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An incredible story of 15 hostages who were suddenly released from six years of captivity.

On July 4th, 2008, a daring and ingenious rescue operation was successfully carried out in the jungles of Colombia without a shot being fired.

Oh, my God! Thank you so much, God! Thank you so much.

The story began in February 2002 with Colombian presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt, campaigning in a guerrilla-infested (not the animal variety) part of her country. Suddenly, her entourage was attacked by Marxist rebels and she was kidnapped.

Thus began six long years of captivity during which she (and other captives) were marched up to 15 miles through the jungle by day and chained to trees by night. In this way, the rebels avoided capture by government forces. At one point, Betancourt became seriously ill but recovered. She became one of about 700 hostages kidnapped by the Marxists in their 40-year campaign of terror against the government.

The rescue attempt culminated months of planning that began when a disgruntled member of the rebel leadership secretly defected to the government side. He then convinced his “comrades” to move their high profile captive (and 14 other hostages) to a rendezvous point in the jungle where they would be supposedly taken by helicopter to another rebel leader.

Inside the helicopter (painted white to indicate a non-governmental agency), however, were air force crew disguised as civilians and military intelligence agents. They had all been given acting lessons as part of their training and some were wearing “Che” Guevara T-shirts. The armed rebels transferred the hostages and watched the helicopter take off.

Once airborne, the rescuers quickly overpowered the two rebels who had accompanied the prisoners. They were disarmed and tied up while the 15 incredulous hostages suddenly realized they were free and being flown to the capital city of Bogota. Betancourt’s first words of freedom were a prayer -- “Oh, my God! Thank you so much, God! Thank you so much!” Thus ended her 2,321 gruelling days of captivity.

Several months before this daring operation, my wife and I had the privilege of meeting a relative of Mrs. Betancourt who was studying at Laurentian University. That connection made her eventual rescue even more meaningful to us.

This incredible true story reminds me of another even greater “rescue” that took place two thousand years ago.   In the inspired words of the apostle Paul: "For He (God) has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:13-14).

As wonderful as Betancourt’s rescue was, this divine rescue is even greater. At the cross, Satan believed he was winning a huge victory over Jesus. However, the opposite was true. God’s Son was defeating sin that day by laying down His life for us all. Three days later, Jesus defeated death by rising again never to die again.   

What is your reaction to the greatest “rescue operation” in human history? May you be able to say from your heart the same words as Ingrid Betancourt – “Oh, my God! Thank you so much, God! Thank you so much!”

Pastor Rob Weatherby serves the Bethel Baptist Church family in Whitefish, Ontario.

Originally published in the Sudbury Star, July 31, 2010.

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