Leading Like Christ Series
Continuing the series on SOM International Directors, I want to highlight a slice of Russell Stendal’s life. I first met Russell around the year 2003. Over the years, we have grown to be fast friends. His wisdom, biblical insights and generous spirit have supported and guided me. Russell’s ministry path may also be the most unconventional I have observed. In many ways, his life is in fact very simple. For example, he wakes up each morning and listens for Lord’s leading that day, and then immediately obeys.
From Russell’s childlike faith and obedience come spiritual influence and abundant fruit. I have observed some characteristics of Christ in his life, including kindness, lavish generosity, self-control, God-sized vision, trust, wisdom, and spiritual discernment. What an inspiration he has been to the SOM International family.
The Lifestyle of Deep Generous Faith
Russell lives out the faith that nothing is impossible with God. Consider this illustration of his faith. Just two years ago, Russell shared with me the desperate need in Venezuela for Bibles. “Let’s pray for one million Bibles.” After Russell visited with Venezuelans and looked into their teary eyes when they received their first Bible, the Lord upgraded his vision to two million Bibles. As of the last couple of months, Russell now trusts God for three million Bibles that will supply every Christian family with the Word of God.
The previous two years have especially bolstered my faith and vision. The extravagant generosity of SOM International partners provided funds to print and distribute 328,000 Bibles. There is no doubt in my mind that this epic Bible distribution would not have happened without Russell’s God-honoring leadership.
Listening on a Deep Level
Besides having faith, Russell depends upon Jesus being the pastor/shepherd of every believer. He hears from the Lord and encourages others to listen also. Recently, a Colombian pastor complained to Russell that his wife and congregation hated him and disrespected his leadership. “I think I need to leave them all and start somewhere else. What should I do?” asked the pastor.
Russell replied, “Well, I think you need to pray and ask the Lord for your solution.”
In exasperation, the pastor replied that in 20 years of ministry, “I have never heard the Lord speak to me.”
In this same spirit, when Russell sees people who have a clean heart and show signs that the Holy Spirit is working on them, Russell will generously empower them with ministry tools. An example comes to mind. I remember meeting a worker who wanted to help Russell distribute Bibles. At the time, he was trying to overcome alcoholism and a poor marriage. Instead of Russell seeing his flaws and dismissing him outright, Russell provided him a vehicle to haul Bibles and supplies. The Colombian, now inspired, offered his ranch to house a radio transmitter. I noticed how the work gave this broken man hope, and his actions showed he felt loved by Russell and the other believers.
The Generosity of Spirit and Resources
In addition to the outcomes above, I must mention the fruit of the generosity of Russell and his family. They sacrificially meet needs with ease and joy. Due to the hospitable nature, the Stendal home is a revolving door of people who share what they have and more. Minimal resources are in the ownership name of Russell Stendal, and he empowers believers to use what God gives them for His glory. I’ve witnessed Russell writing verbal checks for tens of thousands of dollars as the Holy Spirit leads him. And I can confirm that I have seen the Lord’s provision of those funds shared to further the gospel every time.
Russell consistently makes disciples by placing a high value on the Word of God. This example is a catalyst for multiplying Christ-like character in hundreds of staff and volunteers.
These characteristics of Christ in Russell continue to inspire the body of Christ in Colombia, Venezuela, and beyond. Please keep also praying for SOM South America leadership to advance the Kingdom rapidly. Consider the ways that you similarly can empower others today with generosity and deploy a God-sized vision to transform your community.
Last of all, if you would like to hear more stories of Russell and learn about his Christ-like leadership, request a copy of the brand-new book entitled Victorious by Deann Alford.
Authored by David Witt