A persecution watchdog group from the United States is using a quasi-military style operation to reach out to FARC guerrillas in Colombia by parachuting packages filled with Christian materials from an airplane onto the jungles below.
As one of its ministries, The Voice of the Martyrs supports the operation by partnering with a pilot and maintaining a plane. The items inside each package include a Bible, Christian literature, and shortwave radios pre-set to two Christian stations.
What makes the sometimes dangerous and risky program even more unique is that VOM enables those people wanting to somehow participate in the operation to construct the parachutes used for the drops into the guerrilla-controlled areas.
Those having a heart to be a part of the mission can go online to the ministry’s website to order a “Parachute Pack” that includes enough cloth, ribbon, glue, and plastic bags for Bibles, as well as instructions for assembling 10 to 30 parachutes, depending on the size pack ordered.
The program, only a few years old, was re[-launched earlier this year after some modifications to the packs. The parachutes no longer require sewing for assembly, said VOM’s Todd Nettleton, director of media development.
Nettleton told The Christian Post that all that one needs now are scissors and glue.
“When we launched the program in February, I don’t know if we had little faith or not quite enough faith,” Nettleton said. “However, we had put together the packs to make 10,000 parachutes and within four days we had sent all those out and were frantically ordering more cloth, more ribbon, and trying to keep up with the demands.”
At the other end of VOM's operation, during his mission flights over the Colombian jungles, pilot Russell Stendal flies only a few hundred feet off the ground before opening the window of his Cessna to drop the parachute packages over a guerrilla camp.
“It is a heavy jungle area and it’s also the area that is controlled by the FARC guerrillas. So, to try and drive a truckload of Bibles into those areas you are going to go through areas of checkpoints where if they figure out that you’ve got a truckload of Bibles, things are not going to go well for you or the truck, or the whole process,” Nettleton said.
“I’ve been shot at a few times and one of my aircraft had multiple bullet holes in it,” stated Stendal on the group’s website. However, he has witnessed the positive results from the project as well.
“I have seen many guerrillas turn from their violent ways after reading the Bible and listening to our radio broadcasts,” Stendal said. “If we want peace in Colombia, we have to point people, even terrorists, to the true source of peace and forgiveness.”
Nettleton said the parachute-making part of the program allows people “to really do something with their own hands, to reach out and spread the Gospel in a place where otherwise they’re likely never to go.”
The FARCS (In Spanish: Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) is considered a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization which is involved in Colombia's power-grab and drug wars. U.S. officials describe the group as a terrorist organization. An unknown number of Christians have been killed by the group and have been reported to kill their own members if suspected of converting to Christianity.
Despite the dangers, VOM wants to deliver 100,000 packages by parachutes, Nettleton said. He is not sure of the total number distributed so far and says the goal might be reached sometime next year.
“Our goal is to reach as many of the FARC guerrillas with the Gospel as possible and provide them with Christian materials not only initially for presenting them with the Gospel, but hopefully to disciple them and see them grow in their faith,” he said. “In some cases we will know that happened here on earth and in some cases we will not know until we get to heaven.”
Those interested in the parachute program can go online to: http://www.persecution.com/Colombia.