Ecuador Prisoners Find Freedom in Christ
September 11, 2013
Prison Outreach of Ecuador ministers to hundreds of inmates each year through Biblical training and rehabilitation programs.
Illegal drug trafficking held a certain allure for Frey, an addiction promising its own brand of psychological thrills. He certainly couldn’t complain about the profits that might make him a rich man one day while he was still young enough to enjoy them.
But money wasn’t the only perk. Frey’s line of work was dangerous, exhilarating, a wild and daring game of cat and mouse with the authorities. He knew how to outsmart them. He was the master of the sport.
Or so he thought.
Police arrested the Colombian man when they found narcotics among his belongings during one of his smuggling trips into Ecuador. Suddenly all of Frey’s lofty plans for the future evaporated. The game was over.
“At that moment, I remembered what my mother used to tell me about God when I was a child,” said Frey. “I had refused to follow Him and went my own way. I forgot about God.”
After years of drug dealing, Frey has a new mission in life.
Years of criminal activity left Frey with no one to blame but himself. “I prayed, ‘Okay, God, do with me as you will,’” he said.
Even though Frey had abandoned God time after time to choose his own perilous way, the Lord of heaven did not abandon him.
Frey was sentenced to 12 years of incarceration. One day he heard a visitor from a Christian ministry called Prison Outreach of Ecuador share the gospel with a group of inmates who had gathered for prayer and worship in the jail. Frey talked privately with the man after the meeting. Convicted of his sin, he realized he had broken the hearts of God and his mother. He had disappointed himself, too.
The gospel worker told Frey of the freedom he could experience in Jesus Christ—regardless of his physical location. Not desiring to live in the chains of sin any longer, Frey prayed to accept Christ as his Savior.
He began attending Bible studies and taking correspondence classes. God’s Word came alive for him, and the discipleship training he received emboldened Frey to tell other inmates about his new-found faith. Although his outward circumstances did not change immediately, his heart already had.
Set Free to Serve
Frey’s story is not unique. In fact, the founder of Prison Outreach of Ecuador, Angel Aguirre, was a drug trafficker himself who became a follower of Jesus while serving out an eight-year sentence at a prison in Quito. Released after four years for good behavior, Aguirre returned to his family as a new man and led his wife and children to Christ.
God stirred Aguirre’s heart, and he knew he had to return to prison—this time as an ambassador for the gospel. He visited five prisons and saw how eager the men were to study God’s Word. As his ministry grew, Aguirre recruited several workers to assist in pastoral care and daily Bible studies for the inmates.
Prison Outreach of Ecuador now offers hope through Christ to hundreds of inmates and their families, and many are deciding to commit their lives to Him. There are an estimated 450 active believers in the eight prisons where the ministry serves. During the past year alone, 250 people reportedly received Jesus as Savior.
Through support from Christian Aid Mission donors, the ministry continues to expand its outreach to prisoners and their families. Funds for toiletry supplies have been greatly appreciated, since the government does not have the resources to provide these items for every inmate. Toiletry kits consist of toothpaste, a toothbrush, soap, and toilet paper.
Often neglected the most are the sons and daughters of the inmates. With the bread winner of the family in prison, the children need basic material provisions, such as food, clothing, and shoes. Prison Outreach workers seek to meet these needs through periodic distributions, but most importantly, they want the children to know the love of their Father in heaven.
Every weekend the children are permitted to visit their dads in prison. While there, they learn Bible stories and sing praise music in Sunday school classes led by the gospel workers. The children also attend programs, such as the annual Christmas party, where they receive toys and special treats.
Perhaps the greatest ministry need, however, is for ex-prisoners who suddenly find themselves thrust back into society with all of its challenges and temptations. With a criminal record and limited skills, they experience difficulty obtaining a decent job. Most are not welcomed back by their families.
Prison Outreach started a rehabilitation program for ex-convicts that included vocational training, Bible studies, and counseling. The program flourished until the government withdrew its permission for the ministry to use the public buildings it had been renting.
Aguirre and his team of workers sought the Lord’s help to continue the project. They prayed for resources to build a Bible Training and Rehabilitation Center that would serve former prisoners from all over Ecuador. An answer came when land in Machala in the southwestern part of the country was donated to them.
The ministry plans to construct a facility that initially will include three bedrooms with bathrooms to accommodate 10 male ex-prisoners. A kitchen and dining room area, a chapel, library, study room, and workshop are among the other features. Funds are needed to cover the estimated $35,000 for the building and furnishings.
Bible training will be emphasized in the two-year curriculum, as the men learn trades in carpentry, lockhangeing, and metal work. Upon completion of the program, they will be equipped both to earn an income and to be disciples for Christ wherever they go.
A Second Chance
Sunday school for children of prisoners
Frey is one of the former convicts whose life has been completely transformed by God’s gift of redemption. After serving four years in prison, he was released early due to his exemplary behavior. Frey was blessed to find employment in an office, so now he is able to provide for his family.
Even Frey marvels at the unexpected ways the Lord is using him to reach the hearts of previous and current inmates. He returns to the prison from time to time, teaching some of the same Bible classes that he attended during his incarceration.
Once an aimless and troubled teen, another prisoner named Enrique has a new purpose after he experienced the love of Christ through the ministry of Prison Outreach. For years he lived on the streets, immersed in a culture of gang violence, alcohol abuse, and drugs.
Enrique was arrested and served time for theft. With no one to counsel or assist him, he fell back into the same traps and ended up in jail again. This time, however, a Prison Outreach worker ministered to him, and Enrique eventually gave his life to Christ.
After his release, the young man couldn’t find a steady job, but he wanted to stay clean. Prison Outreach helped him find a small place to live and gave him discipleship training. He moved to the city of Guayaquil, where he serves in his local church.
“Our gospel workers and brethren in prison are very grateful for the help you provide them,” Aguirre said in a recent report to Christian Aid Mission. “There are very few people and no government institutions that provide spiritual and physical assistance such as our ministry can provide due to your faithful and unconditional support. Your prayers and assistance allow our ministry to serve the inmates who find Jesus in prison.”