04/18/2009: Ministry Behind Bars

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Christ came into the world to “bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of prison to them that are bound.” Isaiah 61:1. The world is full of men and women who are carrying a heavy burden of sorrow, suffering and sin. God sends His children to reveal to them the One who will take away their burdens and give them rest. It is the mission of Christ’s servants to bless, to help and to heal. 

Christ reached the people where they were. He bid us to go and preach the gospel everywhere, even to the darkest place and people who need to hear the last message of mercy. For ten years, God has continually blessed the prison ministry at the Laguna Provincial jail in Santa Cruz, Laguna. Our small church in Lam-ao, Pangil Laguna, together with Brother Rene Nero, a dedicated gospel worker, Sister Warlita Rempillo, myself, and the rest of the church members supporting this ministry, brings blessings, joy, and hope not only to the inmates but also to their families through the grace of God. 

090418_1271In recent years health lectures, Bible studies, Voice of Prophecy lessons, and discipleship seminars have been conducted every Tuesday from 8:30-11:30 in the morning. This work has produced precious fruit, souls that have surrendered their lives to Jesus and accepted Him as their personal Savior through baptism. Some of them have been released. Others have transferred to the National Penitentiary in Muntinglupa, Rizal. There are those who up to now are still in the provincial jail. Several of them who have gladly accepted the truths are now sharing the message and working behind bars. 

Here are the testimonies of the inmate coordinators of the three groups who are assigned to instruct and encourage those who are attending our Bible sessions. They also invite more attendees and look after the welfare of our students, especially those in the household of faith. They inform and assist us with meeting the temporal and spiritual needs of their group.

Commando Group
 
I am Ramil Porlaje and am 42 years old. I was detained in 2004 and was baptized on April 9, 2005. Thanks to God for His abundant mercy and sustaining grace. He guided me for the past years and strengthened my faith despite the hardships and struggles that I had been experiencing through many times of difficulties. Through God’s help, I have found new and great hope, and it completely changed my outlook on life. My faith in Him was renewed and I had gained confidence in His Word and unfailing promises to fight against every adversity. 

As a coordinator, it is my duty to preserve order and to encourage our brethren and fellow inmates to fight the good fight of faith. I am also thanking Lam-ao Seventh-Day Adventist Church and Mission Projects International who support the continued work that God has established here. May God give us the wisdom and strength by the power of the Holy Spirit to perform the work that God has entrusted to us. 

Querna Group
 
I am Gregorio G. Saavedra. I was baptized three years ago on January 6, 2006. I have learned a lot as a Seventh-Day Adventist. Here, inside the prison bars, through the effort of Brother Rene, Brother Joseph, Sister Warlie and other brethren, I came to fully know the Lord, His character, teachings, and above all His unfathomable love to me a great sinner. As a leader of the group, I’m always reminding my members not to be weakened in their faith and to lose hope but to constantly look to Jesus, our only strength and sufficiency at all times. 

Before that, my life was really miserable and I was a slave to sin. Now, I am confident that God has forgiven all the sins that I have committed and I’m continually praying to God to guide me with His Spirit. Praise God for the changes that He has made in my life. Thanks to all the people and to self-denying brothers and sisters that the Lord has been using as instruments for us to see the light shining from the cross in this dark world of sorrow, sin and death.

 Sputnik Group
 
I was baptized on May 2, 2006. My name is Manny Agosto and I am 31 years old. It is a big help for me to be a part of God’s people in these last days. In the past, my life was hopeless, without direction and totally wrecked. But when I began to attend the Bible study group of the Lam-ao Church years ago and started searching for the truth, there was a continual change in my life. My heart was kindled with love, faith, and hope in my newfound Friend and Savior. Though I am in prison, nothing can take away the peace that is within me through constant communion with our Lord Jesus Christ. With all the problems and trials that I am encountering here, I am still happy and hopeful because I know that God has provided every solution and provision to keep me fighting and to help me endure till the end. Now that I have known the truth, I am striving to correct all the faults and mistakes that I had committed in the past. 

I have pledged to God to do my duties and responsibilities as a Christian not only to my group, but to all who need love and care for the glory of my Master and for the advancement of His work. Praise God for His wonderful love! I’m praying that our brethren and sponsors that God is using to preach the special truths for this time will not stop and be weary in ministering to those who are bound not only in prison cells of steel bars but are also in bondage of sins. God bless your ministries! 

Inmates joining together in song during the graduation service.
Inmates joining together in song during the graduation service.

It is quite inspiring to see these people, knowing where they had been before, and watching how they are growing in the faith and also helping others. There are many more encouraging testimonies in our mission behind the bars that testify to the power of God’s Word in human lives. Although they cannot all be written down, we know that in heaven they will be open to us throughout eternity. There are untold stories of souls that are being brought to Christ and have been benefited by this Prison Ministry. Most of us in Lam-ao Church are poor in temporal things but by faith we are relying on God for His provision in the sustenance of His work. 

Inmates receiving their certificates during the Bible course graduation ceremony.
Inmates receiving their certificates during the Bible course graduation ceremony.

On December 16, 2008, more than fifty Voice of Prophecy Bible students graduated here. Personal Bibles were given and certificates were also awarded to them. Souls were enlightened and grateful to the Lord for everything. God has provided them items for personal hygiene (bath and laundry soap, toothpaste, face towel, etc.), herbal medicines, activated charcoal and other useful items. Brother Moses Olase, a part-time worker and presently an elder of Havana Church in Santa Ana, Manila, was our guest speaker. 

090418_081In this ministry we also visit the families of the inmates. At times we assist and open our homes to newly-released brethren who desire to withdraw from their former associates. In this way we can help them to obtain more spiritual strength and courage and prepare them to face the world’s adversities and attractions and stand firm in the battles of the Christian life. Through the years it is our highest endeavor to see each one of them not only joining our church but most of all to be with all of us in the heavenly courts above. 

Our hearts overflow with gratitude to our merciful Savior for how He has led and blessed the work in this ministry. Thank you for being a part of this small faith ministry and praise God for His guidance through the years. 

By Joseph Baluyot, Gospel Worker, Philippines.  

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