American Missionary Russell Stendal Honored for ‘Peace Work’ In Colombia

Martin Stendal poses on a boat at the Marina Hemingway, in Havana, Cuba in 21 December 2015. Photograph: Eliana Aponte for the Guardian

Russell Stendal spent 32 years working to bring Christ to FARC guerrillas

As Marxist rebels in Colombia demobilize and begin reintegrating into society, a global evangelical organization is highlighting the work of one American missionary who dedicated his life to ministry among the guerrillas.

First Step Forum founder Johan Candelin applauded Russell Martin Stendal’s “extraordinary peace work for 32 years” among the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), World Watch Monitor reported.

Candelin presented the American missionary with the Shahbaz Bhatti Freedom Award on Jan. 22 in Bogota.

“God’s hand has been on Russ Stendal’s work in a unique way,” Candelin said.

The Shahbaz Bhatti Freedom Award, presented by First Step Forum and the World Evangelical Alliance, is named after a Christian, Pakistani politician who spoke out against his country’s blasphemy laws and victims like Asia Bibi. The Pakistani Taliban assassinated Batti in 2011.

The award came on the heels of a peace deal between the Colombian government and the leftist rebels after more than 50 years of war. Peace talks began in 2012.

In October 2016, Colombian voters narrowly rejected the first peace deal, forcing President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC to sign “a new final accord” in November. Stendal provided spiritual guidance during the negotiations.

“I don’t know anything about negotiations, and I am not a conflict resolution expert,” Stendal told The Guardian. “I offered to be a friend and to be a spiritual light for them.”

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Julia A. Seymour