- Religion and Philosophy
28. Prison Ministry, from the Inside
Prison Ministry, from the Inside
Prison Ministry, from the Inside is the continuation in a series of hubs in which I discuss my life of rebellion, dabbling in the Occult, drugs, crime and prison to life-changing conversion through Jesus Christ. Click here to read it from the beginning. In this hub, I will discuss my outreach efforts in prison.
Fulfilling the Great Commission, in Prison
As I mentioned in previous hubs, after becoming a Christian in prison I was faced with some challenges. Not only in terms of mixed opinions about Christians by other prisoners, but also in terms of how to minister to my fellow inmates.
Right after my baptism, I was impressed that I needed to reach out to other prisoners with the present truth of the Three Angels’ Messages of Revelation 14. I did what I could at first. I handed out Bible literature: Bible study guides, tracts and books. I got some real encouragement at the onset of my ministry after a Pentecostal friend of mine, who I gave some books to two weeks prior, stopped me and said, “Hey! Those books tell the truth!” His name was Roy. Roy and I became good friends after that.
Roy attended Adventist worship with me at times; and in the process of all of this, his mother became a Seventh-day Adventist! It was not even related to what we were doing together in prison. Her local Adventist pastor visited her during a church outreach and offered to study the Bible with her, and she accepted his offer. From then on, she attended the Adventist Church.
Carlos was another inmate I ministered to. I gave Carlos a copy of The Great Controversy, by E.G. White. He threw it into some corner of his locker, seemingly forgetting about it. Two years went by. During that time, he was attending some Apostolic services; but he had some misgivings about them. He noticed some contradictions between that faith and the Bible. He started praying that God would lead him in the right direction.
He was a couple weeks short of his release, so he started cleaning out his locker. There, in some dark, forsaken corner, seemingly long forgotten, he saw the book I shared with him two years back: The Great Controversy. He started reading it and discovered truths that his soul was longing for. He stopped me one day and thanked me for sharing that book with him; and he told me that he would be attending an Adventist church after his release and deportation to Mexico.
The Devil’s Fury
Not everyone was happy with my book sharing ministry. At times, I found some of the books that I had been sharing with slander written in them, with language so profane that it was evident that it was of demonic origin. Also, once, after arriving to my bunk bed, I noticed that someone had ripped up a couple of booklets that I had been handing out and left them on my bed. That’s what happens when you decide to work for God—the devil gets angry.
Besides sharing literature with other inmates, I studied the Bible with them as well. I think this is a very effective way of leading others to Jesus while learning more about the Bible, yourself. It was by far the most rewarding method of witnessing that I undertook. I got my start after watching a seminar entitled, Winsome Witnessing, by Gary Gibbs. That was an excellent seminar with short, easy to understand segments that gave me just the knowledge and resources I needed to start effectively studying the Bible with others .
This was not only a blessing to those I studied with, but a blessing to me too; because I often had to answer students’ questions, which led me into a deeper study of the Bible. In other words, in teaching others about the Bible, I learned more about it, myself.
I had an interesting experience in studying with a guy named Anthony. He not only was studying with me, but he was studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses as well. After some time, he ended up getting baptized in the Adventist Church. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were not happy with me, to say the least. One of them accused me of leading Anthony to condemnation and actually wanted to fight me!
I don't understand why people get so upset over these things. There have been Bible students that I have lost to other churches and religions, but I didn't get mad about it. People have the free will to do whatever they want, and that needs to be respected. Granted, I think that my religion is the right one; because I think it makes more biblical sense than any other religion that I am aware of. But at the same time, just because someone doesn't become a Seventh-day Adventist doesn't mean that they're not going to be saved.
It's not religion that saves, it's Jesus; and God judges people according to their hearts. I believe there will be many people from a variety of beliefs in Heaven. With that being said, though; I do believe it is important to choose the most biblical church you could find. The reason being is that the doctrines of your church will affect your character and life. If those doctrines lead you to violate the Word of God (which many do), that is a very dangerous thing; and it can even lead you to become lost.
The Power of Persuasion
One Bible student that I began having trouble with was named Don. Our studies were going great. He was receptive to everything we were learning together, even the Sabbath. He saw clearly from the Bible that Saturday is the Sabbath of the Lord and even personally attested to that fact.
One of Don’s good friends was a prominent Christian on the prison compound who was opposed to Adventist beliefs. He was in the hole while Don and I were studying the Bible. It really wasn't by any fault of his own. He ended up going to the hole for not being able to give a urine analysis when called to do so. I knew that would be the only window of opportunity I would get to study the Bible with Don, without his friend filling his ear with negativity about Adventism; so I quickly jumped on the opportunity and convinced Don to begin studies with me.
Nonetheless, Don’s fried was eventually released from the hole. He found out that Don and I were studying the Bible together. I don’t know what he said to Don; but Don immediately cancelled our Bible studies and retracted his statement about Saturday being the Sabbath of the Bible. Afterwards, it seemed like Don hardly even wanted to talk to me about the Bible. It was disheartening.
Sharing my faith was an awesome experience. I learned how to minister to others, teach them about the Bible and lead them to Christ. However, compared to the amount of effort I put into my labor, my results were minimal. That is something I learned to get used to. It is not how many people you convert that counts, anyway. What matters most is that you get the message out to as many people as possible. After all, the Holy Spirit is the one who is responsible for converting people. It is our job to share the good news.
My time is federal prison was winding down. I was nearing the completion of my nine year sentence (eight years with good time). I had been contacted by ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) to face deportation to Poland. I was not a United States citizen when I caught my case; and since my charges were felony drug and gun crimes, I was deportable. I’ll write more about that in my next hub. Clink on the link below to read it.