Setting Jailed Hearts Free in Ecuador
August 03, 2012
Deep within Ecuador’s prison system, thousands of people live in physical and spiritual darkness. Unlike their counterparts in the United States, Ecuadorean prisoners are crammed into tiny and unsanitary prison cells. Most prisons serve as havens for the thriving underground drug trade of Ecuador and violence is commonplace. Overcrowding is a constant problem and the meager rations provided to prisoners must be supplemented by nearby friends and family to avoid malnutrition and disease.
Prison Outreach of Ecuador (POE) boldly steps into this darkness and goes behind bars to minister to these lost souls and to the loving family members who visit them.
One such lost soul being reached is Francisco. Francisco’s father was a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) until he decided to quit the group and flee to another country. FARC members located the family and murdered Francisco’s father in front of him. This event filled his heart with hatred and a desire for revenge and he soon gravitated to a life as a drug-dealer and hitman. Eventually he was arrested and sent to a maximum security prison in Quito where POE leader Angel Aguirre shared the gospel with him. Francisco has told Angel that he has seen the positive changes in the lives of other prisoners who were involved with POE’s Bible courses, and requested one so he could find out more about God.
Baptism in Quito prison yard
Recently, POE was able to start a Bible study program in a prison located in Quito. There, 23 prisoners and three prison staff are studying courses such as "The Life of Jesus," based on the Gospel of John. The local prison authorities have noticed that prisoners who take Bible courses become a good example to other prisoners and help to reduce violence. POE also teaches the Bible to many of the children visiting their fathers in prison.
Ramon Sabando is another inmate in an Ecuadorean prison. “I was put in jail for drug trafficking and consumption,” explains Ramon. "I used to be a man full of hatred and sadness. While in prison I lost the love of my family, daughter and wife. When I was in jail I heard a missionary talking on the prison patio about the new life in Jesus and His love for human kind. Afterward I stayed and asked some questions, and he gave me a Bible. I took the Bible to my cell room and started reading it. Then I came to understand that God loves me and cares about me. The next time when I saw the national missionary, I said that I want to know more about his God, and he explained to me the salvation plan. I dedicated my life to Jesus. Since then my life has been changed, and now I know that He is with me. My family has seen the change in my life and some are coming to visit me. Even though I am still inside the prison, I feel that I am free. I found peace in Jesus and I want to serve Him."
During the month of December, POE performs a special Christmas outreach among the children of the prisoners. Last year they were able to provide them with a good meal and some presents. Afterwards, they shared the gospel message with the children, and their parents and other adults present.
One of the children reached through this program is Pablo Guaman. He is a child who out of curiosity one day joined the Bible class. There he heard about the love of Jesus. Pablo was a very shy and sad boy, but now every time he attends the children’s Bible studies inside the jail, he is very enthusiastic, and he memorizes Bible passages with passion. Pablo brought his father and mother to the children’s gathering, and now his father has received Jesus as Savior, and is being discipled inside the jail. Pablo prays that his father will continue with Jesus and will soon be freed, so they can live together as a family.
During this outreach, the ministry was also able to distribute discipleship materials and presents to fellow believers in prison. POE is hopeful that this Christmas they will be able to do even more outreach to Ecuador’s prison population and their families.