Special Report Regarding Russell Stendal
Reported By: David and Cindy Witt (April 1st, 2015)
Spirit of Martyrdom Ministries
We just returned from the field in Colombia and printed this special report quickly to update you with the latest information regarding Russell Stendal. We see the battle continues for truth in Colombia both spiritually and judicially. Russell Stendal as a missionary was visiting red zone areas distributing Bibles, school supplies, Christian material and radio receptors (with a Christian signal). Russell is being investigated for “rebellion against the State of Colombia for aiding and collaborating with FARC guerrillas.” A guilty sentence could mean up to 15 years in prison. Enemies of Russell and the gospel work are conspiring together to shut Russell down and all his associates. After visiting with Russell, his family, the lead lawyer and the investigator for the defense we have a clearer picture of Russell’s situation. Once you are in the judicial system, it could be a lengthy process to prove you are innocent. According to the lawyer, the length of this trial could last several months, at least, and up to two years at the most. On February 18th when Russell was arrested and met the judge the next day, the hearing was to determine whether Russell would be put into prison, put under house arrest, or would have liberty and freedom during the entire investigation. We praise God that the judge threw out the prosecutor’s case and declared that Russell was free. However, the prosecutor appealed the case and there is another hearing pending in April (a date has not yet been determined at this time). Again, the prosecutor is trying to have Russell put into prison during the investigation. Please pray that again, Russell will have liberty and freedom during this investigation.
The charge against Russell is coming from the State of Bogota prosecutor’s office and supported by the police. Russell shared that over the years he has found more opportunities and openness to share Bibles and literature with the military than the police. There is only one agency of the police in Colombia and they have a greater reputation for corruption. The police operate very similar to the military and they compete for power. It has now come to light that the prosecutor’s office has been investigating Russell for the past couple of years. By reports, the prosecutor entered the courtroom in February smug and confident and spoke for hours using the testimony of a few convicted guerrillas claiming Russell is a guerrilla and guilty of rebellion against the State of Colombia. All the prosecutor’s arguments and accusations crumbled. Since Russell was allowed to speak for ten minutes and the defense investigator for twenty minutes, others testified that the Holy Spirit was using him. The judge criticized the prosecutor for such a “sloppy case” and commented that if the prosecutor would have just “Googled” Russell’s name he might have been better prepared. She said Russell was released. Those in the courtroom for Russell rejoiced and celebrated over Russell’s victory. Marina, Russell’s wife, said she watched the prosecutor after the case. Instead of leaving, the prosecutor watched in shock as many showed their love for Russell and some of Russell’s supporters then greeted the prosecutor with respect. In a wonderful act of charity, Russell shared his books, Rescue the Captors 1 and 2 and Hidden Agenda with the prosecutor.
In another twist of strategy, the prosecution is trying to add racketeering to Russell’s charges. They have named twenty other Colombians who have been arrested this past year for “rebellion against the State of Colombia.” They have also distributed Christian materials and have been falsely arrested. Russell knows five of these men well. Of these twenty men, Russell is the only one the prosecution has not been able to put in jail yet. Please continue to pray for these men and their families. We hope to do what we can to help them in their cases as God provides resources.
We are praying the Lord will soften the prosecutor’s heart. He continues to be hardened since he appealed to have another hearing in order to put Russell into prison during the length of the trial. Pride and his true colors are now showing that this case is not about truth, but an agenda to shut Russell down and all those who support a process of peace through Jesus Christ. The issue of persecution from corrupt forces is becoming clearer. Russell is a head domino with many others behind. Russell represents and leads the charge of thousands of Christian workers in Colombia who are risking their lives for the witness of Christ. They have distributed over a million Bibles alone, radio broadcasts throughout the land, including internet programs to the restricted red zones and military in Colombia. The Lord is presently working in the hearts of the highest officials of the Colombian government and FARC guerrilla leaders as a “cease fire and peace accord” has now held for over three months. Peace comes at a great cost and sacrifice just as Christ bought our peace by the sacrifice of His life. Truth is a threat to the corrupt. Even past enemies like King Herod and Pontius Pilate become friends after the false condemnation of Jesus. As Russell has said, “we have many enemies who are collaborating, but we have many friends who are standing together.”
Russell’s case represents whether Colombia will honor the workers of righteousness or condemn them. The Scripture prepares us that all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus shall be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). As we discussed in Bogota this past week, we are confident in God’s sovereign hand. Just as God hardened the heart of Pharaoh to show God’s greater glory, we believe God is using the prosecutor and will do a greater work in Colombia!
During this time of testing, Russell’s father, Chadwick M. Stendal passed into glory on March 1st in Colombia where he and his wife Pat have served the Kogi Indians for 51 years. They had a beautiful memorial service with the Kogi Indians and buried Chad in the mountains of the beloved country of Colombia. Pat is remaining in Colombia and is continuing to minister to the Kogi’s. Russell shared, “I have learned from my dad, that when you see all of these distractions from the enemy of our souls, that is when the enemy is attacking and the best strategy is to continue on with greater passion for the work God has before you.” The Stendal family is continuing with the radio broadcasts and sharing Bibles and Christian materials to all they come in contact with. Continue to pray for this situation and God’s continued provision for the gospel work and the legal defense. The Stendal family would like to extend their gratitude for standing with them during this critical hour and they are grateful for the partners of Colombia Para Cristo Canada, Galcom Radio, The Voice of the Martyrs in the USA, Canada, Finland, Germany, and New Zealand, who are supporting, praying and standing together “for such a time as this.”
Sammy, Russell’s son in law shared,
“Since I’ve known him, Russell continually has risked his life for the Lord’s sake every day. As my wife just told me, that is something we all have to face when we receive the Lord in our hearts. I have been reading The Book of Acts and I am continually reminded that there is constant victory in the Lord, as we see in the entire Scriptures. Even the Psalms are written for the overcomer. As well as the terrible death of Stephen turned into a massive conversion of Jewish and Gentiles through Paul.
Brothers and sisters, let’s keep praying and fasting because we are in a war. The victory is in and from the Lord as we follow Him. The Way does not stop at the Cross. But through the cross and into His life and resurrected power. Christ in us… the hope of glory.”
“For if I am an offender or have committed anything worthy of death I do not refuse to die; but if there are none of these things of which these accuse me, no one may deliver me unto them…” Acts 25:11
Pray for Russell and the Stendal Family
Pray for the lead lawyer (Monica) and the defense investigator (Juan) who have been working tirelessly in building the case for the defense
Pray for the truth to be revealed that Russell (as a missionary) has reached out with a message of peace and forgiveness to guerrillas, military, para-military and all those living in Colombia with the love and hope of Jesus Christ
Pray that the Lord changes the prosecutors heart and confuse the lying tongues so that they drop the charges.
Pray for the men who were recently put into prison under false charges. Russell gave some of these men Bibles; their only crime was faithfully honoring God and sharing His Word with others
Pray that God may be glorified through these challenges