Prominent Pastor Kidnapped in Columbia

Tuesday, February 20, 2001

by Deann Alford

AUSTIN, Texas, February 20 (Compass) -- Armed men have captured a prominent Colombian pastor who operates a string of Christian radio stations around Colombia.

Bogota's "El Tiempo" daily newspaper reported that Jorge Enrique Gómez Montealegre, pastor of Bethesda Missionary Center in Bogota, was kidnapped February 14 from his country estate in Apulo some 25 miles southwest of the capital. Gómez operates the evangelical Authentic Radio, which has stations in Bogota, Cali, Medellin, Cartagena and other Colombian cities.

Several bands of common criminals and brigades of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and are active in the area where Gómez was kidnapped, the newspaper reported. Evangelical leaders told Compass they believe criminals snatched Gómez with the intent of selling him to the FARC, who would then demand a ransom.

The crime occurred at 11 a.m. when a dozen men arrived at Gómez' estate and forced Gómez into one of their cars. "Unknown armed men arrived asking for him," his wife Mélida de Gómez told "El Tiempo." "He said, 'I am he,' and they left with him."

Gómez is well known in Colombia because of his radio ministry. He has held open-air campaigns and filled soccer stadiums for peace and prayer rallies.

Missionary María Pérez*, who has known Gómez for years, said that he has a burden to reach guerrillas with the gospel. "He prayed and fasted a lot for the peace of Colombia and that the guerrillas find Jesus Christ in their lives," she said.

Gómez' daughter told "El Tiempo" that she believes her father was kidnapped because God wanted it that way. "He calls things as he sees them," she said. "Whomever has him will have to listen to him because he'll be giving a sermon, even when he's asleep."

*Name changed for security reasons