Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1999, 230 pages.
The book tells of the ordeal of Ray Rising, who served as a missionary to Colombia with Wycliffe Bible Translators/Summer Institute of Linguistics, stationed at the facility at Lomalinda. On March 21, 1994, he was kidnapped by Colombian guerrillas associated with FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). Ray’s function with WBT and SIL involved his electronics background, as he worked to install telephone communication links between Bogota and Lomalinda. His crime in the eyes of the guerrillas was simply that he was part of Lomalinda, which they saw as “nothing more than an American base with nice homes, running water, and electricity—an oasis of capitalist wealth in their midst” (page 24). During his time in Lomalinda, Ray had built many close relationships with ordinary Colombians, and had especially reached out to the poorest and most needy in the immediate and surrounding vicinities. He befriended boys and girls of all ages, “sometimes becoming a father to the fatherless” (page 24), and lending both emotional and even financial support when needed. But to the guerrillas, he became a target to help them somehow accomplish their political and social purposes.
The book is of particular interest to my church (Community Bible Chapel, Richardson, TX) due to our involvement with Wycliffe and SIL, especially through Herb and Grace Fuqua of our body who were with Wycliffe in Colombia at the very time this kidnapping occurred. So our body was kept informed of Ray’s situation, with periodic reminders to pray for him all during the time of his captivity. And a long time of captivity it was until his release in June 1996---810 days. Ray spent that time in the jungle, as he was kept on the move from one temporary camp to another, with several exchanges of the men and women serving as his captors. As notes on the bookcover state:
Guerrilla Hostage is the triumphant story of one man’s faith, a family’s hope, and God’s never-ending love. Ray Rising never gave in to despair, fear, and loneliness during his 810 days in captivity. Instead, this missionary grew closer to his Lord. He boldly established relationships and shared his faith with the Colombian guerrillas who held him hostage. If you love a gripping story, experience for yourself the shadowy jungles, the overwhelming obstacles, and the ultimate triumphs of Rising’s ordeal, and with him learn how to live a life of integrity despite harsh and frightening circumstances.
But don’t think that means that Ray never experienced any dark nights. At times he had trouble with his nerves, found himself breaking into periods of weeping, and even feared a breakdown. Yes, he was mortal. But the point is that he persevered through the worst of times, and remained faithful. On one occasion, a girl was offered to him, and although he had felt the urges of temptation, he summoned up the resolve to refuse that offer.
And Ray remained cognizant of God’s presence. He was always quick to see God’s hand not only in the largest, but also the smallest, of mercies. One particularly memorable moment occurred on Christmas Eve. Normally, he was not allowed to listen to the radio. However, through some unusual circumstances, on that occasion he found himself within listening range of a radio broadcast and to his shock realized that the voice on the radio was that of his wife in an interview concerning Ray’s capture. He was stunned:
How great a God he served , that he would allow Ray to hear his wife’s voice on Christmas Eve. His prayers had not bounced off the walls of heaven, as he had so often felt. God had heard them, every one, and had expressed his love and compassion in a way that let Ray know God had not forgotten him. The rest of Christmas Eve and all of Christmas Day, Ray’s spirits soared. For months, Jorge (one of his Colombian captors) had railed at him about his wife forgetting he existed and finding another man, and although Ray didn’t believe him, he was elated to hear Doris express her love for him (page 113).
And not only did God show his love to his faithful servant, but Ray showed his (and God’s) love toward his captors, as he was constantly witnessing at every opportunity, and showed true concern for their souls.
In June 1996, Ray was unexpectedly released by his captors, after 810 days in captivity. And so ends a marvelous story of one man’s faithfulness in the midst of severe tribulation, and of the greatness of the God he served.