In my last blog entry I wrote the amazing story of Pastor Martin Nuñez and his experience as an inmate, becoming a child of God, and his ministries after his release. Pastor Nuñez started a group of men and women that are ex-prisoners, who are on fire for Jesus, and want to preach to and reach the lost in prisons. They call themselves EXPRISIONEROS TRANSFORMADOS, or TRANSFORMED EX-PRISONERS. There are many of them in the group but generally 10 to 15 travel together to the prisons in various States. It is with this group of men and women that I have been visiting the prisons. When we travel far from Juarez we're at the mercy of others for our room and board. In the past I've slept on the floor under a bed that someone else was occupying while staring at roaches going past me and hoping that a scorpion would not show up. We've eaten freezer-damaged food and shared restrooms and showers that most people would not dare to use. A motel bill is definitely out of the question. Being with this team is a very unique, interesting, fun, and sometimes odd experience since I am the only one in this "motley crew" who has never experienced life in prison. But they are a precious bunch who will forever be unconditionally thankful for Jesus and where He has brought them from; and they are not ashamed of His holy name. All of them have come from a background of drugs and alcohol. Most of them have committed murder. One of them was able to escape from prison several times, an incredible feat. Two of them (a married couple since before their prison life) lived by robbing people in the streets of the city. The wife was the one who handled the knife. They would make their victims get inside a dark alley and then they would take their money. But always, even after they had the money, the wife would sink the knife into the victim. Her husband would always plead with her not to do that since they already had the money, but his wife's hatred and anger could not let them go without a knife wound. She testifies that she enjoyed doing it. And today they are part of this group of ex-prisoners who they enjoy sharing the gospel so much with prisoners that they wish that they still lived in prison. Each one of the members of this group has a jaw-dropping testimony about the liberating power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The prisoners can identify with them a whole lot more than if it was a group of people who had never been down the same road that they have traveled. Therefore we always get all of the prisoners' undivided attention. Normally when we minister each member of the team takes about 10 minutes to share their personal story with the prisoners. My part is to close with a short Bible teaching and give the invitation to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. And the results have always been amazing.
Cuautemoc, Mexico is a city about 5 to 6 hours from Juarez. It is much different than Juarez in that it is not in the desert. Cuautemoc has fertile soil and it is famous for its apple orchards. Commerce is alive and well in this city, but it faces the same problems of crime and drugs as any other city in Mexico. Our trip there was only for two days, and due to extremely bad roads we arrived in Cuautemoc just in time to head straight to the prison. Of course, when we arrived they came up with excuses as to why we could not come in but persistence paid off. An hour later (at 3 pm on a Thursday) our team of about 15 people was setting up next to the basketball court under the hot sun. The health kits that we brought with soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, deodorant and other items had to be left at the front desk. The prisoners began to gather but most stayed away from the benches that the guards allowed us to move to the middle of the court. I had time to speak to several of the inmates and asked them about a popular boxing match that was coming up soon. That broke down some walls and brought some laughter and differences of opinions about the boxing event. There was a building next to us and as I glanced up each window had men looking down through the iron bars.
Other men came to listen but they stayed far from us. We sang some worship music and then the testimonies started...which caused some men to listen up intently and some even got closer. The warden also came to listen along with some guards. We were given only two hours but by the time my turn came up a man walked up to me and said that our time was up. I couldn't believe that after all that was said that and done I couldn't close with so much as a prayer. But mercy came and I was given 8 more minutes. I whispered a quick prayer for the Holy Spirit to help me wrap everything up in 8 minutes. I had to hurry. I shared a Bible verse and gave the invitational. One man jumped up and practically ran up to me, then others followed. Within 15 seconds we were mobbed by about 70 to 80 men who came to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. It was an incredible sight. I turned the service over to Pastor Nuñez so that he could lead them in a prayer. This prison does not have a church building but it has a pastor, who is one of the inmates. He was a wonderful and meek young man in his mid-thirties. He told us that in 15 years of groups coming to speak at that prison that no one had ever accepted Jesus after the service. It was a very special experience, one that I will never forget.
After getting a bite to eat we went to a tent meeting in town and Pastor Nuñez preached and shared his testimony. Most people attending were believers but they were all blessed. That night the women stayed with the couple that was hosting us. Their house was very tiny so they slept on the floor. The men slept at a re-hab center. At 5am the next day I was still wide awake because one of the men at the center, handcuffed to his bed, was going through severe withdrawals and he screamed most of the night. The rest of the team slept quite well because they are all very used to sleepin. In the morning we ministered to these men and left to join the women for breakfast.
Then we headed out to our next project which was a re-hab center for people of all ages and both genders. The youngest one there was a 9 year old boy and more than half the people looked to be teenagers. This was not a Christian ministry, but something a bit similar to Alcoholic Anonymous. We ministered the same way that we did in prison the day before. The lady in charge of the center that particular day was standing up listening to all the different life-changing stories and she finally broke down in tears. When the time for me to share came up I was given all the time that I needed but I was done within 15 minutes. Once the invitational was given we had over 40 come to give their lives to the Lord. Once the area began to fill up with kids and adults I just had to quietly step back and enjoy the scene for a few minutes. The team was busy praying for individuals, some were hugging, some counseling, and many were shedding tears of peace and joy. The lady in charge of the center on that day was right in the middle of it all. I was taking time to thank the Lord for the power of the gospel and the power Holy Spirit not only to transform lives in such an amazing way, but to use those whose lives have been transformed to be used to transform the lives of others. This is what being a believer is about...not only being transformed but being a transformer for Jesus. It was another great and unforgettable experience. We were then ready to get something to eat and return to Juarez on that same day. All in the joy of the Lord.
Our next trip outside of Juarez might be in the sierras of our State of Chihuahua where the native Indian people living there are being forced by the drug cartels to tend their fields of marijuana. Who wouldn't want to go there?
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17
|A HOMELESS MAN, JOSE, VISITS THE TENT MEETING|
Many thanks to those who continue to bless the work in Juarez financially and with their prayers. The more support we have, the more we can do. We continue to help feeding centers with food and other ministries in Juarez in any way that we can. The gospel message is primary in this ministry. Anyone wishing to help may contact me at the numbers below. And please send in your comments and opinions to me. I have a lot of people in Russia who read this blog and I would especially love to hear from you. There are days that I have more readers from Russia than the U.S.
Blessings to all.
12397 Chamberlain Drive
El Paso, Texas 79928
P.S. Click on the pictures to enlarge and for a list of past blog posts go to miraclesinjuarez.blogspot.com.