Pastor Kidnapped Near Medellin

Thursday, May 16, 2002

Church Waits for Demands from Colombian Guerrillas
by Deann Alford

AUSTIN, Texas (Compass) -- Guerrillas manning a roadblock near Medellin kidnapped an associate church pastor as he returned with a group of church members on Sunday, April 28, from an afternoon baptismal service, reported the head of that city's pastoral alliance.

Guerrillas of an unidentified armed group took Juan Carlos Villegas from a roadblock 20 miles from the city, said Pedro Hernandez, head of the Medellin Association of Evangelical Pastors (AMEM) and national director of Christ for the City International (CFCI).

A man who answered the phone at Villegas' church, Family Christian, said the kidnappers have not communicated with the church about their demands. "We know absolutely nothing," said the man, who identified himself only as a leader of the church and declined to give his name "for security reasons."

Hernandez said that Villegas, 32, was traveling with some 50 members of Family Christian Church as the group was coming back from a baptismal service on April 28. The group came upon the roadblock where guerrillas were stopping travelers. The rebels detained the church members but immediately released all but Villegas, Hernandez said.

Guerrillas commonly use the practice, called "miraculous fishing," to choose kidnapping victims by taking captives, checking their backgrounds, keeping those they determine would be valuable hostages and releasing the rest.

Andrew McMillan, pastor of Christian Faith Community Church in Medellin, describes Villegas as "young, wiry and really energetic, a good guy."

"He's a man of vision and prayer, a real fiery young guy," McMillan said. "He is a very visible assistant pastor and a very charismatic personality." Their two churches have joined with other Medellin congregations in prayer vigils.

Hernandez said he knows Villegas through AMEM. Villegas had worked with a CFCI project called New Generation, a program that develops skills of young pastors and church leaders and mobilizes them to share Christ with their peers.

Family Christian Church, located in Bello Antiochia about five miles from Medellin, is an independent congregation of 1,400 members, Hernandez said. Andrés Puerta is the church's pastor.

Copyright 2002, Compass News Direct. Used with Permission.