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The mainstream media labeled Bethel Church member Cameron Gamble "shady," but the hostage negotiator is anything but, according to those who know him best.
"I love Cameron ...He is a good friend and a really smart guy!" Exodus Cry Founder Benji Nolot tells Charisma News. "I really can't speak for anything he has or hasn't done. I just don't know any of those details on any kind of professional level. I just think he's an awesome guy."
Gamble, who previously worked with Exodus Cry and attends Bethel Church in Redding, California, first made his appearance in the Sherri Papini case in a YouTube video.
"My name is Cameron Gamble, and I'm an international kidnap and ransom consultant," Gamble said in the video. "I've been retained by an individual who wishes to remain anonymous, an individual who has come forward to offer a cash reward for a ransom for Sherri Papini's safe return to her family."
Gamble is part of Project TAKEN, which describes itself as "an elite group of individuals that have acquired a certain set of specialized skills during our military careers that allows us to not only train and equip but travel to some of the most hostile places throughout the world to help you fully engage the threats that prevent your mission from being successful. We are dedicated to teaching you how to assess your options before, during and after the 'worst-case scenarios' so that you can continue to do what you have been called to."
Sherri was allegedly abducted Nov. 2, disappeared for 22 days, then reappeared on the side of the road early Thanksgiving morning.
Her husband, Keith Papini, worked through both conventional and unconventional methods, including talking with Gamble.
"For me, I was going to do everything I could to get my wife back, and if this was going to work, I was going to try it," Keith said of Gamble.
The day before Sherri reappeared, Gamble took the ransom off the table, according to ABC.
"I wanted to make it so tempting that the abductor's own mother would have turned him in," Gamble said.
While Gamble could easily be praised as a hero, some, like The Daily Beast, question his involvement.
"The only thing almost as mysterious as Sherri Papini's disappearance was the hostage negotiator supposedly retained by an anonymous donor to find her," Daily Beast reporters wrote.
The reporters question Project TAKEN, and the organization's "supernatural approach." But those who know Gamble best say he's a man of God.
"Some have asked about Cameron Gamble's involvement with the Papinis and his connection to Bethel. Cameron, his wife and five children are a wonderful family and valued church members in good standing with our church and community. The Gambles have served voluntarily and professionally in various capacities for all the years they have attended Bethel Church," Bethel church said in a statement.
After Sherri returned home and Gamble's name began to surface, Project TAKEN posted several messages on Facebook about its founder.
"Over the past 6 years, this program ... has been offered free of charge. Cameron has had the privilege to train over 8,000 people from all of the world; non-profits, humanitarian groups, anti-human trafficking organizations, NGOs, schools and missionaries from a wide variety of denominations," one post reads.
"Cameron has traveled around the country to assist and train these groups. He has traveled and has provided his expertise and training world wide, traveling to the UK, Africa, Mexico and Honduras. Assisting in kidnap and ransom, hostage negotiation, extraction [and] resolution at 100 percent success rate. Cameron also has helped with on-the-ground training to help rescue girls from human trafficking, and globally led clandestine teams against drug cartel and Mafia-run organizations to help thwart the multi-billion dollar sex-trafficking industry."
Jessilyn Justice is the director of online news for Charisma. Born and raised in a pastor's family in Alabama, she attended Lee University and the Washington Journalism Center. She's passionate about sharing God's goodness through storytelling. Tell her what you think of this story on Twitter @jessilynjustice.
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