The Hidden Agenda: An Extraordinary True Story Behind Colombia’s Peace Negotiations With The FARC, by Russell Stendal & Alethia Stendal
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Life Sentence Publishing in exchange for an honest review.]
Although I have a slight familiarity with the works of the Stendals (particularly the Jubilee Bible), I have not read any of their books before. This particular book is a shared work between a father and a daughter who both shared the experiences of being kidnapped in Colombia’s “Dirty War” and have lived to tell about it with a great deal of passion as well as compassion. The two have different perspectives but ultimately the same desire to see the hearts of mafioso, drug lords, Communist rebels, native Americans in remote mountain valleys, and government leaders turned to God and away from the superstitions of vile popery and their own native spiritist traditions that involve shamanistic activities. A great deal of the discussion also hinges on the ability of the Stendals and others like them in forming friendships with a wide variety of different people on all sides of Colombia’s brutal and longrunning civil war.
The title of the book is a bit of a puzzle. In many ways, many of the people involved in the book, including the authors themselves, have what could be termed hidden agendas. The authors are hoping that their efforts, their books, and even a movie (La Montaña, which I had never heard of before and which they speak about often in these pages) will lead to a spiritual revival in Colombia. The FARC has a genuine desire to seek the greater prosperity and influence of the commonfolk, despite their misguided ideology as well as their counterproductive use of kidnapping. The Colombian government, Cubans, Americans, and paramilitaries, as well as the powerful Roman Catholic Church all have a wide variety of hidden agendas as well. Perhaps the most intriguing hidden agenda, though, and one that is described largely implicitly, is the agenda of God as worked out through divine providence in the lives of believers (and unbelievers) and through the events discussed in this book.
This book is the third volume (so far) in the “Rescue The Captors” series, and it discusses in a very chatty and intimate way the experiences of a family of missionaries who live a life of great danger that involves sabotaged planes, balky horses and mules, demon possession, the risk of kidnapping and brutal murder, political intrigue, and even more mundane concerns like the unprofitable nature of coffee farming for small family farms in Colombia. With its concerns ranging from the joy of family and friends to geopolitical concerns and the state of medical care in Cuba, Colombia, and the United States (Cuba fares poorly in the comparison). The book is full of miraculous healings as well as a tone that resembles something my own dinner companions would hear over the course of many hours of regaling tales of great interest as well as God’s involvement. If you are a reader who likes to read about missionary work conducted with savvy and diplomacy and a great deal of graciousness towards those who have been enemies conducted in a friendly and conversational and very enthusiastic tone, this book will give a lot of material for prayer and also much to celebrate in God’s mercy even to the unbelievers who nonetheless have an openness to God’s ways. For those who strive to follow the plain speaking of the Bible, there is even more to appreciate. Thy Kingdom come!