September 7, 2001
Over the past several weeks I felt led by the Lord to make two trips deep into the jungle. The first was into what is called la zona de distension which is a large demilitarized zone given over to the Guerrillas for the purposes of peace negotiations. The second trip (which I completed last week) was into the edge of the new war zone about one hundred miles south east from our radio station.
The hand of the Lord was upon every detail. We were able to pass out large amounts of literature and verify that many people are tuned in to our station. When we got beyond limits of our radio coverage people told us moving accounts of how that if they got up at 5am and went down by the river they could sometimes hear our early morning program Dios En Mi Familia which I record here in Bogota with some of my friends. Others said that if they went to where a certain stream flows into the river that they could hear the programs. Little by little it began to dawn on me what life was like for these people living in an area where the communists had prohibited all church services or evangelical gatherings for hundreds of miles. People would come up and shake my hand and thank me from the bottom of their heart for the radio programs (some told me that they would listen all night long and go to sleep with the radio on).
As we continued down the road I noticed a 50 km. or so stretch where everything seemed to be destroyed. Two fair sized towns were totally desolate (not a single person to be seen) and many burned out vehicles were on the side of the road. The farms were abandoned and most of the buildings beside the road burned or vandalized. Many times we had heard intense shooting and bombing (by aircraft) in the distance at night from our radio station, but I had never imagined that the consequenses of the war had been so severe. Now I began to realize where all the thousands of refugees were coming from.
As we crossed this scorched earth zone unknown to us (although later I did manage to see one plane in the distance) government airplanes were bombing guerrilla positions just in front of us. Then, suddenly, guerrillas ran out of the woods and stopped us. At first they were hyper with their weapons and insisted on searching us and the vehicle. I started speaking to them and instead of searching me, the leader smiled and held out his hand. I asked him if he liked to read and when he said yes, I started to pass out handfuls of literature to him and his men (including Rescue the Captors). The next day on our way back we ran into them again and they were bleary-eyed because they had been up all night reading the books. They smiled and motioned us to proceed. We spent the night at a place which was where the guerrillas had released me almost 18 years ago!
It seemed that every few minutes I would run into a long lost friend who I hadnt seen for years. I found one who I hadnt seen for 20 years operating a small FM radio station and was able to make arrangements to send him some of our programs. In another place, through a series of miracles, I was able to leave books and material at a clandestine radio station deep in guerrilla territory. At one point as we drove down the road we ran into a cattle drive. I pulled up to the lead cowboy, slowed down, and handed him a book out of the window of the Suburban. When he turned to take it, one of my friends with me recognized him as another one of our old deer hunting buddies that I hadnt seen for many years.
The Lord used these trips to also set in motion the groundwork for a series of evangelistic meetings in these areas. Even though the Churches are for the most part closed, it looks like we will be able to go in with what we call our Peace Campaign in which we use the local joropo or cowboy music which is played with a harp and a four-stringed guitar. The Lord has been touching some of the top singers in the area and they will be working with us. Then, after the music, I will give a message to the crowd. We plan to hold the first series of meetings the first week of October to coincide with the inauguration of our new AM radio station . The Alcaravan is a local bird known for its sharp, clear voice and it is a symbol for the region. October 2 is also the date for the Feast of Trumpets this year which we plan to celebrate by sounding a strong clear message of hope and truth from our new radio station.
Our plan is to use a slightly different stratedgy on each of the radio stations. The FM station will be used mostly for pre-evangelism and evangelism (this involves a lot of the right music) while the AM station will be primarily geared for evangelism and post-evangelism (in depth preaching and teaching). We will be running ads on the FM station telling about the new AM station. The AM station should have a much greater range than the FM station.
I returned from these trips with a strong desire to boost the capabilities of our FM station. The tower (270 ft.) which didnt cost us much at the time has served us well, but now has been condemned because the structure has begun to buckle when it was damaged in a severe storm last year. We are going ahead on faith with a new 400 ft. tower designed to withstand high winds which will solve the problem and also greatly increase the range of the station. This tower is new and the list price was $36,000. It was made for a client who ran into financial problems and wasnt able to finish the purchase. The company that made it offered it to us for $6000 dollars to get it off their inventory! Today I payed them $800 down with the balance (which we dont have yet) due in a month. We are coming into the storm season (November and December) and I feel we need to do something before the old tower comes down around our ears in the next major storm. They wont release the tower to me until I pay the remaining $5200 although they will hold it for me for a reasonable period of time. The guy wires and installation of the tower (some of which we will do ourselves) will run another $3000 or so.
Yesterday we received some very sad news from the closest town to our radio station. Due to a national directive by the guerrillas, all eight of the Evangelical Churches in town have been closed until further notice. Only the Roman Catholic Church remains open. When someone asked the guerrillas what the pastors should do, the reply was, We will give them three options, 1). Leave town. 2). Learn to support themselves by picking coca leaves or 3). We will shoot them. Afterwards I learned that they also sent word to one of the pastors who has won their respect by working hard with his hands that he should not leave town but that they wanted him to stick around and wait this out. So far we have not been censured in any way at the radio station but the four local pastors who had programs on our station have suspended their programs. All of our programs that we produce are still on the air.
At first I wondered if we might be next, but when we studied the pattern of three other towns we know of where this same thing has happened, Christian radio programs on local stations in these towns were not directly censured even though the Evangelical Churches were all shut down. Two years ago as we were starting the radio station I distinctly felt that the Lord was not leading us to start visible meetings or a visible church in town but that we were to be low profile in this regard and have home meetings on an irregular basis. Now, I can see the clear wisdom of the Lord in this (although I do confess that I wondered a bit at the time).
At first I was a bit depressed after getting the news about the closing of all these churches and I sought the Lord regarding the meaning of all this. The Lord then helped me to see that the enemy is riled up because we are becoming more and more effective for the Lord. The literature that we are distributing is very hard for the enemy to stop. Even if only one book out of a hundred gets into a guerrilla camp it is normally read by dozens of men and women until it literally falls apart. If we get an opportunity to talk one on one with them, most of the guerrillas are sympathetic to us and to our message (but back in the group they continue to talk tough because of the strong discipline and peer pressure). The little town of Puerto Lleras is now 60 to 80 per cent Chrisitian and the guerrillas are having trouble keeping control of the town because the Chrisitians dont support them much. They must have figured in desperation that the only way to consolidate their control was to close the Churches. The Lord also showed me that even though there are many wonderful people in the Churches, that for the most part each of these groups have their own set of problems making these Churches far from the bride without spot or wrinkle that Jesus is coming back for. The persecution always seems to separate the tares from the wheat and in the end it produces a much cleaner Church. It also tends to bring the Christians from different groups into better fellowship with one another as they are all limited to comuning in twos and threes as the opportunity arises.
After spending most of the past two nights in prayer, I also came to the conclusion that this is the time for us to move forward. It is not the time to retreat. I feel a great peace that we should continue the plan that the Lord has revealed to us regarding beefing up the preaching and teaching on the new AM radio station and that we should not pull back out of fear regarding these new circumstances. Now more than ever it is important not to react out of fear of the enemy but rather continue with what God is telling us to do. For this reason I felt very good about paying down on the new radio tower and I feel that the Lord will touch someone to provide the rest of the money. It will encourage all the Christians in the area if they see us erecting this new structure (which will be visible for many miles around). As funds become available I also feel that we should go ahead and beef up the power and antennas on both of these radio stations until the signal goes out as far as possible into this vast area full of people where all the Evangelical Churches are either closed or else being closed. (For instance, a $15,000 investment in equipment could double the effectiveness of the FM station and a $25,000 investment could double the power on our AM station).
For now, the power company has connected up the new AM station with no power meter (if we had to pay for it just the electricity would cost thousands of dollars per month). In the event that the war intensifies to the point where the power is cut off for months at a time (like is presently happening to the south of us) it would be very good to have a good continuous duty standby generator. Our present 12 KW unit is way too small to handle the load. We now need several times that capacity. I just received a quote of $11,000 for a new 70 KW diesel generator which would be ideal. We would also need to put in a large tank for the necessary diesel fuel.
We are working on editions of books for the guerrillas and for the paramilitary along with special audio material on cassettes and CDs. Our studios here in Bogot look somewhat like the general command post of an army as a growing number of talented young people help us design, produce, and duplicate an ever increasing array of audio materials. Our new web page aimed at the intellectual university scene (where much of this violence has been bred) will go online soon. The name of the page is www.fuerzadepaz (roughly this translates peace force). It will start with information on national parks and ecology of interest to college students with links into pages having to do with our radio stations and with our literature. We are also starting to produce literature aimed at the university campuses.
The most exciting thing of all, however, is to see lives changed by the power of God. This is really what keeps me going. In past revivals it seemed that the Lord touched those older than me. Now, the younger generation is also starting to be lit on fire for God.
Now, more than ever we need your continued prayers and financial support. We have been through a long hard period of ploughing and planting. Now, after all this expense and effort the harvest is just starting to really come in. Please help make sure that we will have what is needed to bring in this harvest without having to suspend the ploughing, planting and fertilizing. What happens here in Colombia will ultimately directly affect the United States one way or another. If we do too little too late regarding the situation here it may not be long before Churches are being closed in the United States instead of just in Puerto Lleras. If you help us win the battle here, the force and impact of the revival will undoubtedly be felt in North America starting with the hispanic population. Because I feel such a great urgency, I have suspended ministry trips to North America. This has allowed me to concentrate directly on the situation here. We now have most of the materials that we need but we still lack equipment and funds for duplication of our books and materials and for general expenses at the radio stations. Our friends and supporters in Churches in North America are used to seeing us from time to time and for over two years now this has not been possible. In the past these personal trips served to keep up the interest and the level of giving. Now we desperately need to have people like you help represent us and help present the ongoing need here in Colombia as this battle intensifies.
Whatever happens, I plan to be found at my post at the moment of truth. It is increasingly important that each and every one of us understand exactly what God is asking of us. As the trumpet begins to sound let each of us be found faithful. God sounds the trumpet (message) precisely to call his own people to battle stations while at the same time His Word strikes fear and terror into the hearts of the enemy.