Guest / Limited Access /

Russ Stendal, held hostage by terrorists for 142 days in the 1980s, is now taking the Bible to places where angels fear to tread: deep into Colombia's Texas-sized jungle regions, where terrorists, soldiers, and paramilitaries have been fighting since 1964.

Stendal belongs to a group of missions leaders and indigenous pastors who serve in remote areas of Colombia, one of the world's most violent mission fields. Over the past three years, more than 200 churches have been forcibly closed and 35 pastors assassinated in the South American country, reports religious-freedom advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

One of the most recent assassinations occurred in the northern village of Marañonal in September 2009, when three masked gunmen broke into the home of Foursquare Church pastor Rafael Velasquez and killed him in front of his wife and six church members. Other pastors, missions leaders, and churchgoers have received anonymous threats of death, rape, and kidnapping for attending religious services, speaking out for peace, and criticizing terrorists or paramilitaries. Nationwide, the number of killings linked to the conflict has declined significantly each year since 2002. But in 2009, more than 13,000 died in the ongoing violence.

A Catholic-majority country, Colombia has seen persistent growth among Protestant groups, especially since its parliament disestablished the Catholic Church in the 1990s. Numbered at about 6.75 million, Protestants compose 15 percent of the country's population of 45 million.

2010 is a transition year for Colombia. In late February, a constitutional court blocked President Álvaro Uribe's attempt to extend his time in office to an unprecedented third term. During Uribe's tenure, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only Abandon Studying the Historical Jesus? No, Jesus Studies Matter
A response to 'The Jesus We'll Never Know.'
RecommendedMissionary Donn Ketcham Abused 18 Children. Here’s Why He Wasn’t Stopped.
Missionary Donn Ketcham Abused 18 Children. Here’s Why He Wasn’t Stopped.
(UPDATED) After Bangladesh MKs speak out, ABWE releases final report on past problems and future protections.
TrendingNicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life
Nicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life
I had no untapped, unanswered yearnings. All was well in the state of Denmark. And then it wasn’t.
Editor's PickLetters with the Mosque Next Door
Letters with the Mosque Next Door
How a budding friendship between a pastor and an imam brought a community together.
Christianity Today
Ministry at the Center of Violence
hide thisApril April

In the Magazine

April 2010

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.