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Colombian Rebels Invited to Come Home

NPR's radio show "This American Life" ran an interesting segment about a marketing executive from Colombia named Jose Miguel Sokoloff. The government of Columbia approached Jose with an interesting assignment: run a marketing campaign that will convince leftist guerrilla rebels to demobilize and reenter society. At first Jose's firm ran a series of radio ad campaigns that featured testimonials from former rebels. But actors actually read the testimonials so that plan didn't work.

Then in 2010 Mr. Sokoloff tried a different approach—an ad campaign called "Operation Christmas." At nine strategic places in the jungle where the rebels traversed, they strung hundreds of Christmas lights on 75-foot tall trees. When the rebels walked by a motion sensor set off the lights and a recorded message that said, "If Christmas can come to the jungle, you can come home." That campaign helped demobilize 331 rebels.

The next year they ran a similar campaign titled "Operation Rivers of Light." The firm filled over 7,000 translucent plastic balls with small gifts and heartwarming notes inviting the rebels to come home. As the rebels travelled by river, this time they saw the balls, lit up and floating on the river, coming towards them. They couldn't resist; they opened the balls and received the gifts and read the notes. Beauty was the key to this campaign. Sokoloff said, "When you see all these lights floating down the river, slowly floating down towards you, you can't escape the thought of, this is a beautiful thing … [you're] drawn to it."

Then in 2012 the ad agency ran "Operation Bethlehem." They shone huge skylights up into the night air and ran the following message: "This Christmas follow the light that will guide you to your family and your freedom."

Possible Preaching Angles: Grace; God, love of; Gospel—What a beautiful but incomplete picture of God's grace. You're out in the jungle, a rebel from God's presence, and you expect—no, you deserve—law. You expect to be left alone in your rebellion. Instead, you get an invitation: come home. Drop your arms, leave the jungle, and walk to your father's house. That is grace. That is the gospel.

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