This is the story of the kidnapping and captivity of Ray Rising, a missionary who served Christ with SIL in Columbia. He was taken by guerrillas and held for over two years. I read most of the book out loud with my wife, usually reading one chapter each night before bed. Don’t worry, it didn’t give us bad dreams, and it probably won’t give you bad dreams either.
This narrative gives us a look into what day-to-day life was like in captivity. Ray endured many hardships and was forced to travel many miles on foot, mostly at night, as the small guerrilla band avoided the Columbian military.
It was interesting to learn of specific guerrillas and how Ray interacted with them. Although we’re introduced to many, there isn’t much character development of the guerrillas. For good reason, Ray’s character is developed the most, and we get to see what he was feeling and struggling with.
Understandably, there are times when Ray succumbs to despair. I mean, after months of sleeping outside, humidity, mosquitoes, frequently being woken from sleep and told to “Run!” because the military had located their group, and enduring guerrillas who antagonized him, who wouldn’t be discouraged? But Christ held Ray fast, and didn’t let him go. Indeed, Christ encouraged Ray through his little Spanish New Testament as he read it faithfully each day.
I will say, the book gets a little repetitive. I get it, there is truly only so much you can do as a captive, you wake up, eat, maybe gather firewood, and help with a few chores (though the guerrillas considered him their captive and normally wouldn’t let him help with much). It rains frequently, because it’s Columbia, so that and the heat stifle many outdoor activities.
The mundane daily cycles are interrupted by an occasional brush with the military, or specific interactions Ray has with the guerrillas. Ray maintains his witness with them, showing them what it looks like to live a Christ-centered life, even in the worst circumstances. He is able to share the gospel with individuals and the whole group on several occasions.
I appreciated the instances when God encouraged Ray directly through Scripture. Ray would be facing a unique challenge, or would be in some particular danger, and God would provide a Scripture to encourage Ray. In those moments, God’s promises were real and tangible to him. This fortified his faith.
I’ve experienced similar tailored encouragement. It’s not often, but God is always faithful to provide it when I need it. The past two months have been especially difficult, and many questions about the future of our ministry have swirled in my head. After much prayer and discussion with several wise believers, I resolved to be patient and wait for some clear direction from the Lord.
God has provided that direction and encouragement in the last 2-3 weeks. I’m grateful for that, as I often take clarity of goals and purpose for granted. Like He did for Ray, God has encouraged me by showing me that He has future work for me to do, and that enduring and remaining faithful through the uncertainty will produce steadfastness. That steadfastness makes us “…perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:4)
I find that reading impacts me more than listening to podcasts, or even watching videos. There is something about words on a page that grip you, change you, and press ideas indelibly into your mind. Make it a habit to read books that will direct you toward the future growth you want to see. If you want to be more dedicated to Christ and the Great Commission, read missionary biographies. If you want to hold this material world a little more loosely, and look ahead to the Kingdom of God, read stories like this one that show us the immense value of enduring suffering on earth for Christ’s sake. It’ll help to redirect your affections where they should be; I know it has mine.
You can read this great narrative about Ray Rising’s captivity here: