South America. I am saddened to see American dollars financing terrorism. I believe that if Americans would quit purchasing drugs, it would greatly reduce some of Central and South America’s problems, make it easier for our government to help our Latin American neighbors, and diminish the terrible damage drugs are doing at home.

I’ve been thinking about J. R. R. Tolkien’s trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. As I let my mind escape reality to wander into Tolkien’s fantasy world of Middle-earth, I am shocked to notice the striking similarities to our present world. A dark shadow is gathering strength and power across the globe, as menacing and sinister as in Tolkien’s novel. Evil forces are massing in shadowy, out-of-the-way places across the planet while wait[1]ing to secure sufficient strength or the best timing. The West has complacently drifted to sleep and not seriously considered their threat.

As I continue to muse, I try transposing my situation into Tolkien’s Middle-earth where my captors would be called Orcs instead of guerrillas. They would work for the dark Lord of Mordor instead of for the KGB and the Soviet Union. In Tolkien’s fantasy the real king returns and leads the fight against evil. The good forces, led by the true king, are about to be defeated when suddenly the ring-bearer finishes his quest. The Dark Lord’s own ring of power is thrown into the mountain of doom, which causes the complete and utter downfall of all his evil power. Thus, evil is not destroyed by force but by purposeful actions on both sides.

In the Bible are clues that indicate our world might have a similar ending. Our true and rightful King of this earth, Jesus Christ, has promised to return and set the world straight. The Bible also implies that evil will somehow turn on itself and aid in its own destruction. I wonder what would happen if more people spent time in prayer and fasting, asking Jesus Christ to come back and be the King of this world. What if President Reagan were to declare a national day of prayer and fasting in which we would collectively admit our national mistakes and failures and ask Jesus Christ to reign in our country and straighten out our many problems? What if Pope John Paul II and other religious leaders were to call for a worldwide day of prayer and fasting in which we all, as members of the human race, admit our failures and ask God to make the plans for our world from now on?

Sometimes I get depressed about my situation and the direction the world is going. Everything appears hopeless with the human race in a fatal tailspin with an awful ending not far off. We seem headed either for nuclear holocaust or for engulfment by atheistic, totalitarian communism. Every year there is less freedom and more nuclear weapons. Wouldn’t it be terrible if the ultimate monument to human selfishness, pride, and rebellion against God was the charred remains of the planet – floating in space for eternity, because man has literally blown himself off the face of the earth through nuclear weapons?

The Spiritual Code

But wait a minute. What if a nuclear holocaust isn’t the end of the human race? What if the end of our tailspin was reached years ago when men tried, condemned, tortured, and killed the Son of God? Jesus rose from the dead and broke death’s grip on us. Before His ascension, He promised to send us power from on high – His Holy Spirit. He fulfilled that promise on the day of Pentecost and literally shared His victory and power with everyone who joins His kingdom and becomes a true Christian – a follower of Jesus.

I’m thinking of the verses in the book of Malachi that caught Ricardo’s attention so many years ago. They seem like code that has a spiritual application as well as a literal one. Suddenly, I am able to break the spiritual code and the decoded message staggers me:

Remember ye the law of Moses my slave, . . . I send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD: and he shall convert the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with destruction. (Malachi 4:4-6)

Jesus said, All things whatsoever ye desire that men should do unto you, so also shall ye do unto them, for this is the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12). Jesus equates His teachings on mercy with the law of Moses or God’s justice. Malachi literally means “my angel” or “my messenger” in Hebrew. What God is saying through Malachi, His messenger, is that if we acquire a merciful mindset and practice Jesus’ Golden Rule, He will send us the “Spirit of Elijah.” In Hebrew, Elijah literally means “The Lord is my God.” In other words, mercy is the key to receiving and allowing God’s Holy Spirit to flow through us to reconcile our family problems. Jesus also said, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. Moses received the Ten Commandments, and in the Bible he is symbolic of God’s justice. Moses was a great man, but he made a sinful mistake, which caused God to refuse to allow him to cross the Jordan River (symbolic of death) and enter the promised land. We all fall short of perfection and are doomed to die. None of us can measure up to God’s standards on our own.

The prophet Elijah called down fire from heaven and parted the Jordan River with his mantle, which permitted him to walk across on dry ground. Elijah is symbolic of God’s faithfulness. Elijah was separated from Elisha by a fiery chariot, and he was caught up to heaven in a whirlwind.

How can we bridge the gap between Moses and Elijah? How can we satisfy God’s justice? How can we receive supernatural help and power from God? Jesus Christ is the only answer to these questions. In the transfiguration, Jesus stood between Moses and Elijah. Jesus is symbolic of God’s mercy. Just as George Herbert said in the seventeenth century, “He who cannot forgive others destroys the bridge over which he himself must pass,”10 Jesus came to earth to show us His mercy and to bridge the gap between God our Father and us. Jesus’ death was very symbolic and provided a clear redemptive path.

The triple theme of God’s justice, mercy, and faithfulness is woven throughout the Bible from beginning to end. It is summarized in the book of Revelation when the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, who are the very personifications of justice, mercy, and faithfulness, fight against the evil ones. The villains, or “Terrible Trio” as I call them, are selfishness, pride, and rebellion, as represented by the trio of Babylon (the harlot), the false prophet, and the beast. It says that the dragon (Satan) has given all his power over to them. At the end of the book, the false prophet and the beast finish off the harlot. They are then thrown into the lake of fire and destroyed.

10Mathew 6:15 paraphrase.

I don’t mean to detract from a literal interpretation of Revelation, but by identifying the characters properly in their symbolic spiritual sense, we get a description of the spiritual battle inside of us. God’s purpose in putting us through this physical life is to completely eradicate our selfishness, pride, and rebellion.

Old Testament prophets were somewhat similar to our news commentators today. They would blow a trumpet whenever there was news or a message for the people to hear. In the book of Revelation, John tells of the last trumpet blown to announce the world’s end. After thousands of years, Jesus’ words still haven’t faded into oblivion but are coming through stronger and clearer all the time. There’s still a little time remaining as the notes of God’s last trumpet call are lingering in the air, calling men to forgiveness and mercy instead of violence and terrorism; calling for us to wake up and oppose evil instead of being lulled to sleep by wishful thinking.

One of the most unnecessary points of contention within the Christian church is the matter of whether or not Christians will be on earth during the tribulation. From my present position, it doesn’t seem debatable. Every true Christian from the beginning of time has suffered and come through tribulation. Sooner or later, every remaining true Christian will have their faith tried by fire just like what is presently happening to me in this guerrilla camp. The Bible says that the wood, hay, and stubble in our lives will be consumed by fire; but the gold, silver, and precious stones in us will be purified by it. There isn’t currently as much persecution in America as there is in many other countries, but it is still possible for a Christian to go through the fire of tribulation. I know of many Christians who are challenged by cancer, financial difficulties, or other problems that have tried their faith to its very roots.

It’s interesting that both secular humanism, so prevalent in Western democracies, and Marxist atheism, found in communist countries, include the fundamental belief that mankind is capable of solving his own problems without God’s help or direction.


This is the last ransom note received by my parents from my captors, in which they threaten to kill me on Christmas day if their demands are not met. There were many earlier letters with their negotiations relayed in typical cloak-and-dagger style.

Chap 12. Caño La Tigrera, Colombia October 20, 1983

I finished the book for Manuel on the fortieth day of captivity, but I had lots of time available during the next 102 days until my release.

On the sixty-seventh day of captivity, I was transferred about two hundred kilometers upriver (up the Guaviare River and then up the Guayabero River) to the guerrilla headquarters and training camp at Caño La Tigrera. Hundreds of guerrillas were in this area, and I was both pleased and surprised to find Manuel among them. He approached me with a smile on his face and thanked me for the book. His wound was now almost completely healed, and he could even carry his backpack again. I was astonished to find that I was something of a celebrity in the guerrilla camp. Manuel had been proudly showing my book to his buddies, and many had read it. I was generally in high spirits now, but especially because they were intrigued with the story about my shooting Manuel and our incredible friendship later. Most of the men seemed to respect and admire me, and many came over during their spare time to talk and ask my opinion on many matters; sometimes they opened up and discussed deep personal problems.

By my seventy-fifth day of captivity, I had managed to talk Jaime and Vicente into removing the rope and letting me walk around a certain perimeter of the camp. My ever-present guards would simply stroll with me. Different guerrillas would stop by from time to time during the day to converse and even consult with me on topics ranging from medical problems to ballistics. They still tied me to a rope at night, but they were beginning to treat me like an expensive pet instead of a prisoner.

It all seemed too good to be true. During this time, my cap[1]tors refused to comment on any negotiations for my release, which was taking place with my family. I would occasionally receive a package of food or clothes from them, but my captors withheld written mail from my wife and family. Vicente would draft the letters from me to my family, then have me copy and sign them. I did this several times, but on November 3, my dad’s birthday, he came over with a really nasty letter for me to copy. I omitted the worst part and replaced it with a birthday greeting. Vicente left without checking what I had written. He didn’t realize I had made the switch until he was handing the letter over to my wife and brother during a contact meeting. It ruined his day and he was so mad when he returned that he wouldn’t let me send or receive anything else.

The next day, we started hearing news of the American invasion of Grenada over the radio. Cuba’s Radio Havana made quite a production out of the circumstances. Many of the guerrillas didn’t seem too interested in the news, but a few, especially the leaders, became very uptight. Giovani and some of the others, whom I suspected all along of being Cubans due to their Caribbean-sounding Spanish accents, made some remarks that let the cat out of the bag. They were so inflamed over American troops invading Grenada and killing their Cuban countrymen that they wanted to kill me in retaliation. Fortunately, it was over before the guerrilla leadership had settled on that course of action.

There was a general mood of depression in the guerrilla leadership after the Cuban defeat on Grenada. Some of them started asking worried questions about whether or not America would intervene militarily in Colombia if the guerrillas appeared to be taking over. I replied that I didn’t know, but if they didn’t want that to happen, they should quit kidnapping and killing American citizens. I told them that President Reagan was determined to stand against terrorism, and that one thing that triggered the Grenada invasion had been his decision to protect American lives (repeating what I heard on the radio).

Another factor that contributed to the guerrillas’ depression was the rumor circulating in the camp that a large weapons shipment, destined for them, had been captured on Grenada. This caused even rank-and-file guerrillas to be angry at President Reagan because they love weapons more than almost anything. For months, the guerrilla leaders had been telling their men during their morning indoctrination sessions that a significant percentage of the money that the unit was making through drug trafficking, extortion of ranchers and businessmen, and kidnappings was being spent on modern weapons. The leader would put all the figures on a large blackboard made from a dark piece of canvas stretched between trees. The blackboard was about eighty yards from where I was kept, so I could watch them writing on it every morning, but it was too far away for me to see or hear everything that occurred during their morning indoctrinations. I could hear bits and pieces, and because every three days I was allowed to bathe in the stream, they walked me right past the blackboard. Many times, their figures were still on the board.

The leaders appeared to be telling the men that a lot of the intake money was sent to help their comrades in El Salvador. They also claimed to be sending local men there because this was good fodder for morale building. If guerrillas from this unit were killed by the Colombian army in area combat, for example, they could just report that the missing were transferred to El Salvador. It also gave the men something to look forward to every evening as they tuned their radios to Radio Venceremos from Nicaragua to listen to the latest distorted news, hoping to hear something inspirational. Once in awhile, one of their comrades would return from a tour of duty in Central America and give glowing accounts of how the “war of liberation” in El Salvador was progressing. The guerrilla recruits were optimistically taught that Colombia would likely be Marxist within two years. They were to tighten their belts and endure discipline, hardship, and “necessary evil” for this short amount of time. After they won and gained power, everybody would have “true freedom,” just like in Nicaragua, Cuba, and the Soviet Union.

Most of the men seemed to like and respect me. Jaime, the squad leader, and Nancy, the nurse, appeared sympathetic. The shoot-out in the banana patch with Manuel, followed by the book I wrote, coupled with my reconciliation and friendship with Manuel was the talk of the guerrilla camp. Most would not have believed the story or accepted the book if Manuel and I hadn’t been in the camp as living proof of the events. Even so, some of the more inquisitive ones asked Manuel to show them his scar and the gun and ankle holster that I had used to shoot him with; both were in his possession.

Giovani, the squad disciplinarian and control officer, was becoming more and more upset with me as he saw me become more and more popular with the men. Mariano, the gunsmith, also had an obvious chip on his shoulder against me. He felt I was winning over the hearts of the guerrillas with clever lies and propaganda about God and the Bible. Giovani and Mariano were encouraged and supported in their hatred of me by a young guerrilla leader named Eliezar, who appeared to be the control officer for the guerrillas’ training institute attached to this unit. I strongly suspected he was also Cuban.

Basic training of a hundred or more recruits, some of them female, was in constant progress around the clock. I heard the drill instructors shout and chant cadence all day and well into the night. I could hear shooting for hours at a time – both day and night as the new recruits were trained in jungle warfare.

If the weather was good at night, they would sit around a campfire and sing inspiring revolutionary songs. I was generally excluded from campfire meetings because local peasants were rounded up to attend them. The guerrilla leadership was ashamed to display their practice of kidnapping. I was carefully kept out of view where I could hear the singing, hundreds of voices strong, ringing through the moonlit jungle as the guerrillas did their best to demonstrate their boast of being “freedom fighters.” Singing was followed by speeches from fiery orators who instructed the people in Marxist ideology. Sometimes there would be video presentations utilizing a Sony Betamax projected on a large screen. They even showed American films, such as Apocalypse Now, which they misrepresented as a documentary film on the Vietnam War. They’d take some of Hollywood’s most atrocious productions (or best works of art, depending on your viewpoint), and present them as normal American life. They also had many Russian documentary films on various topics. Most of their film library was edited and translated into Spanish in Cuba prior to distribution to the guerrillas. I was never permitted to attend the presentations, but I was asked to work on the generator and Betamax when they needed repair.

I was surprised the guerrilla leadership didn’t ban my book and keep me isolated from their men. The guerrilla leaders must have allowed me to speak out and my book to circulate because they wanted to appear fair to their men. They expected their men would be able to see through my “lies” and “propaganda,” thus strengthening the ideology that was officially taught. Therefore, my first one hundred days or so of captivity were under increasingly favorable conditions.

Maybe they were trying to justify their every action. They didn’t want to appear totalitarian or arbitrary to their men regarding my situation. They took pride in the claim that they didn’t torture people like the government did. They simply killed, rather than tortured, anyone who caused a problem. If they killed a government official, it was because he was rotten and corrupt. If they killed a poor campesino farmer, it was because he was a tattler or a government spy. If they kidnapped an American citizen, it was because he was a corrupt capitalist who exploited the common people. If they killed the American, then it was because he must have been a CIA agent. If they killed one of their own men, it was because he was a traitor, and so went their rationalizations. They never made “mistakes,” but they did try to justify their actions. The guerrillas had no short[1]age of weapons or ammunition, although modern automatic assault rifles seemed to be in short supply. Only about a third of the troops had G3s, M16s, or AR-15s. The rest were armed with M1 rifles, M1 carbines, and an assortment of older bolt-action rifles. Hand grenades and anti-aircraft weapons were also in short supply, although they did have some modern rockets and .50-caliber machine guns.

Brainwashing Attempts

With the combination of the Grenada invasion and my alteration of Vicente’s letter, however, my situation became more and more tense. The guerrilla leaders were subtly stepping up the psychological pressure on me. They spent days creating the right moods or environments in attempts to break me men[1]tally and emotionally. They said my situation was hopeless and that my family had abandoned me. They urged me to write an emotional plea to my family, ordering them to comply with their ransom demands.

I replied that my family was doing everything they could to get me out. I told them that they were the ones who had made a mistake when they captured a poor missionary’s son instead of the rich capitalist they intended to kidnap. I told them they had two choices – kill me or let me go for whatever small amount my family could afford. Jaime turned and looked me in the face and asked if I was afraid to die. I replied that dying is obviously an uncomfortable thought, but I was prepared to die.

A few days later they tied me again and left the rope on me day and night. This wasn’t Jaime’s decision. Evidently Giovani went over Jaime’s head, and the guerrilla leadership agreed with him. They intensified the campaign to break me psycho[1]logically and then brainwash me. Every day new things were done to alter me and work toward that goal. My captors told me scary stories; some were about wild animals. They told wild, hair-raising tales about lions (mountain lions or cougars) and tigers (jaguars). These stories were designed to intimidate me, reduce my ability to sleep, and cause me to think twice before I tried to escape into the jungle again.

Monkey Torture

To put more pressure on me, they shot and wounded a monkey the following day. They didn’t kill the monkey; they just shot it in the stomach. It was a mother with a tiny baby monkey clinging to it. They dragged it over close to where I was and left it there. All day, I witnessed this little drama of the mother monkey’s agonizing death with its whimpering baby clinging to it.

Several days before, Mariano had talked to me about my wife. He described her well enough that I knew he really had met her. He then insinuated that the guerrillas had her in their power as well. He told me that they would probably decide to brainwash her, put her through guerrilla training, and place her in combat. He said they might decide to release me some[1]day after they had gotten all the money that our family had, but they would always keep custody of my wife to make sure I never badmouthed them after being released.

At first, my mind went wild with thoughts of revenge and violence. But after awhile, I was able to see that this was part of their attempt to break me down and brainwash me. I made a determined effort to throw all their stories and dramas out of my mind and not let my thoughts dwell on them. I would trust God to take care of my wife, close my mind to my captors’ input, and replace it with positive values.

The night after the monkey incident, a cougar (the guerrillas call them lions) actually arrived in camp. I was almost asleep in my hammock with Mariano on guard duty when the lion came between us. It sniffed around for a while and finally left after several minutes. I asked Mariano why he hadn’t shot it. He was shook-up and said his flashlight had malfunctioned, but he was also afraid to shoot and miss because the rest of us were on the other side of the lion. So he had waited, petrified with fear, until it left. Also, any shot from a guard warned of attack and would have caused hundreds of men to mobilize. He’d fired at a jaguar and missed several months before while on guard duty, and they had disciplined him so severely he didn’t want to take another chance. Mariano called some of the men over to look at the lion’s huge paw tracks. The guerrillas were puzzled about why it had come so boldly into camp, since lions usually avoid humans.

From then on, the guards were nervous at night, and they’d shine their flashlights until the batteries ran down. They seemed more and more uptight every night. I determined that they were starting to believe the tall tales they used to scare me. I slept soundly because I was the only one who knew the real reason that lion wandered into camp. Cougar hunters kill monkeys for bait. They drag the dead monkey through the jungle, and then leave it in a clearing. The cougar will follow that trail and walk into their ambush. This lion had merely come across the bloody trail of the mother monkey, which they had dragged over to me in the middle of their camp.

During most of my captivity, I started my day by reading a psalm. Beginning with Psalm 40 on my fortieth day of captivity and each day after, I read the next psalm. It began as an interest[1]ing way to keep track of the days, but soon I realized that most of the psalms were relevant to my situation. Many were written under difficult circumstances, and I could easily identify with the writer. I would let the daily psalm be my prayer and say it with the same heartfelt conviction that the original writer must have felt thousands of years ago. It seemed as though the book of Psalms was written just for me – Psalm 91 was particularly special. Each one came on exactly the right day to help me understand and make it through that day’s difficulties.

I wondered if I should have tried to escape earlier when I’d been free of the rope. Now I was tied again, and they were obviously cracking down on me. Maybe I’d blown a good opportunity. I was deep in the jungle with little chance to reach civilization alive even if I managed to break out of camp. I decided to ask God for another clear sign to show me if He would continue to protect me if I stayed with the guerrillas. I asked God to give me an opportunity to escape with the necessary equipment and supplies, if that was what He wanted me to do.

Snake Attack

The next morning, approximately the 110th day of my captivity, I got up, read my psalm, and walked back and forth as far as the nylon rope allowed. I was deep in meditation while getting my morning exercise. I walked parallel to my hammock. The tarp above was covered with dead leaves that fell during the night. In pitching the hammock, my captors had chopped through some thick vines that had dried and were shedding their leaves. As I walked each morning, I slapped the bottom of the tarp from beneath and caused all the dead leaves to collect in the lowest part of the tarp. On the next pass, I’d reach in and scoop out all the dead leaves. On this particular day, I slapped the bottom on the first pass and planned to scoop the leaves out with my hand on the next, but on impulse, I thought better of it and continued on by.

After passing, I detected some motion out of the corner of my eye, coupled with a soft hiss. I turned to look and there was a snake, its face just inches from mine. It had been coiled in the pile of leaves on top of the tarp. I had disturbed it when I slapped the tarp, and now it was upset. It had struck at me as I walked by and only missed my neck by inches. Its forked tongue flickered in and out between the needle-like teeth in its mouth as it prepared to strike again. I continued walking and turned around when I reached the end of the rope.

Arnuval was on duty, so he came over and swatted the snake with the broad side of his machete to avoid damaging the tarp. The snake fell to the ground and headed straight for me with Arnuval hot on its tail. I couldn’t run because I was tied, so I jumped in the air at the last minute as the snake approached. It continued past me and hit a big tree with wide, spreading roots. Somehow, the snake quickly turned around and came right back at us. Arnuval got tangled in my rope and fell. I tripped over him and reached out blindly to keep from falling on top of the snake. I grabbed something solid; it turned out to be the hilt of Arnuval’s bayonet, which was slung on his wide cartridge belt and fastened firmly around his waist.

For a moment, I considered drawing the bayonet, knifing him, and pushing him onto the snake. But then I thought better of it and steadied myself while I helped Arnuval up. He swatted the snake with his machete again and killed it this time. For an instant, it had been within my grasp to have snatched Arnuval’s G3 rifle, but I would have had to kill or wound him in order to escape. I was not able to go through with it. The effects of shooting Manuel and knowing Arnuval so well had spoiled my appetite for further violence.

The snake could easily have bitten one or both of us. It was a poisonous snake about three feet long of the fer-de-lance family. Arnuval looked at me and I looked at him. Neither one of us spoke for a long time. Finally, he remarked that he wasn’t in favor of keeping me tied, and he apologized for shooting the monkey. He said that he didn’t want to obey so many stupid orders; he obviously meant it from the heart. For sure the Marxist leadership briefed the guards before they came on duty and gave them orders to do or say something designed to affect me in some specific manner. The guards were then debriefed as they came off duty. The responsibility for this fell to Arnuval as the squad’s psychological warfare specialist, and he was now obviously fed up with his job.

I thought the whole incident over and recalled Psalm 91 where it says, Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet (Psalm 91:13). Then I thanked God for taking care of me; it was clear that protecting me in the guerrilla camp was no problem for Him. I took the snake incident as a sign that God still wanted me at work for Him in that guerrilla camp. I was confident that I had made the right decision in helping Arnuval instead of knifing him, snatching his gun, and trying to escape.

If I resorted to physical violence again, it would ruin everything I had done and said. The book and my life were having a tremendous effect on some of the guerrillas. Accepting that God had me on a rescue mission to the guerrillas made everything seem exciting. I was waging spiritual warfare, so I decided to launch an offensive instead of always being on the defensive. I would boldly say or do whatever I felt God would have me to in any given situation, regardless of the consequences. I’d use all the spiritual weapons and armament at my command. Although I was physically restrained and my captors had all the physical weapons, I would attempt to rescue my captors from their spiritual bondage. Many of them appeared to be in physical bondage as well. There was a chance I would eventually be released, but most of them were stuck in this place until they either died of disease or were killed in combat.

Nancy’s Interest

Nancy, who had been very aloof earlier, became more and more interested in what I was saying after she read my book. She started taking a turn at guard duty and used the opportunity to ask questions. One day she gave me a puzzled look and asked, “Are all Americans like you?”

“No,” I replied, “I’m one of the worst ones. Most Americans are a lot nicer than me and would never have shot one of you.”

For an instant she looked shocked, and the hint of a new, positive outlook on America flashed through her brain. She recovered quickly, and we both laughed at my little joke, but seeds for further thought were sown. Two days later, she asked another question. “What is life really like in Russia?”

I thought for a minute, started to answer, thought some more, and finally said, “The best example that I can give you of life in Russia is this guerrilla camp. Here you are each given the things that your leaders think you need in order to carry out your job. You don’t necessarily get what you want. You are treated as a cog in a machine. It is the machine – the organization or system – that is important to your leaders, not the individuals who make up the organization. Individuals are expendable; there’s no individual freedom within this guerrilla camp that I can see. Life in Russia is roughly the same, but on a larger, more polished scale.

A look of horror and unbelief flashed across Nancy’s face. “No! It can’t be!” she exclaimed emotionally. “They told us that we have to endure discipline, hardship, and undesirable circumstances for just two years, until we are in power. They promised us true freedom after that, just like in Russia and Cuba. If what you are saying is true, we will never attain individual freedom.”

Nancy became interested in the Bible and in the book of ideological cartoons by Phil Saint that I also had with me. There were some beautiful cartoons on topics such as terror[1]ism, nuclear war, and Christianity that really caught her eye. She enjoyed the book so much that I gave it to her along with my New Testament. Under the flyleaf I wrote, “To Nancy, in the hopes that you will find the personal peace and freedom that you have been fighting for.” She thanked me, then looked at me for awhile with a thoughtful expression. Finally, she said, “I envy you. You have your own personal peace inside.” Her eyes were misty as she walked away.

Alfredo’s Past

Toward the end of my days in the camp, young Alfredo switched around and tried to befriend me. He told me that his father had been a man of deep religious conviction and that he had respected him. Unfortunately, his father was gone, and social conditions had split up the family. Alfredo was taken in by the guerrillas several years ago when he was only eleven. He came over to play chess with me instead of trying to get me into trouble as he’d been doing before. I talked to him a lot of the time and gave him good advice, which he took seriously.

On an impulse, I gave him a present one of the next times he had guard duty. It was a small snake-bite kit with suction cups, a lymph constrictor cord, a vial of iodine, and a scalpel. I had managed to keep it stuffed inside a roll of toilet paper, secret from my captors all this time. Arnuval was touched and pleased by my gift to Alfredo. He was also shocked that I’d had a razorsharp three-inch scalpel in my possession. The snake-bite kit came stuffed in a package of candy I had received more than a month earlier from my family. Somehow, it slipped through my captors’ strict inspection of everything sent to me. I also had a box of matches hidden away in a package of tissues.

Bible Readings

From time to time, I read Bible passages to my captors, but they never became very interested. Nancy was the only one who seemed to listen. Finally, I got some results when I read from Proverbs and explained about King Solomon being one of the richest and wisest men who ever lived. I also read short riddles out of Proverbs and soon they all became interested. Even Giovani was interested and came over to discuss Solomon’s proverbs, as did Arnuval because of his background in psychology.

One day I read Proverbs 24:3-4: Through wisdom the house shall be built, and with intelligence it shall be established: And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and beautiful riches. Arnuval was puzzled for a while and finally asked me to explain it. I told him there was only one source of true wisdom. God spoke the universe into being with wisdom. We can use our human intelligence to get an education. (The guerrillas believe that education is the answer to all man’s problems. Each guerrilla is on a continual study program at whatever level he has attained.) I told Arnuval that when we die, material things will no longer be important to us. The true articles of great value and good taste with which we can furnish the “rooms of our lives” are the experiences we’ve had and the lessons we’ve learned. Whether or not the education we obtained with our intelligence is true wisdom will be proven through actual life experiences.

Suddenly, Arnuval exclaimed, “I see it!” He got out a pen and paper and wrote it all down. He said, “What you have been saying all these days really makes sense, and experience has proved it. I am in charge of the morning indoctrination session tomorrow for the whole camp, and I want to teach them this lesson out of Proverbs.”

The next afternoon Arnuval was gone. Jaime left with him. The official explanation was that they were transferred. Giovani had warned the guerrilla leadership that I was a dangerous influence on the men. Arnuval’s lesson from the Bible must have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Jaime was sacked, and the new squad commander was Eliezar.

Those Last Days

The training course for the new recruits had ended a week earlier. Eliezar, as control officer, apparently decided to take over the squad in an attempt to undo some of the “ideological damage” I had inflicted on the unit. Two new men, Luis and Miguel, both green recruits, also joined the squad, which brought it up to nine men.

Under Eliezar, my situation went from bad to much worse. As I write this, six months after my release, most of the negative things done to me during the last months of captivity have faded in my memory, as I’ve had no flashbacks or nightmares. I believe the decision to pattern my thinking on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is the reason I have suffered no permanent psychological damage.

I am not going to give a play-by-play account of that final month. I would rather forgive and forget. During my last thirty days, an all-out effort was made to break me by every available means. My typewriter was taken away and dismantled; the small pieces and springs were given to Mariano for weapons repair. I was prohibited from doing any further writing, but my notebooks and Bible were not taken away. It was very hot, and I was not allowed to drink water; instead, a bitter, strange[1]tasting lemonade was provided. I believe that chemicals and mind-altering drugs were put in that drink and in my food. I suffered from intense migraine headaches most of the time.

They tried to prevent my sleep by shining flashlights in my eyes throughout the night. Some of my captors would say things like, “We’re humane; we would never shoot you when you are awake. When we need to eliminate you, we will just put a bullet through your head while you are asleep.” I soon found it impossible to sleep, even when they weren’t shining the flashlight in my eyes. Whenever I managed to doze off, I would be jolted awake when the ever-present guard lifted the edge of my mosquito net with his gun barrel to check on me. Mariano was an expert at harassing me.

Toward the end, I felt my mental control slipping. I felt intense claustrophobia under the mosquito net. I had to consciously strain to hold on to my serenity and keep from ripping off the mosquito net and ropes. I felt an almost overpowering desire to start screaming at the top of my lungs. I felt hemmed in on all sides. I longed to see clear blue sky and wide open spaces instead of trees and leaves. On Christmas Eve, my captors moved me to a denser thicket of second growth in the middle of a cocaine-growing and processing laboratory, which they operated.

God’s Justice

Eliezar seemed determined to either snap my mind and pass me off as a religious fanatic who had finally gone crazy or provoke me into doing something for which they could legitimately shoot me. My book was having such an effect on the guerrilla camp that the leaders were paranoid and tried frantically to discredit me in front of the men. Some were questioning the policies of the Marxist leaders after reading my book. They asked, “Why do we have to kill so many innocent people? We are doing things that are wrong. How are we going to have freedom if we fight evil with evil? Maybe the gringo (me) is right. Maybe God is real. If He is, what is He going to think about us and some of the things we are doing?” The guerrilla leaders were losing control of their men. So many were involved in the dissension that it became impossible to crack down on all of them.

I had survived beyond the threatened execution on Christmas Day, so I started speaking out strongly about my beliefs with every guard during their three-hour duty. I told each one that God valued them as individuals and that He had a plan for their life. I proceeded to apply Jesus’ teachings to each personal situation. Due to the extreme pressure I was under, my words came out with a lot of force and conviction.

Even Giovani was impressed. After I had talked with him for two hours, he finally broke down and said that he would like to get right with God, but that his case was hopeless. He had done too many evil things. I replied by asking him a question: “If your friend owed a man one peso, but you owed the same man a million pesos and that man forgave both of you, who would be the most grateful?” Giovani replied that, of course, he would be. I told him that things work the same way with God. It is never too late to admit our mistakes and failures and to let God take charge of our lives. The bigger the mess we have made of things, the more grateful we will be when He straightens us out and saves us from our problems. Giovani was thoughtful from then on and stopped being belligerent toward me. He told me that his conscience troubled him because of all the bad things he had done. He told me that his mother was deeply religious, and she was praying for him every day. She had given him a heavy, gold crucifix that he kept around his neck on a chain.

As I opened up to my captors by expressing convictions in a positive manner and challenging each to consider God and eternal spiritual values, my inner tension eased and then completely went away. I took the offensive in conversations with Eliezar and Vicente. I told them that when they kidnap a corrupt government official or a drug mafia figure and relieve them of their ill-gotten gains, they are somewhat helping further God’s justice. If they interfere with His people, however, it is a completely different state of affairs. I told them that if they take some of God’s money or kill one of His servants, then they are in big trouble.

I reminded them of several years earlier when the M-19 guerrilla movement kidnapped and killed Chet Bitterman, a Wycliffe missionary. Before that kidnapping, M-19 had one spectacular operation after another. Within a month after killing Chet, the fortunes of the M-19 were in sharp decline. Hundreds were killed or captured by the Colombian army in unprecedented military operations. The grand finale came when Jaime Bateman, their leader, fled the country for Panama by plane with a large sum of money – the proceeds of their terror[1]ist activities. His aircraft crashed and killed everyone onboard. The money was never recovered and probably burned. Some of the remaining cells were integrated into the FARC, the group that kidnapped me.

The guerrillas complained that this was the result of bad luck, but I think God lowered the boom on them after they killed Chet Bitterman. I believe God respects the free will of atheists until they go too far and take something or kill someone belonging to Him. If our free will is used to attack God’s kingdom, then God is free to intervene in any way that He sees fit.

I kept telling the guerrilla leaders that they had made a mistake in kidnapping me. I told them that I had no personal desire for revenge and was content to leave the matter in God’s hands. I invited them to come with me to the United States where they could see what America is really like. I shared that it wasn’t their fault if someone lied to them about America and its citizens, but they should be responsible enough to check for themselves and not blindly believe everything that they heard, read, or saw on a video. America isn’t perfect, not by a long shot; there are those who abuse the freedom, but that is an inherent risk of a free system. A great majority of Americans cherish and love their freedom. They consider “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to be God-given “inalienable rights.” Many Americans have found that a proper relationship with God is the key to achieving these goals.

New Year’s Eve

Mariano and Eliezar were the only ones in our squad who were still antagonistic toward me. They seemed uneasy, which I attributed to their being worried that other guerrillas might decide to help me escape and leave with me. (I’d invited the others to come to America with me to see what it was like.) On New Year’s Eve, the 140th day of captivity, Mariano was on guard duty; relations between us were very cool. The night before, I had dozed off a little and subconsciously pulled the mosquito net off and stuck my head out. I was rudely awakened by the barrel of Mariano’s assault rifle just inches from my nose as he drew back the slide and threatened to kill me. The rest of the night he periodically shined his flashlight in my eyes and kept his gun barrel centered on me with the safety off.

Mariano went off duty at 6:00 a.m. but was back at 9:00 a.m. for another shift. I racked my brain for a way to break through his rough, cold exterior. If I could convincingly demonstrate good will, maybe I’d penetrate the barrier of distrust between us. Earlier, I had given him some American toothpaste in a fancy container with a pump. As a gunsmith, he was fascinated with it, but he still seemed to hate and distrust me. A complicating factor in our relationship was that Mariano had been Manuel’s partner. All this time he had blamed himself for not backing up his partner when I shot Manuel. He had been fooling around on the riverbank instead of supporting Manuel as he was supposed to do. Even though Manuel had forgiven me, Mariano nursed a bitter grudge from the start.

Then I remembered the matches I had hidden away in my box of Kleenex. I got them out and gave them to Mariano as an act of good will. He was impressed to realize that I would voluntarily hand over something that would have been useful to me in an escape attempt, and I was able to have an excellent heart-to-heart talk with him.

“You kidnapped me to raise money for your cause as an act of terrorism,” I said to him, “but God allowed this to happen so that I can tell you all about Him.” Then I explained that Christianity wasn’t a system like capitalism or socialism but a personal relationship with God. I simply explained that it would be good to broaden his horizons and visit other countries where he could see for himself what was really going on in the world, instead of blindly believing biased reports. I offered to show him around myself if I got a chance.

Right in the middle of our discussion, Eliezar walked over. He asked me if I wasn’t going to invite him too. I replied that sure, he could come along too. Then he blew up. “You are not in charge here. I’m in charge here!” he screamed at me. “You don’t seem to want to get out of here alive, do you?”

The atmosphere was tense, and I got the distinct impression that I might be shot if I said another word. Eliezar seemed to be looking for an excuse to kill me. I kept silent, and after a minute or so of staring me in the eye, he broke his gaze and left.

Mariano seemed unmoved by this scene. After Eliezar left, he said to me, “Now, what were you saying before we were interrupted?” I wasn’t sure if he was being sarcastic, or if he genuinely wanted to continue our conversation. Earlier, Mariano had been trying to tell me that there was freedom of speech within the Marxist guerrilla organization. I now asked him if this incident was an example of what he had been talking about. He didn’t reply.

I sat down and started thumbing through my Bible. I was wondering what I should say to Eliezar the next time I saw him. It must have seemed to him that most of his men were paying more attention to what I said than to what he said.

A week before, I had played a game of chess with Eliezar and checkmated him in nine moves in front of his men. I had intended to let him win, so I sacrificed a castle and a knight to his queen, while I just pushed a pawn forward one step at a time. He was so intent on wiping out my pieces that he didn’t notice that the last time I moved my pawn forward it was backed by a bishop and resulted in the checkmate. As an instructor of military strategy, it had been a terrible humiliation for him to be checkmated in nine moves by a pawn. The men thought I had planned the whole thing and marveled because Eliezar had an awesome camp reputation as a chess player. The rumor was that he had learned to play chess from the Russians while receiving military training.

That chess game gave me insight into the guerrillas’ training procedures. They are good at following set procedures with standard responses, but if you do something unpredictable, like I did to Eliezar when I started giving away my pieces, they are unable to respond with original thinking; their system stifles it.

While reading my one psalm each day of captivity, I had received specific directions from the Lord. Because of the potential current danger, I decided not to wait until tomorrow to read the next psalm. I wasn’t sure I’d be alive tomorrow. Reading Psalm 141:3, I found the specific direction I needed: Set a watch, O LORD, upon my mouth; keep the door of my lips. I knew it was indeed a time to keep silent.

As I read further, verses 5 and 6 caught my eye: For my prayer shall ever be against his evil. Their judges shall be thrown down from strong places; they shall hearken unto my words; for they are sweet. In my Spanish Bible, the last part of verse 6 states, “They shall be brought to the realization that my words were the truth.” I took that to be a promise that God would apply my words directly to the consciences of the captors and convince them of the truth. I felt elated and praised God for the many things He had done in my life. I also praised Him for all the great things I was certain He would do in the future.

I had prayed for total spiritual victory ever since the morning star experience more than a hundred days earlier. As I thought about that, I ran my hand down the side of the ham-mock and fingered the beautiful design woven into its sides. It was a handwoven wool hammock featuring a row of six-inch stars woven in a double pattern down both sides in bright yellow and blue. Suddenly, I was electrified as I realized these were six-pointed stars. They were Stars of David, just like the one around Nancy’s neck! With trembling fingers, I counted twenty-six. There are also twenty-six men in a standard guerrilla platoon that consists of three eight-man squads plus the platoon commander and control officer.11

11 A guerrilla company consists of three twenty-six-man squads, plus the company commander and the company control officer for a total of eighty men. Eight full companies make a battalion. The battalion commander and his staff make an additional platoon, bringing a standard guerrilla battalion, or frente, as they call it, to a total of 666 men. The FARC claim that they have over twenty frentes operating in Colombia.

Vicente, the company commander of the unit that kid[1]napped me, had assigned a whole platoon to my case. One squad guarded me, another handled the security of the negotiation with my family, and the third provided security, supplies, and communication to the squad guarding me. I had spent 140 nights sleeping in this hammock for an obligatory twelve hours out of every twenty-four, sometimes praying five hours a night for my captors. All that time I was surrounded by twenty-six symbolic Stars of David, one for each guerrilla directly involved in my kidnapping!

As I relaxed in the hammock that night and tried to unwind and perhaps get some sleep, my thoughts turned to Eliezar. He remained the only one in our immediate camp who openly threatened me. I included him in my prayers and asked God to change his attitude as well.

About midnight, I heard a commotion. It got louder and louder. Guerrillas with flaming torches in their hands were heading for my hammock; they were shouting and banging on things. I thought, “Oh, no! They must be drunk, since this is New Year’s Eve, and now they are probably going to lynch me.” When they were close, however, they serenaded me with a Colombian Vallenato (folk music). I recognized Mariano playing a harmonica, Elkin had a pair of pan lids he played like cymbals, and the others each had some sort of makeshift instrument which accounted for all the noise.

After they finished three songs so boisterous that the jungle rang, I climbed out of the hammock and stood to address them as was expected in Colombian tradition. I thanked them for their thoughtfulness and told them that they had just provided me with the material for an epic story to tell to my grandchildren – a story about how I was serenaded at midnight on New Year’s Eve by a guerrilla band deep in the jungle.

I made a positive comment to each one in turn. All of them had come – with the exception of Eliezar. He sat on a log fifty yards away in the center of camp. I asked Mariano to bring him over; then I was both pleased and a little apprehensive when they came. I looked at Eliezar and announced that I felt that we should all herald this new year as one of friendship and reconciliation. I told him I was sorry if I had offended him in any way, and I held out my hand to him. Eliezar hesitated for a moment; then he took my hand. “You are different from what I thought you were,” he said gruffly. “If you continue to behave yourself, I will not cause you any more trouble.” Then, not to be outdone by my overtures for peace, he produced two glasses. Handing me one, he proposed a toast to friendship.

Elkin came forward and filled our glasses from a bottle of wine that Nancy had been saving for a special occasion. Normally I am not much of a drinker, but this didn’t seem like the time to balk, so I raised my glass and said, “To the New Year. Let us burn the Old Year behind us (in Colombia the Old Year is burned symbolically in the traditional New Year celebration) and may 1984 be a year of friendship and peace.”

At exactly midnight, Mariano fired a burst from his machine gun into the air. Then Elkin detonated bombs he had prepared for the occasion. Following this, Mariano held a torch to a cloth dummy he’d soaked in oily gasoline symbolizing the Old Year. The flames shot high into the air and lit up the jungle.

I was in high spirits as I climbed back into my hammock a half hour later. The flames had died down to a somber glow, and most of my captors were sleeping. Javier and Elkin were on guard duty. It looked as if Mariano might be giving up his grudge, as he had taken part wholeheartedly in the serenade. As I lay back and thought over every detail of the New Year’s celebration, Elkin walked close to my hammock and broke the silence. “We know that you don’t belong to the CIA and that you aren’t a (Colombian) government agent,” he announced confidentially.

Caught off guard by his statement, I asked him, “What led you to that conclusion?”

“Real easy,” he replied. “You aren’t afraid of us. Our organization has captured government agents from time to time, and we have always been able to eventually break them psychologically and find out what they are, but you’re different. Everyone in this part of the country knows of you flying an air ambulance and speaks highly of you.”

The part about me not being afraid almost completely floored me. I had been scared to death many times, but amazingly they hadn’t noticed. The Bible says that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), and I think that is probably the explanation for what happened. When I treated the kidnapping as an opportunity to reflect God’s love toward my captors in an attempt to rescue them from the vicious circle of hatred and lies in which they were trapped, my concern for them as individuals got through to them.


On the evening of my 142nd day of captivity, at 5:00 p.m., three of my captors – Javier, Elkin, and Giovani – ran full-speed in unison to my part of the campsite. They took down my ham[1]mock at top speed while they announced in loud, excited voices that I was to be released. The order had just come over the radio. They were obviously very happy for me.

In less than fifteen minutes, we were off. We hiked for half an hour until we came to a stream where I was blindfolded and put into a boat. We traveled for five hours, starting and stop[1]ping several times. Finally, we pulled up against the riverbank. After about ten minutes, Elkin reached over and removed the blindfold and then the rope. He told me to step out onto the bank. I did so, and there was my brother Chaddy. I went over and shook his hand but wondered if maybe this was a trap.

Chaddy introduced me to the top guerrilla commander (I later realized he was Manuel Marulanda also known as Tirofijo – founder of the FARC). We shook hands, and then I was introduced to a second man who was the guerrilla’s contact for the negotiation. He wasn’t a guerrilla, but he was the intermediary my captors had used for the negotiation with my family. Both men were middle-aged, and it was difficult to see their features in the soft moonlight.

Prior to my arrival, Chaddy had paid a ransom of five and a half million pesos for my release. Then they told Chaddy and me that we owed an additional one million pesos to the intermediary for his work. When Chaddy protested and said that this hadn’t been in the deal, the guerrilla leader snapped, “I think your two lives are worth another million pesos.” Realizing that we were at their mercy, Chaddy agreed to pay as soon as we could.

“We are really letting you go for a bargain price,” the commander told us. “The going rate for a ransom is many times what you are paying. We won’t even make expenses on this kidnapping. I have heard a lot about you, and I intend to read your book. Your family may continue to operate in this area. We will not cause you any more trouble if you pay the additional money within thirty days.”

After cautioning us not to talk to the press, the guerrilla leader told us that we were free to go. Giovani surprised me when he walked up and handed me my wallet and my watch, which had been taken from me after I shot Manuel. I remembered a bottle of mosquito repellent I had in my pocket. Good repellent is difficult to obtain in Colombia, and the stuff I had was excellent. Many of my guards had asked me to leave it with them when I left, and I had remarked I would give it to the one who was the nicest to me. Now I took out the bottle of repellent and gave it to Mariano. I then went through my bag and gave something to each one as I said my goodbyes and shook their hands.

I held out my hand to Eliezar and said, “It would be nice if someday we could play another game of chess under better conditions.” He gave me a wry grin and some of the men smiled.

Nancy came over and gave me a big hug. She said, “When I think of you, I will always remember the time you gave me that red candy and then said it was poison. I have never been so scared in my life.”

As I shook Giovani’s hand, I reached out and hefted the gold crucifix he wore around his neck. I told him to remember its real meaning and not to use it as a good-luck charm. He gave me a crooked grin.

The last man to whom I said goodbye was Mariano. He was standing off by himself under the trees. I walked over and held out my hand, but there seemed to be something wrong. His gun barrel, which was slung over his shoulder, bobbed up and down. I looked closer and was shocked to see that Mariano was sobbing. He took my hand and an awkward silence developed as we both searched for the right words to say. Finally, he broke the silence. “Forgive me for the way I have treated you,” he said. “I’m sorry about that incident the other night.” There were tears in his eyes.

With a lump in my throat, I replied, “Tranquilo, don’t worry about that; remember what I told you the other day when we got interrupted.” I gave his hand an extra squeeze and walked away.

As I climbed into the speedboat with Chaddy, I knew that I would continue to pray for Mariano, Manuel, and the other men whom I had come to know during my captivity. Chaddy took me upriver to a small town where we spent the night. The next day, Dad picked us up at a nearby airstrip. He was over[1]joyed to see us both safe.

Chaddy insisted I fly the 170 home. I looked the old air[1]plane over and noticed the patches over the bullet holes and the new windshield. Even though the repair work had been skillfully done, that old airplane would never be the same; my life would never be the same again either. I had learned so many life-altering things through this experience. I climbed into the pilot’s seat and fired up the old Continental engine; it sounded smooth and friendly. After we were in the air, I turned and buzzed the field at high speed. Then I pulled the old plane straight skyward. It was good to be free.

Final Thoughts - Ketchikan, Alaska June 26, 1984

The guerrillas released me to my brother Chaddy on the night of January 2, 1984, after 142 days of captivity. We slept that night in the guerrilla controlled town of Concordia on the Guaviare River and Dad flew out to get us in the Cessna 170 the next morning, which unbelievably and happily coincided with the day and the hour of the twentieth anniversary of our family’s arrival in Colombia on January 3, 1964.

As I write now, I am looking over the Ketchikan Harbor in Alaska. The town is flooded with tourists from three large cruise ships. Numerous fishing boats and pleasure craft are motoring around in all directions. Every so often I see a float[1]plane take off or land. In the background, I see snow-covered mountains. The rocky beaches are strewn with driftwood that has blown in by the winter storms. Yesterday, I returned from a three-day boat trip around Ketchikan Island. It was a great time of relaxation with my family. I enjoyed seeing grizzly and black bears, seals, and sea lions in the wild. It feels great to be free and able to enjoy such beautiful country. I’m now able to appreciate with gusto many things that I once took for granted.

I continue living with my immediate family in Colombia, but I also continue hoping and praying that my greater family of the American people will have the courage, strength, and determination to preserve their freedom as our country faces unceasing difficult times and associated challenges.


By Pat Stendal 2004

After the events recorded in this book, Russell, Marina, and their daughter Lisa traveled extensively in the United States and Canada. Russell’s ministry was in demand as he told of his kidnapping experience and preached on the Sermon on the Mount. Russell and his father Chad formed a small publishing house, Ransom Press International, to distribute this book. Russell never lost his concern for the guerrillas he left behind in the jungle. “They are more captive than I was,” he told me. “I knew someone would come for me, but no one will ever come for them.” Rescue the Captors became the title for his book.

In late 1985, two significant Colombian events called Russell and his family back to Colombia. In November, forty-one guerrillas of the urban M-19 group attacked the Supreme Court building in downtown Bogota. Their plan was to take the twenty-four members of the nation’s highest court hostage. It was an attempt to humiliate President Betancur. They wanted to place the president on trial before a captive Supreme Court and exploit differences that already existed between the two. They gained control of the building in about twenty minutes by streaming up from an underground garage. To their surprise, the president refused to negotiate the release of more than three hundred hostages. Instead, he ordered the police and army to recapture the building. In the ensuing battle, twelve Supreme Court justices were executed and all forty-one insurgents died, some by suicide. For millions of comfortable, middle-class citizens of Bogota, this tragic incident finally brought the fact home that their country was at war. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court incident, violent acts were perpetrated throughout the country for a week. Terrorist bombs shook Bogota from dusk to dawn. Machine-gunfire was heard throughout the nights.

If this terrorism wasn’t sufficient testing, the following week brought an even greater test. About 130 miles from Bogota, a snow-covered volcanic mountain in the Sierra Nevada del Ruiz, which had accumulated ice within its 17,716-foot crater, suddenly erupted. When its peaks exploded, the town of Armero and twelve smaller towns disappeared under a sea of mud. Over forty thousand people died or were missing and tens of thousands of survivors became homeless and destitute.

In the wake of these disasters, even the poorest Colombians were moved to provide aid to the country’s survivors. Those rescued by helicopter were without even the clothes on their backs, as the mud they stood in had sucked off every stitch of their clothing. Trucks roamed the streets of Bogota, picking up donations of clothing and blankets. Everyone gave clothing, blankets, and shoes to meet the urgent needs. Many of those delivered from the mud were the only people to survive in their extended family. Their grief was heartrending. Sympathetic strangers held the rescued in their arms as they wept and mourned their loved ones – this was the most successful and immediate therapy.

A dormant spirit of giving and caring was rekindled; it injected the country’s fragile democracy with a much-needed catalyst. After the tragedy, interesting stories surfaced. One was of a Catholic priest who had been killed in 1948 by a drunken mob when he attempted to break up the annual traditional witchcraft celebration. The next day, the area archbishop cursed Armero and predicted its destruction. I remember the testimonies of Christians who had lived in Armero, but who were led by the Lord to leave just before the disaster.

Another story was of a pastor. After a regular prayer meeting, he felt that the Lord wanted the congregation to stay at the church and pray all night. Some stayed and some left. The little church was built on a high hill, but the next morning, the building was on a small, secure island in a sea of mud. The parishioners who had stayed to pray were safe and later rescued. Another pastor testified that the previous year, he and fellow Christians had been led to visit every house in Armero and share the message of the gospel.

Amidst this atmosphere, Russell and Marina returned to Colombia. They became leaders in a ministry of family reconciliation and used the principles learned from the Sermon on the Mount to rescue families, the basic building blocks of society. The publishing of books continued when Chad and I co-wrote The Guerrillas Have Taken Our Son, the story of the kidnapping from the point of view of the Stendal family. Russell followed with The Beatitudes: God’s Plan for Battle (This title has now been changed to God´s Plan for Spiritual Battle). In 1994, Chad and I wrote his spiritual autobiography, High Adventure in Colombia, which included our early experiences with the Kogi tribe. Other smaller books were written by Chad and Russell. Russell also published Spanish versions of books written by men of God who had influenced his life.

The literature ministry grew as these books were distributed for free-will offerings to help cover the costs. Eventually, non-profit Colombia Para Cristo was incorporated in both Canada and Colombia. Russell spent seven years editing the manuscript of the first Spanish Bible. It was produced in 1569 by Casiodoro de Reina who had learned Hebrew from native speakers before the Inquisition killed most Hebrew scholars. Russell spent another three years proofing and refining this work while producing an English Bible by using that manuscript along with William Tyndale’s original translation. He accomplished most of the Bible project in the evenings after a full day of regular work.

Chaddy continued farming in the jungle because the day Russell was released, the guerrilla leadership gave Chaddy permission to remain, even after they took active control of the area. “You have never been a gringo (an obnoxious American),” one leader told him. Occasionally, Chaddy was able to distribute Bibles and New Testaments to guerrillas as they passed his farm. One day in April 1986, not long after Russell and Marina had returned to Colombia from Minneapolis, Chaddy received a message from the guerrilla leadership intended for delivery to Russell.

The leaders wanted to meet with Russell. “Don’t be stupid! You got away from them once!” he was told by well-meaning advisors. However, because of the concern in Russell’s heart for his former captors and the earlier revelation associated with the six-sided stars, Russell made an appointment. At the meeting, the guerrillas asked him crucial questions because they trusted him. “We remember that when you were with us, you always told us the truth.”

This contact led to additional encounters. After a year of such communications, two high-ranking commanders were sent to apologize to Russell for the kidnapping on behalf of the entire guerrilla organization. With a firm foundational relationship, the doors opened for distribution to the guerrillas of Bibles, New Testaments, and other literature, including Rescue the Captors.

A decade later in 1998, Russell and several community leaders from the nearby town of Puerto Lleras started an FM radio station at the site of Lomalinda, the deserted Wycliffe Translation Center. Radio transmissions from stations located in the high altitude of Bogota could cover the plains country to the east where most of the guerrillas were located. On Russell’s behalf, I distributed a letter with a map of the llanos that displayed three consecutive circles that showed the coverage area he hoped the stations would reach. This project seemed prohibitively ambitious at the time. However, by 2004, five transmitters (FM, AM, and shortwave) reached much farther than the largest original circle. We’ve received letters from Europe, Africa, Australia, and North America as well as from many other South American countries as the result of the wide shortwave broadcasting signal coverage.

The radio broadcasts led to invitations from communities inside guerrilla-held areas to hold “events.” Russell responded by loading his old, red Suburban with Christian literature and with young people from the sound studio in Bogota who call themselves Fuerza de Paz, the “Strength of Peace.” Thousands of Bibles, New Testaments, and miscellaneous Christian literature, again including Rescue the Captors, have been distributed to guerrillas, paramilitary, soldiers, and police along the roads of eastern Colombia. Everywhere the radio programs reach, Russell and his associates find a friendly welcome.

A number of guerrillas have been converted to Christianity and have miraculously been allowed to join Russell’s ministry. The youth team helps distribute literature and solar-powered radios preset to one of the stations and they talk with guerrilla leaders and their former companions in an effort to win them for Christ. They have shared their salvation experience in churches, police stations, and on military bases as well.

Recently a large river launch named La Diabla (The She-Devil) was captured by the Colombian army and given to Russell. It has been restored, painted, and renamed La Luz de la Verdad (The Light of the Truth). By means of this boat, the ministry was extended to interior parts of the country that could not be reached by road.

The first trip back into the area where Russell was held during his captivity was a great success in spite of a bad start on the second day. A gasoline explosion and fire destroyed the passengers’ food supply and personal belongings and black-ened and charred the new paint job. Two people were burned – a converted guerrilla leader and his four-year-old grandson. Both have since recovered without disfiguring scars. The child was saved out of intense flames by valiant action on the part of some of the Fuerza de Paz young people. The large stock of Bibles and literature was spared because it was still on the dock where it had been delivered by Colombian army trucks.

Volunteers in the town where the explosion took place sanded and repainted the boat. None of the lettering or artwork had been damaged. The mayors from three municipalities donated food supplies and gasoline so that the trip could continue. Within twenty-four hours the launch resumed. The locations for the La Luz de la Verdad trip were announced over the radio so that listeners in populated areas lined the shores and waved white flags to show their solidarity with the “Peace Campaign” as the boat passed (including at Caño La Tigrera).

Several articles about Russell’s unique ministry have appeared in the media. One was in the December 10, 2002, issue of the Washington Times under the headline, “In Colombia, a mission for peace – American reaches out to rebels.” Another was in the February 2004 issue of Charisma Magazine: “Missionary Takes Gospel to Colombian Guerrillas, Paramilitaries – Once abducted by communist fighters, Russell Stendal uses books and radio broadcasts to preach a message of peace.”

This is an ongoing work and your participation is invited through prayers and financial gifts. Future river trips of greater length are planned, and they will require continued strengthening of the radio outreach and more literature, food supplies, and gasoline. As Russell and Marina say, “Our passport into these areas is that the people know who we are by first hearing us on the radio.” Several operations are underway that will increase FM and AM coverage in preparation for this trip all the way to the border of Venezuela. Future trips will go into areas of guerrilla control where Russell is still unknown. An exception is that this area is where Giovanni is the commander. Russell maintains contact with many other guerrillas who entered his life during the events in his book.

Appendix I. Why Pigs Don’t Fly.

In the early days of our eastern Colombian ranch, Chaparral, it was difficult to make ends meet. One day I flew to the ranch in our recently acquired ’54 Cessna 170 and discovered that my brother and his crew were in desperate need of provisions. They were so hungry that they wanted me to turn around and fly back to town for a load of supplies. I argued that even if I made the trip, we still didn’t have money for a load of groceries.

My brother told me not to worry because he would take care of it. He ushered me out behind the thatch-roofed, dirt-floor shack that served as the ranch kitchen and proudly pointed to one of the largest, fattest pigs I had ever seen. “There you are,” he said. “We’ll tie the pig up, load it on the plane, and you can sell her in town. You ought to be able to buy supplies and have enough money left over to gas up the 170.”

As I removed the passenger seats from the old Cessna, I voiced a few misgivings regarding the prospective passenger. “You worry too much,” Chaddy scolded. “We can tie her feet together with a knot that I guarantee will never come undone. Besides, this is a tame pig, and she knows us. She’s lived all her life behind the kitchen eating table scraps.” (Mistake number one – to think it was only of secondary consequence that the knot remain tied, whereas the primary concern should have been that the feet of the pig remain in the knot!)

It took all of us to lift the 250-pound hog into the small Cessna. I closed the door, strapped myself in, and started the engine. The pig lay on the floor, moaning with an occasional low grunt. “This might not be so bad after all,” I thought soothingly to myself as I taxied over to the end of the short, grass runway and prepared for takeoff. Everything went fine until we were about halfway down the airstrip. Just as the airplane was lifting, the pig did a flip into the rear baggage compartment. Once there, a metal partition broke under the pig’s superior weight, and the pig slid into the plane’s tail cone! Realizing that the tail-heavy aircraft would never fly properly, I closed the throttle and prayed that we would be able to stop within the remaining runway. It was close.

I shut down the engine, undid my seat belt, and struggled to pull the squealing pig – with all four feet securely tied together – out of the tail area. I had visions of extensive damage to the structure and control cables of the aircraft, but fortunately the damage was limited to the bent baggage compartment partition. It took my brother and several men to get the pig back into the proper position. I determined that this time I would really see to it that the pig didn’t move, so I looped the co-pilot seat belt – which was still anchored to the floor – around the rope that secured the pig’s legs and cinched it down tight.

I started the engine for another takeoff (my second mistake). The second effort was perfect, and I soon had the old 170 level at six thousand feet and on course for San Martin. I leaned back to enjoy the ninety-minute ride. The grunts and squeals of my passenger were beginning to seem almost normal when all of a sudden I heard KA-WHUMP, KA-WHUMP, KA-WHUMP. I saw with horror that the pig had pulled its back feet out of the knot and was now banging the side of the plane with its hind end. On the third bang, the door latch broke and the rear end of the animal departed the aircraft. The pig was now dangling with its front feet held in place by the seat belt. I wondered how long Chad’s “guaranteed” knot would hold.

The plane began to slue sideways as the open door deflected the slipstream. Oblivious to being six thousand feet in the air, the pig was straining to come completely free, and I saw her stretching one hind foot as far down as she could in a supreme effort to reach the ground. I reached over to pull on the pig’s rear end with one hand. It was impossible to get a good grip, so I undid my seat belt, got out of the pilot’s seat, and pulled as hard as I could with both hands. Left on its own without a pilot, the Cessna began a lazy turn to the right. Because the slipstream had hopelessly jammed the door against the pig’s butt, it was impossible for me to pull her back inside, no matter how hard I tried.

I was still worried that I would lose the pig, which represented a whole month’s supplies. In desperation, I got what seemed like a brilliant idea (it was actually my third mistake). Since this was an airplane, why not bank it and lift the pig to a more favorable angle. Feeling confident that I now knew how to gain control of the situation, I reached over and racked the old 170 in a forty-five–degree bank to the right. I grinned with satisfaction as the rear end of the pig rose to a higher elevation than its front end, and I rolled in a little more aileron for good measure. Now, the only thing holding the pig was the pressure of the slipstream on the door. I gave the door a mighty kick, and the pig fell back into the airplane right on top of me as we both continued through the aircraft until we hit the opposite door with a resounding crash. The latch snapped and suddenly the situation reversed, and I was the one with my rear end hanging out in danger!

I was pinned under the tremendous weight of the pig. Its squeals were much louder than the noise of the engine. The right door was open enough for me to see that we were flying at a very unusual altitude. I desperately tried to reach the controls. I was able to kick the yoke a little with my left foot while I beat on the pig with both hands and tried to make her get off me. The pig retaliated by urinating and defecating all over me. I groped blindly in the back of the plane for anything I could use as a weapon. The stench was unbearable. My hand closed on an iron bar (a broken piece of our sawmill that I was taking to town for repair), and I hit the pig with it.

She went completely berserk and got up; she thrashed and squealed and gnashed her teeth. Somehow, the rope and seat belt on her front feet held. I was able to get to my feet and hit her over the head with the iron bar. The head was too fat and I didn’t have enough room in the tight cabin to get a good swing. Instead of subduing her, the pig became even more enraged. Finally, I found a rope and, after getting kicked a few times, looped it around the hind feet to partially restrain my furious passenger.

I noticed that the 170 was having trouble of its own, and we’d lost more altitude. I got back in the pilot’s seat and began to sort things out. The old plane was really complaining and refused to fly properly. It shuddered and shook in a very abnormal manner. With both doors flapping in the breeze, it vibrated in a harmonic rhythm that sent shivers up and down the airframe.

I had to get up again to try to secure the left door with the other end of the same rope that was tied around the pig’s hind feet. Then I returned to my seat and hung on to the right door with my right hand. By now, I was really looking forward to our arriving at the planned destination.

Foaming at the mouth and trying to bite my right ankle, the pig seemed to be getting a second wind. I found that the best solution was to sit on my right foot and handle the rudders with only my left foot (which fortunately was beyond the pig’s easy reach). I had visions of her getting loose and crashing into the tail cone again or possibly chewing me up with a set of two-inch teeth. Things settled down, my right foot went to sleep, and I had time to pray.

After what seemed an eternity, San Martin slowly drifted into sight, and I lined up on the short runway. Some doubt, however, crept into mind about the feasibility of landing a taildragger with only one hand and one foot on the controls. It wasn’t until we were on short final that I noticed the donkeys in the middle of the runway. All this time, the pig had been working up some slack in the rope around her hind feet. She wiggled her rear feet under her and rose so she could bang against the left door again. I pulled on the door with all my might with one hand and initiated a clumsy go-around with the other hand. The Cessna slued violently as I released the controls in order to dump the flaps and add power. The pig’s butt was three or four inches out the door, and I had to pull with full force on the door handle.

Intentionally, I buzzed the donkeys as close as possible, hoping to drive them from the runway. They just stood there and didn’t even look up. Donkeys on the runway are a serious challenge because whenever something strange happens to them, they plant their feet and refuse to budge. When a plane is almost on top of them, they might raise one ear but then quickly lower it. After I made several passes, a kid came out on a bicycle and herded them off the runway.

The pig fought me all the way to the ground. It was trying so hard to back out the door that I was able to sneak my right foot down onto the rudder pedals for the landing. Because I was holding the door with one hand, the landing had to be perfect. I let go of the controls with my left hand at a safe altitude in order to apply flaps and cut the power with the same hand. There was no margin for error. Once we were near the ground, it would be impossible to go around for a second attempt or to smooth out a bad bounce with a burst of power. If I applied flaps and cut the power too soon, we would undershoot the runway. If my timing was too late, we would run off the end of the short airstrip. I decided to plan my approach a little high and use a sideslip to decrease altitude.

It worked and I was overjoyed to finally have wheels on solid ground. The pig made one last try for my ankle, which caused me to make a couple S-turns on the landing roll. I was glad to finally unload the pig and personally deliver it to the local butcher shop. The butcher paid me the equivalent of almost one hundred dollars in Colombian currency. The two new door latches for the 170 cost $120. That pig still owes me twenty bucks!

Audiences all over the country have nearly split their sides laughing whenever I tell this story, and it is by popular demand that I include it in this special appendix to the fourth and following printings. I still grin ruefully whenever I think back on this event. In one sense, these happenings are hilariously funny, but in reality, this may have been the closest I’ve ever come to getting killed in an airplane.

It was after this experience that I became aware of the absolute necessity of thinking ahead and paying attention to the little details of aviation. The field of aviation is notoriously unforgiving to those who continue to make unwise decisions. Many pilots have paid with their lives (and often with the lives of innocent passengers) for seemingly minor mistakes. The same is true in marriage and family life. Many personal relationships have crashed and burned due to lack of attention to seemingly insignificant details.

It is easy to rationalize away our unwise decisions and actions instead of facing them. It is all too easy to keep a “pet pig” and tell ourselves that it won’t ever get loose. Many small, apparently innocent “sins” can go “hog wild” at a moment’s notice and completely devastate an entire family.

Appendix II. New Birth .

Upon conception, a human baby develops and grows within its mother’s womb for nine months prior to birth. During this time, the baby probably feels very secure as he or she lives in total darkness and is surrounded and protected by the mother. Then one day everything changes. The womb begins to contract and squeeze. The poor baby’s world is turned inside out as he or she is forced by extreme pressure through a dark tunnel toward a brilliant light that pierces the darkness. The baby might not feel like leaving the warm, dark, comfortable womb, but it has no choice except to be born or die. The shock and trauma of our birth is such an intense experience that some doctors believe it may affect our subconscious for the rest of our lives.

I was raised in a Christian home with missionary parents – a spiritual “hothouse.” Throughout my developing years, most decisions regarding conduct and acceptable behavior were spelled out quite clearly, and I was expected to conform unquestioningly to the status quo of our missionary organization. It wasn’t until I was on my own as the leader of a Christian farm project in rural Colombia, isolated from the outside world and suddenly responsible for my own spiritual well-being as well as that of many Christian workers, that I felt squeezed and under pressure. All the neat little rules, regulations, and spiritual principles I had learned by rote came apart at the seams. I suddenly found myself on the front lines, receiving broadside after broadside from the Enemy. When I got into no[1]holds-barred spiritual warfare, I found to my utter shame and despair that I was really no more than a spiritual wimp. After years of being pummeled and battered, forced time and time again by the Enemy to give up ground, I wondered if it would be possible to ever have complete spiritual victory.

After I finished reading an article in Reader’s Digest12 about the trauma of human birth from the baby’s point of view, a paragraph in the seventh chapter of Matthew13 came to my attention. Its parallel passage in Luke 13:24 says, Strive to enter in at the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, will seek to enter in and shall not be able. I caught a glimpse of light when I recognized this comparison: Entering the kingdom of God through the narrow gate is similar in many ways to childbirth. In fact, it is called being born again. Entering the kingdom of God can also be a terrifying and traumatic experience as we are pushed, squeezed, and molded into the kind of people who can be used by God in His kingdom.

I decided I had been guilty of resisting God’s hand on my life, and I had therefore been unwittingly spending an unnecessary amount of time in that spiritual birth canal, being squeezed all out of shape instead of coming out into the light and being born. I decided that I was going to forget my big missionary plans and projects and concentrate instead on discerning where God was moving and jump on His bandwagon. I began to react to problems and adversity as opportunities to learn important things and as opportunities for God to use me to bring Himself glory. My life changed to one of victory in Jesus Christ. I still have problems, difficulties, and even an occasional defeat, but now I can clearly see the design and purpose that God has for my life. If I have the right attitude, God can reign over everything that happens in my life and teach me something useful from even the most difficult experiences. 203

12 Reader’s Digest, March 1983.

13 Matthew 7:12-14

Appendix III. Right Be-Attitudes.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens. (Matthew 5:3)

With these words, Jesus began His first complete, recorded sermon. John the Baptist came to prepare the way for the Christ and preached, Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:2). The Jews had been looking forward to the coming of the kingdom of God through the Messiah for thousands of years. They had been pushed and squeezed, taken advantage of, and oppressed by almost all of their neighboring countries for millenniums. Yet through all their suffering and problems, they never completely gave up hope that someday, if they could only keep God’s law, King David’s heir would appear and deliver them forever. Chapter 12 of the book of Revelation fittingly describes the Jewish nation as a woman in travail giving birth to a man-child who was to rule the nations.

The ancient Jewish religious system was extremely complex. To be a good Jew not only required a lot of education; it also required constant devotion to ritual and detail. Upon spending such a large percentage of their time, energy, and finances appeasing God, many Jews considered themselves to be on a higher spiritual plane than anyone else; they would not even eat at the same table with someone who was not Jewish.

Enter Jesus preaching that the kingdom of God belongs to spiritual beggars (the Greek word that’s translated as poor in spirit literally means “beggarly” or “destitute”), and this concept made the Jewish religious leaders angry and bitter. Not so, however, with those poor in spirit who rejoiced and believed as Jesus healed them of every disease, cast out demons, fed them physically, and fed them spiritually. By the time Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, a great multitude of spiritual beggars followed Him everywhere.

Jesus’ words make sense in our present day and age also. We cannot negotiate our way into God’s kingdom. We have nothing with which to negotiate because everything we have originated from God. Our only hope is to admit our faults and failures. We don’t have to be perfect to come to God, but we do have to be honest. We must be willing to lay our cards face up on the table, stop bluffing, and say, “Here I am. These are my problems. I need help.” Honesty, or repentance as some call it, is the first step toward reconciliation with God. Honesty on the part of at least one family member is also the first step toward family reconciliation.

Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be com[1]forted. (Matthew 5:4)

When we honestly admit our mistakes and our failures, and the full realization of how badly we have managed to mess things up sinks in, our natural reaction is to mourn. Honesty and repentance can bring into sharp focus the extent to which we are victimizing other people and the extent to which other people are victimizing us in an endless vicious cycle. When God’s Holy Spirit shines the spotlight of His truth and illuminates with conviction the results of our selfish actions and reactions, it can be a very sobering experience.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7).

In marriage counseling, we often heard a common complaint from troubled couples: “We have to get a divorce because we don’t love each other anymore. Our marriage is hopeless.” Love is like a delicate plant; if it is not constantly nurtured and watered, it will wither and die. In many homes, love is wilted or dead. Love is an emotion that is very difficult to call up and feel toward someone who acts in an unloving manner. On the other hand, mercy is a decision and not an emotion. Mercy starts in our mind with thoughts that give the other person the benefit of the doubt. This paves the way for merciful words and deeds to follow.

When we treat other people in a merciful manner, it affects the way they treat us, which affects the way we treat them, which then affects the way they treat us, and so on in a godly cycle. Mercy is the seed of love. When we reach out to someone in mercy, we are planting seeds that bear fruit and that allow God to have mercy on us. It then becomes possible for love to blossom and bloom, seemingly out of nowhere, in homes that were once as barren as a desert.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

In His beatitudes, Jesus describes the dynamics of the kingdom of God. First, we must enter the kingdom with an attitude of true repentance as spiritual beggars (poor in spirit). This causes us to mourn as we realize the full extent of our problems. But take heart, because God will comfort us if we place our faith in Him as King of our lives with a meek attitude, and then we will inherit the earth. When we put Jesus in charge of our lives, we feel a desire to please Him. We will begin to hunger and thirst for righteousness (doing what God wants or requires) until we are satisfied. Then if we reach out to others in mercy and forgiveness, God will show mercy to us and forgive us. God will also begin to heal and purify our hearts. When Jesus says, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God, He really means it. At this point, God can reestablish two-way communication with us just as He enjoyed with Adam before the fall.

In order to have a pure heart, our conscience must be void of offense. God has given us a conscience to alert us when we have done something that damages our communication with Him. Being “pure in heart” does not mean that we have attained sinless perfection. It means that with His help we have confessed and forsaken all known sin and that we are yielded to His will. It means that we are at peace with God. It is also necessary to have a pure heart regarding our spouse if we hope to retain intimate communication in our home. A merciful, forgiving attitude that gives the other person the benefit of the doubt will go a long way toward keeping the lines of communication open in our families.

Be certain that when we enter into the attitudes described by Jesus, God will do what He promises. If we come to Him poor in spirit, God will let us into His kingdom. If obedience to Him causes us to mourn, He will comfort us. If we obey Jesus meekly, we will inherit the earth. If we mercifully forgive those around us, God will sanctify us. If we allow Him to do this, God will restore and purify our hearts and open face-to-face communication through the Holy Spirit. These promises are for now, not vague and grand statements for some unknown future date. He is promising us dynamic power to truly transform us.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)

Jesus would like to use each of us to bring His peace to those around us. As we enter into the spirit of Jesus’ teaching, His Holy Spirit will work in our lives and heal broken relationships, starting in our own families. As we cooperate with King Jesus, we find that even our worst mistakes and failures can be changed into something positive when we honestly admit them, meekly submit the problem areas to His control, and mercifully forgive those who have similar shortcomings. If we allow the Holy Spirit to train us to be peacemakers, we will be amazed to notice that our mistakes and failures become fewer and farther between. God would like to adopt us into His family and call us His sons. Our ultimate role as peacemakers is to help those around us make peace with one another and with God.

Blessed are those who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens. (Matthew 5:10)

Jesus said we might be persecuted when we stand for what is right; He did not promise us a trouble-free life. He does promise that He will work all things for our overall good. The Bible says every Christian will have his faith tried as with fire, and God says we will be refined like gold and silver. The fire burns the wood, hay, and stubble, but it leaves the gold, silver, and precious stones. Sometimes the treatment is painful, but God must dig deep enough in our lives to get at the root of our problems. If we are willing to stand for justice (being and doing right), God will use any accompanying persecution to smooth our rough edges. Justice and mercy must go hand in hand. To avail ourselves of God’s mercy, we must first recognize that He is just.

Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in the heavens; for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)

This summarizes the change in attitude that Jesus wishes to impart to us. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves and having a pity party every time someone gives us a rough time, we can learn to turn difficulties into opportunities. If we react to insult and injury (especially in a family environment) with mercy, forgiveness, love, and justice, it is possible for Jesus to reach other people through us. Jesus tells us about receiving a great reward in heaven.

For example, if your spouse isn’t a Christian and you endure insults, persecution, and false accusations, you may be able to conquer your spouse with Jesus’ mercy and love. Wouldn’t your loved one be a great reward to enjoy in heaven for all eternity? How would you feel if you made it into heaven by the skin of your teeth but your family didn’t?

Ye are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its savour, with what shall it be salted? From then on it is good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trod[1]den under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city set upon a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on the lampstand, and it gives light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in the heavens. (Matthew 5:13-16)

If we put Jesus’ beatitudes to work in our lives, we will become the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The objective in being salt and light is for other people to see our good deeds (acts of mercy and justice) and praise our Father in heaven, thereby reconciling themselves to God. We must be careful to let people know that it is Christ in us who is doing the good deeds and that we would not be doing them without His direction and power.

Think not that I am come to undo the law or the prophets; I am not come to undo, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall pass from the law until all is fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall undo one of these least commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of the heavens; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of the heavens. (Matthew 5:17-20)

Prior to Jesus’ coming in the New Testament, in Old Testament times, men knew what God wanted of them. The problem was that they repeatedly wouldn’t live up to God’s standards. Justice, mercy, and reverence of God are woven throughout the Old Testament.

He has declared unto thee, O man, what is good and what the LORD requires of thee: only to do RIGHT JUDGMENT, and to love MERCY, and to HUMBLE thyself to walk with thy God. (Micah 6:8, emphasis added)

Jesus fulfilled and was the culmination of everything God had done prior to His coming. By making His Holy Spirit available to each of us, Jesus was able to bridge the gap and make it possible for us to practice God’s commandments in a way that was impossible under the old covenant. Jesus wants to make us into one body or family of which He is the Head. If we submit to His authority with a meek attitude, and if we reach out in mercy and allow His Holy Spirit to flow through us, Jesus will become our righteousness, right now.

True Love

True love is such a rarity.
There is so much disparity
between what is good and kind and pure
and what is really used as a hook and lure
to hunt men’s souls and destroy their hearts,
to keep them from loving and doing their part,
to alleviate suffering, pain, and disgrace,
to demonstrate true love to the whole human race.
There are those whose affections
are based on sex, pride, and selfishness,
whose motive is that their own self be blessed.
And when the one they love doesn’t do
what they said or wanted them to,
they say, “That’s fine! OK! We’re through.
Get out! I’ve had enough of you.”

Now, I ask you is that true love or is it just lust?
Do they devour one another and eat up their trust
to take what’s given and reject you when through?
So when you’ve been hurt and played for a fool,
do you clam up and become very cool
towards the one who has done this to you?
Do you walk through life burned and spent?
Do you allow bitterness, anger, hurt, and pain
to cause you to stumble and rob you again
of life in Jesus and the peace that he gives you?
And when you’re in this spot what do you do?
Who is there to comfort you?
Well, you call upon God when you’ve walked away
from the one who has hurt you and done you this way.
“But,” you say, “they have done it before and they will
do it again.
How can I continue being hurt by them?”
You must give it to God and forgive that sin.
Confess your faults. Ask God to forgive them.
Ask God to forgive you for rejecting them.
If you choose to love, the healing will begin.
Cleanse yourself of all bitterness and strife.
Cleanse yourself and begin a new life.

Love is not bitter, is not unkind,
so put on her heart and renew your mind.
Her thoughts are tender, gentle, and good.
You can’t give love and carry dead wood.

Let go of the old and begin anew.
Today is a new day made just for you.
Put their needs first, pay no attention to wrongs,
just go on loving all day long.
If not, you’ll suffer for what you do.
You will suffer and they will too.

Give up envy, jealousy, and spite –
just love your spouse with all your might.
Don’t seek a reward for the things that you do
and keep no record of the wrongs suffered you.
Don’t be proud or seek your own glory –
just let love tell her own story.
Don’t be boastful, haughty, or loud
and don’t show off in front of a crowd.
Promote the others, be gentle and meek
and tell your old self to take a back seat.
To be lowly and humble is not being weak.
Praise and appreciate others and speak
of the good, kind things that they do.
Think of the others and take no thought for you.
This is His love, which will flow through you.
Give up all rights, which you have for yourself –
set them aside, put them on the shelf.
Resist the temptation to think evil in your heart
for this day, God has given you a new start.
True love endures and bears all things,
so let love develop and let your heart sprout wings,
as joy overflows from God’s heavenly springs.
Let God’s peace umpire you,
as you go on loving in the things that you do.
Tear down those walls that were built like Jericho.
Look to Him and expect your miracle.

– Doris McLaughlin

Appendix IV. Fatal Tailspins.

Ye have heard that it was said to the ancients, Thou shalt not commit murder, and whosoever shall commit murder shall be guilty of the judgment; but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother out of control shall be in danger of the judgment, and whosoever shall insult his brother shall be in danger of the council, but whosoever shall say, Thou art impious, shall be in danger of hell. (Matthew 5:21-22)

How can beautiful people have horrible divorces? How do personal relationships fall apart? Jesus says it starts the minute we harbor a grudge against someone in our family (the Greek word translated brother is genderless). Jesus equates this with physical murder. In His day, if the judge found a person guilty as charged (murder in this case), the prisoner was then taken before the Sanhedrin (Jewish Supreme Court) for his punishment to be determined. If our anger builds to the point that it overflows in words of contempt or insult to our brother (this includes our spouse), there is no question that we are guilty as charged of murder. The only question is what punishment we deserve. If things deteriorate further to the point that we are cursing (condemning) our brother, Jesus says that we are in grave danger of facing God’s punishment as well as man’s.

Jesus ascribes three steps to the breakup of a personal relationship. First, anger is allowed to build against our brother (or wife). Next, bottled-up angry thoughts spill out as insulting words about the other person’s intelligence (the Greek word translated fool in Matthew 5:22 literally means “empty[1]headed”). Lastly, the other’s inner motives are questioned and condemned. This causes heart-to-heart communication with the other person to abruptly cease.

I used to think the answer to marital conflict was to teach dynamics of communication in accord with modern psychology. It amazed me that people who had communicated so intimately and thoroughly in courtship as lovers would later suffer a complete communication breakdown only a few years later in their marriage. I found through bitter experience in my own marriage that if my wife and I were at the point of questioning each other’s inner heart motives, it didn’t matter how many brilliant communication techniques I employed. We were never able to reestablish heart-to-heart communication until we dealt with the root causes of anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness.

It is too easy for a personal relationship to enter a vicious cycle which, if allowed to progress, will turn into a fatal tailspin and completely devastate what was once an intimate relationship. Friendship and trust that have taken years to develop can be destroyed in five minutes of carelessness.

Jesus’ formula holds true even for international incidents. First, minor disputes and misunderstandings arise, which produce tension and anger. Then the insults fly, and finally the motives of the other side are questioned and trust is broken. This sets the stage for actual physical violence to begin. Many horrible wars have occurred simply because minor incidents were allowed to escalate out of control.

Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there remember that thy brother has something against thee; leave thy gift there before the altar, and go; first restore friendship with thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)

When our conscience makes us uneasy and insecure due to a damaged personal relationship, how easy it is to head for church to salve our conscience instead of swallowing our pride and going to see the person we have wronged. Jesus says that He doesn’t want to see us in church or to receive an offering from us until we have tried our best to reconcile broken relationships with those around us. Even if the problem seems to be only 1 percent our fault and 99 percent the other party’s, we are still required to seek the other person.

Conciliate with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out of there, until thou hast paid the uttermost far[1]thing. (Matthew 5:25-26)

Broken relationships exact a terrible toll. Unreconciled broken family relationships can cause unending grief for all parties involved. Most patients requiring psychiatric treatment have, at the root of their problem, an unreconciled hatred for some[1]one, coupled with bitterness and unforgiveness. Tragically, this situation easily develops when an innocent victim of a crime harbors a bitter grudge against the guilty party instead of choosing to mercifully forgive and put the matter to rest.

Ye have heard that it was said to the ancients, Thou shalt not commit adultery; but I say unto you, That whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. Therefore if thy right eye should bring thee occasion to stumble, pluck it out and cast it from thee; for it is better for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand should bring thee occasion to stumble, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is better for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:27-30)

When there is an unresolved problem in a home – similar to the one that Jesus described in Matthew – and when we are in conflict with our spouse, it opens us up to dangerous temptation. As we walk down the street, members of the opposite sex have an added attraction. The thought occurs to us, “Hey, why didn’t I marry one of these beautiful people instead of the old grouch I left at home?” As fantasies build in our mind, our eyes roam to any opportune target. Sooner or later, chance presents the possibility to realize one of our fantasies. The transition from mental adultery to physical adultery often happens easily if the relationship with the original spouse remains disrupted.

But you say, “Jesus couldn’t possibly have intended us to take this passage literally.” Well, despite what you think, Jesus’ words are literally true; it would be better to be in heaven with one eye than in hell with two. In His day people could have their eyes plucked out for being a Peeping Tom. An adulterer would have been fortunate to have only his hand amputated for taking hold of someone’s wife, because death was the usual penalty for adultery.

I believe Jesus’ point was that seemingly innocent, small, impure thoughts wreak tremendous havoc in our lives and cause permanent loss. If we allow impure thoughts such as anger, malice, and unforgiveness, or impure sexual fantasies a place in our minds, they become seeds that we will be unable to prevent from germinating and translating into actions. If this happens, we may bear the scars of our folly for eternity.

It was also said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a bill of divorce; but I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, except for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)

Divorces start with little, seemingly insignificant details that fester until out of control. Even a minor grudge, if nursed long enough, can develop into a divorce. Once adultery has occurred, all it takes is one minor spat with the spouse, and bags are packed, bridges are burned, and the family is destroyed – in favor of beginning another marriage with someone who is available and waiting.

Jesus did not set forth a new or abstract policy on divorce. Here is what God said earlier about divorce in the Old Testament:

And once again ye shall cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, for I shall not even look at the offering any more to receive a free will offering from your hand. Yet ye say, Why? Because the LORD has been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously; yet she is thy companion and the wife of thy covenant. And did he not make one, having in himself abundance of the Spirit? And why one? That he might seek offspring of God. Therefore take heed to your spirit and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. He that rejects her, sending her away, said the LORD God of Israel, covers the violence with his garment, said the LORD of the hosts; therefore take heed in your spirit, and do not be treacherous. (Malachi 2:13-16)

God can forgive and restore us after a divorce, but something is irrevocably lost when a marriage is broken. Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 only leave open the possibility of divorce in cases of adultery. When trust is lost in a home by one or both spouses, physical violence almost inevitably follows. Most counselors will recommend at least a temporary separation of spouses if acts of violence become increasingly common in the home. Alcoholism and/or drug use will further complicate the vicious cycle and lead to still more irrational acts of violence within a home, though the Lord can help us through even these major issues if we let Him.

Again, ye have heard that it was said to the ancients, Thou shalt not perjure thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths; but I say unto you, Swear not at all: neither by the heaven, for it is God’s throne, nor by the earth, for it is his footstool, neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yes, yes; No, no; for whatsoever is more than this comes of evil. (Matthew 5:33-37)

Most marriages begin with vows made to God in a church. Divorces sometimes end in criminal court, with at least one of the parties attempting to convince the judge that they have been injured by the other party sufficiently to require divorce. When credibility is lacking, it is easy to say things like, “Why, the earth can open and swallow me if I’m not telling the truth” or “Why, lightning can strike me from heaven if such and such isn’t true.”

When really backed against a wall, the Jews swore by the Holy City, Jerusalem, as a most sacred oath. In our present courts of law, we swear on the Bible. Jesus basically said that if we can’t just say yes or no and be believed, we should examine our lives. Our Enemy, Satan, might be feeding us a lie enabling us to rationalize our actions.

Notice that Jesus didn’t mention the devil until here, well into His sermon. In Jesus’ description of the vicious cycle that destroys personal relationships – starting with a buildup of anger and ending with a divorce – the place that He told us to beware of the Evil One is at the end. That’s where the Enemy would like to help us rationalize our problem by pretending it really wasn’t our fault.

If at any stage during the breakup of a personal relationship we are able to honestly face our share of the blame, come to God, and throw ourselves upon His mercy with a broken, poor in spirit attitude, it is possible to break the vicious cycle of evil feeding on itself and replace it with the opposite – a positive, upward spiral of mercy and love as described by Jesus in His beatitudes. Remember: good can also feed on itself and get better the longer we spend planting seeds of mercy, forgiveness, love, and justice. In the kingdom of God the sky is literally the limit. Unlike evil, which can only corrupt and destroy what was once wholesome and pure, good is creative and knows no upper bounds. There is no upper limitation to what God can do with a human life if we are willing to cooperate with Him.

God’s Way

I see it Lord. Because my allegiance is to you,
and no other’s love will do.
I’m free, You’ve satisfied me,
because in Your faithfulness You purified me
and You love me unconditionally.

My husband’s love could not satisfy me.
He was not the way I wanted him to be.
Yet I thought I loved him totally.
So often in anger he rejected me,
and his anger affected me.

I sat alone to brood and stew
over all the things he would say and do.
How could I win him back to me?
What could I do to appease his wrath?
How could I get him to come back?

I found his love was not for me
but for what he wanted me to be,
because he loved me so selfishly.
It seemed to me he was contrary
to the man I knew and decided to marry.

Soon it became apparent to me
that I, too, was as selfish as he.
Our lives were spent in discontent
until we built up great walls of resentment.
So in my heart I turned and left.

I left him and he left me,
although neither wanted to be free.
So we remained there physically –
we both remained there in our home,
but we remained there both alone.

So I prayed and asked of You,
“Heavenly Father, what shall I do?”
You looked upon my affliction,
the bitterness and care.
You said, “My little one. Don’t live there.

Your life in Me does not exist
in matters so dark and gloomy as this.
Come to Me. Give it to Me and walk in My ways.
I will give you grace
and empower you as in this hour you seek My face.

The death of a marriage had surely come,
and you felt so completely undone.
Your grief was real and very great.
It was for this I had to wait
that selfish love would dissipate.

Now, I have made My right arm bare –
I will come and repair
all the ruins of despair.
I will come and fight for you.
I love you and your husband too.

I will make you love anew.
If you will love him as I love you,
let go of the heartache, bitterness, and pain.
Forgive him and start to love again.
Are you willing to open your heart?

If you are, I’ll do My part.
Will you be careful to understand,
and not resent his reprimand?
And when you think bad thoughts of him,
be very careful to reject this sin.

You cannot judge his heart’s intent.
How can you know its content?
You cannot afford to resent it.
Sow seeds of mercy
and not resentment.

You cannot love Me and not love him.
Let your thoughts be kind towards him.
Repent and let My love shine in –
give him the benefit of the doubt.
Keep that strife and trouble out.

Do for him what I’ve done for you.
Act out My love that I’ve given to you,
as you do the things I tell you to.
Don’t respond to his anger or bad deeds.
See that you respond only to his needs.

Remember how I stood the test,
when in unselfish love I gave my best.
They plucked My beard from off My face,
while I endured their spitting, shame, and disgrace.
I offered absolutely no resistance.

It was My mercy that crucified Me.
Soon mankind would be free.
My compassion endured their cruelty.
It is My will that you be in every way conformed to Me.
I have given you victory.

I’m determined that you will win
over pride, selfishness, and sin.
Let My peace garrison thee.
I will smite the enemy.
Your household will be won to Me.”

– Doris McLaughlin


Appendix V. Forgiveness.

Ye have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you, That ye resist not with evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone desires to sue thee at the law, and take away thy clothing, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him two. Give to him that asks of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. (Matthew 5:38-42)

This is one of the most difficult passages in the Bible. Some say that it is so utopian and impossible that the Sermon on the Mount can’t possibly be intended for our present age. Others use this section to support pacifism. I do not claim to fully understand all the ramifications of this passage, but the most logical place to begin “turning the other cheek” and “going the extra mile” is obviously within our own homes.

If someone is angry with us, we are not to insist on our rights and argue. Jesus told us to bear with the other person and help him in any way we can. I understand turning the other cheek is an idiom in the Greek that means “Don’t insist on arguing for your rights.” If our response to insults or injury is “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” it will most likely escalate the problem and cause a vicious cycle to develop. Only when we are willing to yield our rights can progress be made toward peace.

It’s possible for any of us to have a bad day. There are days when my wife wakes up feeling sick and grouchy. If she snaps at me or does something to offend me, I have learned that this is not the time to “straighten her out.” If I bear with her and help her, she quickly returns to her usual demeanor. The same is true in reverse when I come home from work with a headache or when I’m uptight about something. We have learned through experience that it is best to defuse potential explosions before they ignite.

Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to those that hate you, and pray for those who speak evil about you, and persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father who is in the heavens, for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love those who love you, what reward shall ye have? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye embrace your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in the heavens is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

The previous chapter described the destruction of personal relationships when we are responsible for causing the problem and the other person is merely reacting to our input. What happens when we are the innocent victims? How are we to respond when someone is hurting us? What if the one who injures and persecutes us is a member of our family? A man’s worst potential adversaries are in his home. When my wife gets angry with me and becomes my adversary, she can agitate me worse than anyone I know. She knows exactly where I keep all my dirty laundry. If she insults me, it is an expert job because she is intimately familiar with all my shortcomings.

Jesus said we are to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. What better place to start than in our immediate family. This is the way to convince other people that we really are sons (or daughters) of God.

The physical laws of the universe, such as the law of gravity, affect everyone. For example, a 150-pound evil man weighs just as much as a 150-pound good man. The spiritual laws of the kingdom of God also affect everyone. If we learn to love our enemies and learn to overcome evil with good, we are setting in motion the proper actions that will reap rewards according to the spiritual laws. What greater reward could we ask or hope for than that our lost, spiritually dead, unsaved loved ones be reconciled to God and spend eternity in heaven with us.

I have witnessed families who seemed to be hopeless cases but were turned into showcase examples of loving Christian homes through a decision of a single member of the family to apply Jesus’ spiritual principles. When God’s Holy Spirit is allowed to shine through at least one member of a family, a process is set in motion that will ultimately envelop everyone else in the house.

The apostle Paul said to the Philippian jailer, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house[hold] (Acts 16:31).

Many say, “I would change if she would change,” or “I would change if he would change.” But if we sit around waiting for the other person to take the lead, we may be in for a long wait. According to some psychologists, it takes a 100-percent effort on the part of both husband and wife to restore a troubled marriage; even then, they say a successful outcome may be in doubt. On the contrary, I have noticed many troubled marriages in which it appeared that only one party really wanted help. Jesus offers hope to these cases. One person is all that is needed to provide God with a point of contact to enable Him to reach an entire family. God treats a marriage as a whole, not as two halves like we do. If God can get one person to have the right attitude, it is possible for the entire family to be reconciled – both to God and to one another.

Take heed not to do your alms before men, to be seen of them; otherwise, ye have no reward of your Father who is in the heavens. Therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets that they may have glory of men.. Verily I say unto you, They already have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth that thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father who sees in secret, he shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They already have their reward. (Matthew 6:1-5)

After we become followers of Jesus and the Holy Spirit does good works both in and through us, we become highly susceptible to an extremely dangerous problem – pride. By this I do not mean the wholesome sense of pleasure and accomplishment that we often feel in a job well done. I mean the type of pride that exalts itself at someone’s expense. Pride is a unique sin because by its nature it isolates people. There is a thing called a “code of honor” among the lawless. For example, unchaste or adulterous people can have a certain amount of fellowship. On the other hand, two proud people are mutually exclusive and thus incompatible. The audience will only pay attention to one grandstander at a time.

Proud people are in constant competition with one another like the hypocrites that Jesus talked about who blew their own horn in public and prayed standing on the street corners. Pride was the sin of Satan. It works in opposition to the Holy Spirit; if allowed to flourish, it will destroy mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation. When we put Jesus’ merciful mentality to work in our lives, it is easy to develop self-righteous pride.

But as we respond to insults and injury with mercy, forgiveness, kind words, and good deeds, it is easy to look down on others or demand recognition for the good deeds that we are doing. After the first few times of going the extra mile or turning the other cheek, there is a strong temptation as we go forward to demand compensation or recognition by telling the other person that it is now their turn to make concessions. If that person refuses, a strong sense of self-righteousness can set in. If pride is allowed to develop, it will leave a foul taste in the mouths of those we are trying to reach. On the other hand, if we do our good deeds in secret without letting our right hand know what our left hand is doing, God can bless and reward us.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy chamber, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret; and thy Father who sees in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the worldly do, for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them, for your Father knows what things ye have need of before ye ask him. Ye, therefore, are to pray like this: Our Father who art in the heavens, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And set us free from our debts, as we set free our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13)

Our Father who art in the heavens.

When was the last time you went into your room alone, shut the door, and began your prayer to God with the phrase “Our Father”? I normally begin my prayers with “Dear God,” “Dear Lord,” “My God,” or “Dear Father in heaven.” It would never occur to me to open a prayer with “Our Father” if I were alone by myself in a closed room. Why then did Jesus instruct us to go to our most secret place, shut the door, and begin our prayer with “Our Father”? I believe that Jesus wants us to develop such an attitude of concern for those around us (like our family) that our prayers will automatically be “Our Father.” Jesus wants us to identify with and intercede for those around us just as He does for us. Instead of asking God for long lists of things for ourselves and commiserating over all the petty things that people have done that offended us, I believe God likes to hear us ask for our collective needs and demonstrate that we are as concerned for others as for ourselves. When Jesus’ message begins to bear fruit in our lives, more and more of our prayers begin to subconsciously start with “Our Father.” As we are reconciled to those around us, our prayers become much more powerful and effective.

Hallowed be thy name.

With God up in heaven and us down here on the earth, how do we make contact with Him? How can we possibly bridge the tremendous gap between us and Him? We can begin by saying to God, “Hallowed (reverenced) be Your name.” The first step in making real contact with God is to respect Him and tell Him that He is a just God and that we need Him. This is the same attitude that is reflected in Jesus’ first beatitude: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.

Thy kingdom come.

It takes a lot of nerve to say to God, “Thy kingdom come.” God’s kingdom always seems to interfere with what we think is fun. When we ask God’s kingdom to engulf our lives, it seems like we will lose all of our security and possibly even our individuality. No one wants to jump off the cliff with a flag flying. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the book of Daniel were ordered to kneel down and worship a statue of the king of Babylon. If they refused, they were threatened with being bound and thrown alive into a fiery furnace. Their reply was that they would worship God alone and that God could deliver them from the fiery furnace. And if God didn’t deliver them, they still wouldn’t kneel before the statue. As you remember, they were thrown into the fire, but a strange thing happened. To his amazement, the king saw them walking around unharmed in the midst of the fire. The only things consumed by the fire were the cords that bound them and the king’s men who threw them into the furnace!

Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

The decision to say, “Thy kingdom come,” may cause us to mournfully relinquish all the so-called fun, pleasure, and security in our lives, but it happens that the only things God takes from us are those things that were harming and enslaving us. It isn’t even possible to know the true meaning of the words fun, pleasure, and security until we are reconciled with God and living in His kingdom.

Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

God’s will is being done 100 percent of the time in heaven. Unfortunately, that is not the case here on earth. God has given each of us a free will, and most of us use our free will to do whatever we think best for ourselves. This basic selfishness of human nature leads to all kinds of problems. The tragic history of mankind is filled with poverty, hunger, war, prostitution, and exploitation of one man by another. Worse still, many of us blame God for all the problems, violence, and unfairness we see around us. How can it be God’s fault if everyone is going their own way and turning a deaf ear to His way? The problems we have on earth are examples of what happens when human selfishness runs its natural course. We have no legitimate case against God whatsoever.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

If we submit to the kingship of Jesus with a meek attitude, we will inherit the earth. God is the only one who can make truly good plans.

Before being kidnapped in 1983 I spent many years thinking of big, ambitious plans for God’s kingdom. I went head over heels into financial debt for my ministry, feeling sure that God would pay it all back because I was doing this for Him. It took me quite a while to learn that God wanted to fit me into His master plan instead of me fitting Him into my big, grandiose schemes. As I learned to submit even my good ideas to Him, I was amazed at how much smoother everything went. If we really mean it when we pray, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven, the first place to start is our personal lives.

Give us this day our daily bread.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

When the devil tempted Jesus in the desert by telling Him to turn stones into bread because He was hungry, Jesus answered, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). As we decide to enter the kingdom of God with the attitude of spiritual beggars, spiritually destitute and poverty-stricken, we will be appalled by how badly we’ve messed up our lives by going our own way. We will also be saddened by the thought of supposedly giving up most of our present pleasures for the sake of God’s kingdom.

However, after we have firmly decided to completely submit to Jesus’ kingship in all areas of our lives, an amazing thing occurs. Jesus’ thinking rubs off on us, and we hunger and thirst to act and be righteous. We want what God wants. We find out that the Christian life isn’t a dull, dry, monotonous, legalistic list of strict dos and don’ts that are designed to eliminate any chance of having fun. The Christian life becomes an uplifting, fulfilling, satisfying personal relationship with God in which He feeds us with all wholesomeness. As God reaches into every remote corner of our lives, provided we respond by yielding to Him in every area that He puts His finger on, He will fulfill and satisfy us in ways that would have been impossible for us to even imagine prior to entering His kingdom.

Set us free from our debts, as we set free our debtors.

STOP! Could Jesus have made a mistake here? Did He really mean to imply that God won’t forgive us if we fail to forgive those around us? When He said, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy, did He really mean it? The possible repercussions are enormous. Yet there is absolutely no getting around it. Here in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer, we find that it is of no use asking God to forgive us our shortcomings and failures if we have failed to search our hearts and forgive anyone who could be considered our debtor. A merciful, for[1]giving attitude is essential not only for reaching our family members for Christ but also for our own forgiveness. Let’s stop right now and search our hearts. Remember: Mercy is a decision, not a feeling. Mercy is forgiving someone else even if they don’t deserve it.

How does God forgive us? Isaiah 43:25 says, I, even I, am he that uproots thy rebellions for mine own sake and will not remember thy sins.

If we pray, Set us free from our debts, as we set free our debtors, it will do us no good to say to those who have wronged us, “Well, I’ll forgive you, but I’ll never forget.” When God forgives someone, He lets go completely and does not recall the debt at a later date. We must be willing to do the same.

We have arrived at a terrible paradox. If we do not unconditionally forgive those who have wronged us, then God will not forgive our failings. The problem is that most people are incapable of completely forgiving anyone. Even if we can manage to mumble the words “I forgive you” to the other party, the hurt that has been done to us lingers on in our subconscious, biding its time to resurface and harm the relationship.

What if we are not dealing with isolated instances of wrong[1]doing against us? What if the insult and injury are ongoing? What if the other person is unrepentant and continues to hurt us? I faced such a situation when I was kidnapped and held captive by Marxist terrorists for 142 days. My initial reaction to the brutal kidnapping was bitterness, frustration, and rage. After several days, I saw that negative emotions and thoughts could not harm the terrorists, but they could harm me. For several weeks, I fought an agonizing spiritual battle as I sought to respond to my captors in mercy and love instead of in bitterness and hatred. Left to my own resources, the situation was doubly hopeless. Not only was I in an impossible physical situation, but I was also in an impossible mental and emotional anguish that would leave deep scars even if I was released physically unharmed.

To my relief I found that as a Christian I had resources available that were previously not imaginable. Because Jesus lived a perfect life, died an obedient death, and rose from the dead victorious over sin and death, He made tremendous power available to those who follow Him. When we enter the kingdom of God with the attitude of the poor in spirit and place our complete faith and trust in Jesus Christ as King and Lord of our lives, it is possible for us to identify with the death and resurrection of Jesus. In a sense we declare ourselves dead and then risen to a new life with Jesus Christ in charge. Jesus faced and overcame every possible life problem. He has made Himself available to put His hand on our hands and guide us through the rough parts of life. The Holy Spirit was also made available through the death and resurrection of Jesus so that we have unlimited power and resources.

As a prisoner of the guerrillas, I discovered that even though my captors had physical weapons such as machine guns, I had spiritual weapons that were more powerful. Armed with spiritual weapons like truth, prayer, mercy, forgiveness, and a concern for the spiritual well-being of my captors, I watched God turn the tables and win a tremendous victory in a seemingly hopeless situation

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

When we reach out to others in mercy, forgiveness, and love, we influence the behavior of those around us. This also has a subtle influence on our own lives. In time, the seeds of mercy and forgiveness run full circle and affect the way God treats us. It’s like giving God a license to reach deep into our subconscious and begin a cleansing, healing process.

After blessed are the merciful, Jesus said:

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

As we approach others with mercy and forgiveness, God uses these opportunities to purify our hearts. When we enter into the spirit of forgiveness, God will lead us not into temptation and will deliver us from evil.

Upon my release after four and a half months of being tied to a tree in a Marxist guerrilla prison camp, I had no psychological scars. I have never had a nightmare or a flashback. I believe that a God-given attitude of mercy and forgiveness on my part toward my captors was the key to my not suffering any permanent psychological damage. (However, it is also worthy to note that I have always fully cooperated with legitimate authorities to help thwart terrorism and to bring terrorists to justice even when this has proven to be extremely dangerous for me and my family).

For if ye set men free from their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also set you free; but if ye do not set men free from their trespasses, neither will your Father set you free from your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)

Then Peter came to him and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? until seven times?

Jesus said unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times, but, Until seventy times seven.

Therefore is the kingdom of the heavens likened unto a man who is king who would take account of his slaves. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him who owed him ten thousand talents. But he not having wherewith to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children and all that he had, to make payment.

The slave therefore fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that slave was moved with compassion and loosed him and forgave the debt.

But as the same slave was leaving, he found one of his fellowslaves who owed him a hundred denarius, and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me what thou owest.

And his fellowslave fell down at his feet and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

And he would not, but went and cast him into prison until he should pay the debt. So when his fellowslaves saw what was done, they were very grieved and came and declared unto their lord all that was done.

Then his lord, after he had called him, said unto him, O Thou wicked slave, I forgave thee all that debt because thou didst beseech me; was it not also expedient unto thee to have mercy on thy fellowslave even as I had on thee? And his lord was wroth and delivered him to the tormentors until he should pay all that was due unto him.

So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you unless from your hearts ye forgive every one his brother their trespasses. (Matthew 18:21-35)

Get Going

You have sought My face
and asked for the grace
to turn the hearts of your loved ones back to you.
You said, “Where do I start? And what can I do?”
Express your appreciation for the good things that they do,
and don’t be concerned with what they think of you.
You must continue to plant love’s seeds
by sowing in the soil of their needs.
It is up to Me to change their hearts,
but you must be faithful and do your part.
If you see a wall and it seems so cold,
just sow your seeds and watch love unfold.
As day by day you show your concern,
eventually, their hearts will turn.
Resentment, anger, and unforgiveness will melt,
as the constancy of your love is felt.
You will instill in them a confidence
which will disarm them of all resistance.
You desire your family to be
brought into unity, united in me.
Your obedience is the key
for this to become a reality.
So get going, and be sure to do
all the things that love tells you to.
This is a crossroads in your life.
Right now you feel their opposition and strife,
but it won’t be this way always.
So look to Me and walk in My ways.
You shall receive a great reward –
for soon you will all be in one accord.
I desire that you be a bright light
to direct their feet out of the dark night.
When you determine to become live bait,
it won’t be long that you will have to wait
for them to come into My net.
Let your goal be solidly set.
See them alive and seated with Me
at My right hand in the heavenlies.
Eternal life is what they need.
So get going and proceed!

– Doris McLaughlin.

Appendix VI. Repairing the Breach.

Our Father who art in the heavens, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And set us free from our debts, as we set free our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For if ye set men free from their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also set you free; but if ye do not set men free from their trespasses, neither will your Father set you free from your trespasses.

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance, for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they already have their reward. But thou, when thou dost fast, anoint thine head, and wash thy face that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father who is in secret; and thy Father, who sees in secret, shall reward thee openly. (Matthew 6:9-18)

When we studied prayer, we saw that Jesus taught that the secret of its effectiveness is not endless repetition as the heathen do. Instead, Jesus places the emphasis on a forgiving attitude that requires us to forgive our debtors as a precondition to being forgiven by God. Until our present sins have been forgiven and we are reconciled to God, how could we possibly hope to establish communication with Him and expect Him to respond to our prayers? It is amazing that sometimes in His profound mercy God responds to our prayers of desperation, even when we have not been completely obedient to His desires and instructions. Prayer and fasting can be tremendously effective spiritual weapons, but only if we use them with the right attitude.

We have discovered that a merciful, forgiving attitude on our part is essential to an effective prayer life. Notice what the prophet Isaiah said about effective fasting and how it agrees perfectly with Jesus’ teaching on family reconciliation:

Is not rather the fast that I have chosen, to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the ties of oppression, to release into freedom those who are broken, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to share thy bread with the hungry and that thou bring the poor that are cast out into thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou not hide thyself from thy brother?

Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall gather thee. Then shalt thou call, and thou shalt hear the LORD; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; and if thou pour out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday. And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And they shall build up out of thee the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the fallen foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. (Isaiah 58:6-12)

Will you let God perfect you into the role of repairer of the breach in your family? If you allow Jesus’ message of mercy and forgiveness a foothold in your life and family, He won’t stop there. After God has repaired the breaches in your family and marriage, He can turn you into a restorer of paths to dwell in, and then you can help bring His peace to many other suffering homes. If you like this concept, then get ready to obey King Jesus’ next command:

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

We are born into this world naked; when we die, our physical wealth and goods remain here, and we depart naked. On the other hand, the memories of the experiences we had and the character that we formed during our lives on the earth will be ours for all eternity. If we can think and speak and act each day in a manner that allows other people to see the light of God’s love in us, then we are storing up treasures in heaven each time we influence someone else for good, and we help God mold lives into heavenly gold, silver, and precious stones.

The lamp of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye is sincere, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye is evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If, therefore, the light that is in thee is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and riches. (Matthew 6:22-24)

Our physical eyes need light in order to see and orient our body toward the goals and needs of our physical existence. If we lived as blind people in darkness, obtaining even the basic necessities of life would be complicated. Many common activities, such as driving a car, would become impossible. Our spiritual eyes also need spiritual light in order to see and orient our spiritual lives toward God’s goals and objectives. If we pursue the wrong goals and are concerned with storing treasures on earth instead of in heaven, then we are wandering around aimlessly in spiritual darkness.

As we progress in knowledge of God and His kingdom, many of us would like to have our cake and eat it too. We’d like to enjoy the maximum benefit of all the material things our money can buy. At the same time, we devote a significant amount of time to serving God because we are becoming concerned about our eternal well-being and that of others. Jesus said we will ultimately run into a conflict of interest and be forced to choose between love for God and love for money. It is impossible to remain seated on the fence. Notice that the root of the problem is not the money, but making that money our master. It is only under God’s direction that we can obtain any lasting satisfaction from our money. Otherwise, the greater our store of material goods, the more difficult it is to preserve them from the rust and the moths and the thieves. More money will only mean more headaches and more worries with less real happiness.

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink, nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body more than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Therefore, if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, With what shall we be clothed? For the Gentiles seek after all these things. For your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of all these things.(Matthew 6:25-32)

The two primary underlying factors that cause us worry are selfishness and pride. Until we have honestly faced them and allowed God to deal with them, we will be unable to stop worrying. The more material things we obtain by giving in to our selfishness, the more worries we get along with them. Pride can provide us with still more worries as we compare ourselves to those around us and worry that our circumstances are inferior to theirs. This develops an endless, vicious cycle of buying more and more superior things in order to “keep up with the Joneses.”

Along with unforgiveness, worry ranks as a primary cause of strife and friction within the family. Worry generally precedes unforgiveness and plays a key role in the development of family fights. Almost every time we build up anger or resentment against someone in our family, it is because we are worrying that the other person is going to harm some material possession or deny us some physical pleasure.

In order to live a victorious Christian life, our thinking must undergo a complete transformation. Jesus tells us that harboring a grudge against our brother is equivalent to murdering him (Matthew 5:22), and that looking at another woman lustfully is the same as committing adultery with her (Matthew 5:28). The old maxim, “You are what you think” is true. We are not necessarily what we think we are, but we are what we think. Eventually, the thoughts we allow to dominate our minds will begin to dominate the way we act as well.

If we allow our minds to be dominated by thoughts of worry that concern our physical well-being, our lives will become enslaved to fear, anxiety, and depression. Jesus devotes a large portion of the Sermon on the Mount to teaching us the utter uselessness of worrying. As long as we are worrying about what to eat, drink, and wear, we will have trouble understanding what Jesus wants of us. Worrying about the wrong things can drown out the Lord’s still, small voice and leave us drifting through the dangerous, rocky seas of life without His guidance and direction. On the other hand, if we focus on pleasing God and on being and doing right, Jesus says God will take care of all of our physical needs.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the affliction thereof. (Matthew 6:33-34)

I can testify to the truth of this promise. When I was in the Colombian jungle as a prisoner of communist guerrilla terrorists, one guard asked me a question. This particular guerrilla constantly pointed his assault rifle at me while he held the rope that was tied around my neck. I was explaining my faith in God to him, but he turned to me and said, “Look where your faith in God has gotten you now. What have you got to show for it?”

I proceeded to tell him that the Christian life wasn’t always pleasant and easy, but that God had promised to always provide me with food, drink, clothes, and a place to stay as long as I put Him first in my life.

Ironically, the guerrilla leaders had just brought me new clothes, a new hammock, and a new mosquito net that same morning. Earlier, they had made a small split-palm table for me, and at the very instant the guard asked this question, the camp cook delivered a steaming platter with my lunch. I had gone out of my way to be friendly to the cook and had complimented him on his cooking even when it wasn’t that great. After that, the food got better and better, and this day my meal consisted of fried chicken, vegetables, and even a can of Coca-Cola. I turned to the guard and pointed out the new items and the excellent meal, and I said to him, “It looks to me like God is keeping His promises just fine!” Then I bowed my head to say grace: Psalm 23:5 – Thou shalt prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

Since my release, I have lived without a fixed income while traveling all over the United States, Canada, and Colombia, telling people everywhere I have been invited about the wonderful things that God did for me and sharing Jesus’ message of family reconciliation. In all this time, I have never lacked anything that I needed or my family needed, even though we made it a policy not to solicit finances from men or from churches; we did not want to detract from the message of reconciliation to God and to man.

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with the judgment with which ye judge, ye shall be judged, and with the measure with which ye measure, ye shall be measured again.

And why dost thou behold the mote that is in thy brother’s eye but dost not consider the beam that is in thine eye? Or how wilt thou say to your brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou be able to see to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

Any fool can criticize someone else. It takes someone who is truly competent to do a job right. As mentioned earlier, C. S. Lewis wrote, “Negatives are rarely useful . . . even when they are true.” I hope that you have been noticing the positive angle that Jesus used in His sermon. He could have preached fire and brimstone as some may have expected Him to. Jesus would have been well within His rights to tell the crowd that He was giving them one last chance to repent or else. Instead, Jesus said, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens. No wonder the Bible says that crowds of people followed Him and strained to hear His every word.

If I would have criticized the guerrilla cook for his lousy food, I’m sure the food would have gotten even worse after that. When I spoke well of him, he became motivated to do better. Soon the food he served me was better than the food served to everyone else. I am firmly convinced that praising the positive aspects of a person will produce much better results than criticizing the person’s weak points. There is a time for constructive criticism, but Jesus said that we must have our own act together first. The only way that another person will willingly accept our criticism is if we have proved to them that we are competent and well qualified in that particular area.

A Friend Is . . .

A friend is . . .
a shoulder to cry on,
an ear to listen,
a hug when you need one,
or even if you don’t.

A friend is . . .
a godsend,
someone you trust,
someone you love,
someone who loves you –
no matter who you are,
or what you’ve done.

A friend is . . .
someone to run to when
you’re afraid –
someone you open up to –
and you feel safe.
A friend is . . .

– Stephanie Summers

Appendix VII. Narrow Gate, Golden Rule .

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn again and rend you. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for every one that asks receives, and he that seeks finds, and to him that knocks it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom, if his son asks for bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in the heavens give good things to those that ask him? (Matthew 7:6-11)

I n order for a personal relationship to progress into true friendship, trust and confidence must develop between two people. The more intimate the relationship, the more vulnerable each becomes to the other. A true friend is one we can confide in and trust to keep our most tender secrets confidential. A true friend will act in our best interest, even when we’re wrong. With a true friend, we can be ourselves and not have to worry about how our actions are being interpreted. We know that our friend will automatically give us the benefit of the doubt when we slip up or make a mistake. However, if we make the mistake of confiding sacred information or something of great value to an untrustworthy person, the results may be devastating. It’s the same as giving the things that are sacred to dogs or throwing your pearls to hogs.

Why does Jesus emphasize the need to be persistent in order to obtain what we ask for? I believe that He wants to find out if we are true friends of His before He trusts us with intimate “pearls” of truth that He considers sacred. It should be clear by now that Jesus isn’t talking about our asking, seeking, or knocking for material wealth. He told us earlier that if we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness we would receive the material things we need without even asking for them. Jesus is talking about asking, seeking, and knocking for important things like the intimate secrets of His kingdom. If we persist in honestly asking, seeking, and knocking, Jesus will reveal Himself to us and satisfy our desire for wisdom, understanding, and power.

Or what man is there of you, whom, if his son asks for bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in the heavens give good things to those that ask him? Therefore, all things whatsoever ye desire that men should do unto you, so also shall ye do unto them, for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:9-12)

What are we to do with the wisdom, understanding, and power that God gives us? We are to use it to practice treating other people in the manner that we would like them to treat us. How would you like to be treated by your spouse, children, or par[1]ents? A good exercise for all of us is to write down on paper exactly how we would like to be treated by each member of our family. Spend time meditating on your relationship with each family member and record specifically how you would like to be treated by that person. Then comes the hard part. Jesus said that this is the way we must treat them: “Do as you would be done by.” Over the years, men have called this the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule is impossible for any of us to follow perfectly in our own strength. It is only with God-given wisdom, understanding, and power that we can put it into effect and have it work.

Therefore, all things whatsoever ye desire that men should do unto you, so also shall ye do unto them, for this is the law and the prophets. Enter ye in at the narrow gate, for the way that leads to destruction is wide and spacious, and those who follow it are many; because narrow is the gate, and confined is the way which leads unto life, and there are few that find it. (Matthew 7:12-14)

In a sense, the Golden Rule is like the narrow gate. All of us instinctively know how we would like to be treated. Yet it is difficult to practice treating others as we would like them to treat us. When we are treated nicely by others, it is quite easy to respond in kind. When insulted or injured by others, we need God’s help to respond according to the Golden Rule. God must deal with our selfishness and pride before we can instinctively respond to any situation according to the Golden Rule.

Jesus’ Golden Rule isn’t lopsided; as we live according to the Golden Rule, we must stand for justice as well as for mercy. We are doing no one a favor by “letting them get by with murder.” If someone else is in error or committing a crime, the most merciless thing we could do would be to let them continue down the road of destruction without trying to stop them (even if we must bring their activities to the attention of the proper authorities).

Every time that we honestly confront evil, we are faced with another narrow-gate decision. If we succumb to the philosophy that the end justifies the means, it is easy to hit below the belt just because the enemy is hitting below the belt. There are people who lie, cheat, and steal because their enemies lie, cheat, and steal. These are the people who always complain that they never know where to draw the line. These are the very people who may actually become murderers in their zeal to not let their enemies get away with murder.

Another school of thought says that the world is constantly degenerating and everything is getting worse, so why get involved or uptight about issues that are right or wrong. Still others sit smugly back and wait for what they feel is the basic human good in all mankind to surface and provide meaningful dialogue for alternate solutions to violence and despair. Jesus said:

Blessed are those who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake.

Therefore, we should oppose evil with every legitimate means at our command. We must get involved with issues of right and wrong, but the Golden Rule does not allow us to fight dirty just because the enemy is fighting without scruples.

Keep yourselves also from false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that does not bring forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. So that by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in the heavens. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:15-23)

Many people offer seemingly brilliant solutions to our problems. Some of them sound very convincing. Marxism, for instance, looks good on paper. It isn’t until we examine the fruits of Marxism in the countries that have tried it that we recoil in horror. Reversing social injustice by force and dictatorial reform sounds good until bitter experience proves that in Marxist Socialist countries, liberty and personal freedom are lost along with economic productivity. Jesus said that we should check things out before we accept a teaching hook, line and sinker. This is why I believe that the Sermon on the Mount should be received in the light of Jesus’ life and all that has happened since His death and resurrection. If there ever was a life that has produced and is producing good fruit, it is His. It was due to the grace of God and our great Christian heritage, the godly faith of those who founded America, that our country has become the most fruitful nation on the face of the earth.

If we have been born again by the grace of God, our lives should show a definite change in direction. Jesus will look at our goals and the motivation of our hearts. Have we really “practiced” doing right, or have we practiced doing wrong? Was our goal to please God and to reflect His love to those around us, or did we curse God and refuse to honestly admit our mistakes? The only way anyone can consistently practice doing God’s will is with Jesus’ help, by meekly submitting to His guidance, and by receiving the power of His Holy Spirit. This is why the Bible says, over and over, that the only way to salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ.

As we live out our lives on earth, we receive many opportunities to practice obeying and pleasing God. The first and most obvious place to practice is in our own family. After Jesus’ message grows in our hearts, our first goal should be to demonstrate His mercy and love to our closest relatives. Then, as our families are reconciled to one another and to God, others will become convinced of the truth when they see our “good fruit.”

Therefore, whosoever hears these words of mine and does them, I will liken him unto a prudent man, who built his house upon the rock; and the rain descended, and the rivers came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it did not fall, for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that hears these words of mine and does not do them shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand; and the rain descended, and the rivers came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:24-27)

I was taught as a child in Sunday school that Jesus was the Rock, and if I believed on Him, my house would be built on a secure foundation. Believing on Jesus is of course the right foundation, but Jesus also said that we must hear His words and practice them in order for our “house” to stand against the storms of life. Paul told the Philippian jailer:

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (Acts 16:31)

Paul did not mean that the four walls and the roof would be saved. Paul meant that the jailer’s entire household would be saved if one person in the household (the jailer) accepted Jesus, believed His message, and put it into effect in his life. The word for believe in Greek has much more depth than our English equivalent. The Greek word means to put your complete faith and trust in something. It means much more than just a historical knowledge of the facts. Paul was saying to practice what we say we believe.

Jesus used family terminology throughout His Sermon on the Mount – words like father, son, house, brother, wife, and divorce. The examples Jesus used are of everyday life such as salt, light, fish, and bread. It is fitting that the sermon ends with an illustration of a house being built on a secure, solid rock foundation and able to stand firm in a severe storm. I believe that Jesus’ illustration contains a promise. Anyone who hears Jesus’ message and practices it in his life will be building his household on a firm foundation that will stand against the worst of life’s storms. This is the guarantee Paul extended to the Philippian jailer. I am not just speculating when I say this because I have experienced it as well. My extended family has gone through some difficult storms, and as we concentrated on practicing Jesus’ message, the storms served to draw our family closer together.

When Jesus had ended these words, the multitude marvelled at his doctrine; for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)

About the Author.

At the age of four, while his family was living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Russell Stendal prayed and asked God to call his parents, Chad and Pat, to be missionaries. God answered that prayer and within just a few years the whole family was on the mission field in Colombia, South America. He became an accomplished jungle pilot and married a beautiful Colombian lady named Marina. They have four children, Lisa, Alethia, Russell Jr., and Dylan, plus six grandchildren.

When Russell was 27 years old, Marxist guerrillas of the FARC kidnapped him for 142 days. The story of his kidnapping is told in the book he wrote titled Rescue the Captors. His reason for the title is because he realized that his captors were more captive than he was. There was a possibility he would be released, but most of his kidnappers were young people who had been taken from their families, given a weapon, and taught to kill. They had little hope of survival.

To reach all the actors of the armed conflict, including his former captors, Russell established a radio ministry to air programs into the dangerous war stricken areas of Colombia with messages of peace and hope. He has also written more than 50 books in English and Spanish.

In 2017, he was awarded the Shahbaz Bhatti Freedom Award, (given to Pope Francis the year before) for his tireless efforts towards spreading peace and reconciliation in Colombia (in the context of promoting religious freedom). Russell travels extensively as a guest speaker in conventions around the world. His speaking is unique in that he is very sensitive to the Lord’s voice and does not hesitate to deliver the message imparted to him, no matter how uncomfortable that may be to him or to others. Most of the books he has published were transcribed directly from the radio messages he has preached in Spanish and beamed into virtually all of the war-torn areas of the countryside.

Russell is the editor of the Jubilee Bible translation that has been published in English and in Spanish. Well over a million copies of this Bible have been donated and distributed into the most needy areas of Colombia and Venezuela.