​Evangelism and Discipleship Within Prison Walls

July 17 2018

What do you do when nothing is working?

Ronnie, an Every Community for Christ (ECC) worker in the Philippines, faced such a question. Ronnie has a very pleasing and likable personality, but he also has a profound hearing loss. Unable to afford a good set of hearing aids, Ronnie struggled with making contacts, evangelizing, discipling, and planting new churches. He tried everything, but nothing was working.

That is … until the Christmas season came.

The mayor of Ronnie’s community approached him and asked Ronnie if he would make the Christmas star that would represent the community in the contest among the communities in their area. Ronnie agreed, but the project was bigger than he could handle. So, he enlisted help from the police department, who got the prisoners in their local jails involved.

Christmas passed. The star represented the community well, but Ronnie was not finished with his contacts with the prisoners. He started visiting the local jail. He began Bible studies within the cells. He sought out resources the prisoners needed like food, fans, checkerboards, and more. The prisoners accepted him. Prayer support grew. Prisoners entered a relationship with Christ. They got baptized. Ronnie began to reach out to other prisons, and to the families of prisoners. Ronnie had found his niche in ministry.

Today, Ronnie ministers within 10 different provincial jails in the Philippines. He has baptized over 150 prisoners. He sees an average attendance of 372 prisoners in worshiping groups or “cell churches” in the prisons. Ronnie is seeing lives transformed. He is equipping leaders who can assist in the ministry and start house churches when they are discharged into the community again.

Ronnie now has a partner in the ministry. He met a man named Jaimie in the prison. He helped Jaimie enter a relationship with Christ and discipled him. Jaimie was serving a life sentence for using and selling narcotics (and related crimes). Through a turn of events demonstrating God’s intervention, Jaime was released and is now committed to doing all he can to go back into the prisons with the Gospel. He wants to disciple those who make decisions for Christ.

Feeling like nothing is working for you? Persevere like Ronnie. God may have a wonderful role in ministry for you to step into, just like Ronnie, to help others hear, understand, and respond to the Gospel.

Tags: prison ministry, evangelism, discipleship, philippines,

​Beyond the Bars: The Light Inside Bellavista Prison

June 30 2016

Last week’s story of transformation inside Bellavista prison continues as Bridge to Reading (B2R), One Mission Society’s literacy ministry, steps in to hold literacy training sessions and to share the Gospel with the prisoners.

Bellavista men’s prison in Medellin, Colombia, today remains a place of intense contrasts. It’s simultaneously an oppressive labyrinth of concrete and iron, as well as the home of people who exhibit warmth and dignity. The security staff is no-nonsense, and those automatic weapons hanging off their shoulders and belts… well, they aren’t just for show.

But every stereotype you have about prisoners has to be reevaluated when you discover that the men are genuinely friendly and respectful. Conversation is intelligent and engaging, just as you would find among a non-prison population. Need the room rearranged? Having trouble with the computer? They jump right in to help.

Similarly, the staff who is working in the office of educational programs has a genuine love for the men that they affectionately refer to as “los muchachos,” which is best translated as “the fellas” or “the guys” rather than the literal “boys.”

Through the Bridge to Reading ministry, we got a chance to show the compassion of Jesus to a wide range of people, whether they were dealing with the physical bars or the bars or barriers they had on their insides. We connected with them as people, not as prisoners, and interacted with them just as Jesus did. He always treated those with the least status – the most abandoned, the least valued – as people of worth, so we tried to do the same. We listened carefully to their comments and acknowledged their contributions to the class; we cheered when they took a chance and demonstrated a new skill in front of the group. They learned that we were willing to laugh along with them, and at ourselves too.

Every day, we provided special snacks and soda for the men during our breaks, a real treat for them. During these breaks, our team had many opportunities to build relationships with them. Our literacy supervisor, Pastor Diego Gil, is a gifted evangelist and member of the outreach ministry, Prison Fellowship. God provided an opportunity for him to have meaningful conversations about salvation with a number of the men. Participants who didn’t know the Lord got to know those who did.

This rapport laid the foundation for the highlight of the workshop: a time of prayer for individuals after the training concluded. The men were allowed to leave if they wanted to, but almost everyone stayed. About half eagerly got in one of our prayer lines right away, while the other half cautiously observed for a while. When they saw that it was “safe,” they would quietly get in line. We prayed for their families, who are struggling without them, for healing, for provision, for an end to loneliness, for courage, for transformation. One man in Nathan’s line said, “I’m far from God.” Nathan talked to him about the Gospel, and the man received salvation in Jesus on the spot.

We believe that these were just the first fruits of what the Lord did through the B2R workshop in Bellavista prison. The ground has been prepared and the seeds have been planted for more fruit to come.

By Wendy McDermott, Bridge to Reading editor and coordinator for Latin America

We invite you to join the B2R team by praying with us:

  • That the man who received salvation will grow in his relationship with God.
  • That the men who are believers will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses through everything that they do and are.
  • That the Lord would reveal himself to many more in the prison and that the men would experience inner freedom in the Lord.
  • That volunteers from Prison Fellowship, local churches, and other ministries will continue to have an open door at every prison, and that God will reveal himself through undeniable evidence of his power and love through them.
  • That Bridge to Reading would blossom and spread throughout the prison and be used to open up many doors for people to hear about God’s love and forgiveness for them.
  • That the prison staff would have opportunities to encounter God through the volunteers and the believers inside the prison.
  • That our trainers would have opportunities to teach the Colombian church how to use Bridge to Reading as a tool of evangelism in their communities.
  • That the believers would move in signs and wonders and live in such a way that the name of Jesus will be made known in the prison, the government, and in the nation of Colombia.

Visit the Bridge to Reading website to learn more at http://bridge2reading.org/. To give to the ministry, click here.

We hope you have enjoyed this month of reading about, praying for, and learning more of the Bridge to Reading literacy ministry.

Tags: prison ministry, bridge to reading, literacy, colombia, men, prisoners, teaching, reading,

Prison Metamorphosis

February 17 2016

Edgar Delgado grew up in a Christian home and attended church regularly with his family as a child in Colombia. But as he grew older, he made some bad decisions and chose to take the wrong path—a path that eventually led to his arrest and incarceration.

But God was not done with Edgar.

Through the incarceration process, Edgar reconnected with his childhood pastor, who was now a criminal defense lawyer. Edgar turned his life over to God.

While imprisoned, Edgar entered the prison training institute that Prison Fellowship of Antioquia operates in Bellavista prison. There, he found teachers who cared about him and listened to him. Over time, Edgar finished all three levels of the course, which focuses on personal growth, Old and New Testaments, and Christian ministry. His study of the Word enriched him. Through this study and his relationships with other Christian prisoners and volunteer staff members, Edgar learned the values of respect and love for everyone.

Edgar was released from prison two months ago and now works as a taxi driver. He attends church faithfully and preaches the Good News day and night as he drives his taxi. Those who hear him often ask him to pray for them. Edgar rejoices that he has the privilege of sharing Jesus.

The prison institutes, operated by OMS partner ministry Prison Fellowship Association of Antioquia, are helping bring dramatic transformation to the lives of prisoners and is equipping them to reach others both inside and outside of prison.

Tags: prison ministry, transformation, prison training institute, colombia,

​Sycamore Tree Restoration Through Prison Ministry

February 10 2016

Crime has a widespread and long-lasting impact on victims, offenders, and the community. One Mission Society partner ministry Prison Fellowship of Colombia promotes healing for those affected by crime through its restorative justice program, Sycamore Tree.

Based on the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who agreed to repay the people he had cheated, this project brings victims into prisons to meet with offenders. Prisoners come to a full understanding of the effects of their crimes and discuss what it would mean to take responsibility for their actions. Victims and their families are also afforded the opportunity to offer forgiveness.

OMS partner, Lacides Hernandez, president of Prison Fellowship of Colombia, tells of one prisoner who recently completed the program. He had been involved in the murder of seven people, whom he secretly buried. However, after participating in Sycamore Tree, he wanted to help bring closure for the families of the seven victims by helping them recover the bodies of their loved ones. He called the authorities, who came to the prison. As a result of his action, the bodies were recovered for the families. This is very important in a country where many people have simply disappeared over the years.

Sycamore Tree emphasizes relationships, accountability, human rights, healing, and transformation. It gives victims a voice, lowers the rate of repeat offenses, and offers a powerful example of the application of biblical principles to social problems.

Painting by James Tissot, late 1800s. (Brooklyn Museum/Wikimedia Commons)

Tags: prison ministry, restoration, murder, colombia, forgiveness,

​From Masterminding a Murder to Christ’s Forgiveness

February 2 2016

For many decades, Colombian prisons were notorious for their violence and hopelessness. But today, by the grace of God, lives are being transformed through the love of Christ and the ministry of faithful believers in those same prisons. Colombian prisons now have become a place of forgiveness, healing, and restoration for hundreds of inmates.

Miriam is one of these. After masterminding the murder of her husband, Miriam was sentenced to prison. She says that for 20 years, her husband abused her, leaving scars all over her body, which to this day still show the evidence of his abuse. Though she sought to put an end to her troubles through his death, her guilt so consumed her that she turned herself in to the authorities.

When she arrived at the prison, she joined one of the cell block prayer groups. She had heard of God, but for the first time she began to truly understand his love. She later signed up for training in the prison Bible school, which deepened her understanding and love for God.

Now, Miriam is living for the Lord. He has done miraculous things in her life. She has received forgiveness from her children for the murder and no longer lives with the burden of guilt.

But the greatest miracle of all, she says, is that she feels completely loved by Jesus Christ.

Follow these blogs and OMS social media to hear more about how prison ministry in Colombia is changing lives...

Tags: prison ministry, colombia, restoration, forgiveness,

Prison Cell Church Explosion

September 8 2015

by Lois Pannabecker

Prisons in Honduras generally have about 400 inmates. In the prisons where ECC partner ministries have a presence, twenty to forty percent of the inmates are worshiping together in literal “cell” churches. Gary and Diane Barefoot are Church Multiplication Facilitators (CMF) in Honduras. They give us this report on their most recent visit.

Gary states, “I am so excited about what God is doing through the group of volunteers and the faithful Christians in Honduras!”

Attempting to get a good grasp on the current growth in this ministry, I asked a Train & Multiply (T&M) trainer, ”What do you think this program will look like a year from now?” At first I got a confused look, so I said, “How many trainers do you now have?” They answered, “Seventeen.” I followed up, “Then how many do you expect to have in a year?”

At first I was met with another blank look, then Nora spoke up, “In three weeks we will have a total of sixty-three trainers because several training classes will be completed.” “Ok, how many will you have in a year,” I responded? It was then that it really dawned on them that this program is about to explode numerically. They replied, “Well, we could probably have over one hundred!” to which I added, “probably closer to two or three hundred!”

Today, with only seventeen trainers, we have about as many groups studying and each of those has 5-7 trainees. Within the four prisons where our ministry is active, there is a total of two to three hundred individuals worshiping Jesus as a result of the Train & Multiply program.

God is in the process of opening all the prisons in the country, twenty-six of them, to our program. Praise God for open doors and encouraging growth!

Tags: honduras, prison ministry, ecc, growth, train and multiply,

All in a Day's Work...changed lives in Bellavista Prison

February 12 2015

As the prayer letter coordinator at the One Mission Society World Headquarters, I have the privilege of reading stories from the various fields where our missionaries serve. Of all the stories though, my favorite are the stories of redemption and transformed lives.

Allow me to share a story from Jeannine Brabon, OMS missionary in Colombia, who shares not only her faith but God’s character and his longing to be in relationship with people. In her most recent prayer letter, Jeannine tells about a visit to Bellavista, a maximum-security prison in Medellín. Here is an excerpt from Jeannine’s letter:

About 100 men were being processed into Bellavista. One group of men called to me and asked me to pray for them. I first invited them to accept Jesus and then prayed over them. Tears flowed down their cheeks as they thanked me. I believe I prayed with about 60 men before we entered our chapel. I alerted the brothers in prison, as they are faithful in following up!

There are incarcerated men in Bellavista who are brothers in the faith, redeemed to God, living out their faith behind bars. In the book The Lord of Bellavista by David Miller, an inmate shares his testimony, and part of his testimony is Jeannine’s visits with him, sharing the Word, as well as her heart. She wants people to know Jesus as she knows him, as Savior and Redeemer. Discipleship is key to transforming a convert into a follower of Jesus. It is one thing to believe the truth, it is another to live it – especially in prison. For the glory of God, the light of salvation shines in Bellavista.

God’s redeeming love (the way to salvation) is the overarching theme of the Bible. My heart soars as I read about people who have responded to God’s gift of salvation. The reason I have chosen a career as a missionary is that I want to be a part of God’s plan of reconciling people onto himself. As believers, we are ministers of reconciliation. For Jeannine, the team of evangelists, and the Christian inmates she works with in Bellavista, it is all in a day’s work. I am inspired to be more like Jeannine. Are you?

Do you want to know more about Jeannine and her ministry in Colombia? Click here. You can give to her ministry from this link too.

If you would like to contribute to the Prison Ministry in Colombia, click here to go to our Express Give page and enter account number #300530 in the space provided.

Read the book: The Lord of Bellavista by David Miller. To purchase click here.

For an inspiring video about Bellavista Prison, click the link here.

We also have a DVD documentary about changed lives in Bellavista called The Untold Stories of Colombia. For your copy, email info@onemissionsociety.org to request. The cost is $10.

By Beth Jordal, OMS Communications

Tags: prison ministry, bellavista, changed lives, transformation,

One Mission Stories "After the Show" -- Randy Spacht

February 18 2014

One Mission Stories "After the Show" -- Randy Spacht



We hope you enjoyed Sunday night's (Feb. 16) One Mission Stories, OMS' radio program, featuring Randy Spacht, OMS executive director of International Ministries.

It's exciting to share the stories of what God is doing around the world of OMS.

Here are our "After the Show" resources to better connect you with things you heard about on the program Sunday night.

If you would like to know more about the prison ministry or Biblical Seminary of Colombia, please contact us at radio@onemissionsociety.org. If you would like to give an easy, one-time gift to either of these ministries, you can do so online. Just type in project #300530 (prison)or #300520 (seminary).

Would you like to participate on a short-term mission trip? We have opportunities of all types to many places.

Finally, the book featured on our "Off the Shelf" segment was Margaret Bonnette's, Yippee in My Soul!: The story of a missionary nurse in the remote mountains of Haiti. You can purchase it in our Amazon web store or by calling Barb Sandoz at OMS at 317.888.3333, ext. 313.

Have fun exploring and please tune in to next week's One Mission Stories to hear from Storly and Kate Michel, serving with Radio 4VEH.

If you have any questions, you can email us at radio@onemissionsociety.org.

If you missed the program, you can listen to it at www.onemissionsociety.org/radio, or click on the subscribe link to subscribe to our iTunes podcast, so you're sure not to miss any of the shows!

 

Tags: be a missionary, become a missionary, church planting, missions in colombia, prison ministry, teach in a seminaryworld missions

There's Just Something About That Name

September 20 2013

There's Just Something About That Name

As I left customs, a young man offered to take my two suitcases, which I was handling just fine. However, I asked him his name, and he said, “Christian!” I told him the meaning and asked if he would like to be like Jesus! "Si, you gave my father, Mario, a Bible once! God transformed him from being an alcoholic." Right there, we prayed together, and Christian began his new life in Jesus. 

My ride pulled up, and I loaded the car, but then I noticed two traffic officers. I greeted them and asked the first one his name. "Javier," he responded with a smile. "Your name means "a new house.” Wouldn't you like a new house in heaven?" I asked.

"Not now," he laughed. I continued, "But wouldn't you like to reserve a new house in heaven right now?" He answered, "Certainly, how do I do that?" … Another precious soul came into the kingdom. His partner was not to be left out. "Arturo? That was my father's name too!" It means "noble hero," I said. Arturo, a seeking heart, asked Jesus to be Savior, Lord, and King of his life." What joy! There is nothing like it.

And one final story about a trip I took into Bellavista, a large prison in Medellin, Colombia, once one of the most violent prisons in the world. I went to find Jeobany. Several of the staff had tried with no luck. A month had gone by since his capture. I found Christian (different from the one mentioned above), a young fellow I had previously led to the Lord, and we went in search of Jeobany, but we had no luck. I waited in the patio as he untiringly called out his name in all the wings. The brothers from the chapel came, and I gave them the things I had for him. I told them Jeobany's story, (he was caught driving a stolen car). They assured me they would take care of him. I left without seeing him. But during my hour and a half waiting in the patio, I saw 31 men accept Jesus as their Savior, including two prison guards. Each received a New Testament.   

Friday, I went back in search of Jeobany. After searching and searching, I felt a hand on my shoulder. An unshaved, wooly Jeobany hugged me. It drew attention in the wing, and I soon was surrounded by inmates. I asked several what their real names were, then told them the meaning. Then, everyone wanted to know his own name's meaning. This is a great way of connecting. They all burst into laughter when I told one fellow, Santiago, what his name meant … engaño, to cheat, deceive. That is how they all got into prison! With a good group of men around me, I shared the Good News and invited them to accept Jesus! A male chorus belted out the sinner's prayer. A priceless moment. Each received a new NT. Then, I told Santiago, "The Truth, now lives in you. You no longer need to live up to your name as you have in the past." I prayed for them, knowing the hardships all of them are going through. The prison is terribly crowded. Jeobany slept in the bathroom his first night. The stairways are packed with bodies at night with no room to walk. Bellavista has almost five times more prisoners than it should…over 7,000, and it was built to house 1,500 men.

"Before the Christians redeemed this place with Jesus' blood, the prisoners chopped up dead bodies and put them into garbage bags. Today, men come out of here transformed to serve the Living God," I told them. 

Then, a number of brothers in the Lord surrounded Jeobany. I asked him if he wanted to come back to Jesus. Humbly, Jeobany asked Jesus to forgive him and to do a new work in him. I prayed for him, then, we hugged. A different look shone in his eyes. Thank you, Jesus, I prayed inwardly, continue the work you began in him when he first asked you into to his life as an eight-year-old in my father's old workshop on the seminary campus. "Jeobany, this is now your family in prison. My brothers want to help you. Seek them out." I left with a full heart, rejoicing in the Spirit's work - a lost sheep was found.

--Jeannine Brabon, OMS missionary, serving in Colombia

Do you want to make a difference in the life of someone. One Mission Society has many opportunities to serve the Lord!

Tags: be a missionary, life changing story, prison ministry, missions in colombia, one mission societyworld missions