Global Church Planting Network

Accelerating Church Planting Globally

True Freedom in Christ Jail

[The following is the testimony of a church planter. This story is nothing short of divine orchestration through the lives of seemingly unqualified people in their hopeless situations. It has been edited for clarity and names have been changed.]

For quite some time, a church-planting team had been struggling in establishing a local fellowship in a challenging coastal area. Among the challenges encountered was a lack of a “person of peace,” persecution, and difficulty in transportation.

Meanwhile, Nathan was a friend of mine who was in jail for more than five years at the provincial penitentiary for drug trafficking. His case was hopeless, especially since it was the time of an intense anti-drug campaign of a political administration. Nevertheless, I continued to minister to him in jail. I visited him, prayed for him, gave him some practical bits of help, attended his hearings, and gave him some books to read. Thank God, Nathan was evangelized and discipled in jail by a dedicated jail ministry group. It was a great help for his spiritual maturity.

Things became so dim for him and his family when the regional court released its verdict. Nathan was sentenced to life imprisonment and was ordered to be brought to a notorious national penitentiary. Against all odds, we prayed and trusted God. With help from friends and his lawyer, Nathan appealed his case to the Court of Appeals.

Back in the area where our church-planting team was working, in one instance while we were going there to conduct an outreach Bible study, there was a horrendous atrocity that happened the night before. The cousin of one of the attendees at the Bible study was brutally killed by my cousin! When we heard the news, our immediate natural response was to pull out of the area. But we prayed on the spot and we had peace in our hearts, so we proceeded to the area. When we reached the place, the spirit of fear was in the air. Everyone was talking about what happened that night.

My cousin was surrendered by his family to the authorities. He was incarcerated at the provincial jail where he met Nathan. There, Nathan and his troop shared the gospel with my cousin and invited him to the weekly Bible study. Gradually, my cousin trusted and surrendered his life to Christ! While his case was being tried, he was being discipled by Nathan and his troop.

The time came when Nathan had to be transferred to the national penitentiary. At the time, he already served seven years in jail. A day before he traveled to his new prison world, I visited him and we prayed with his wife. I gave him a book on which the Lord impressed me to write: “Brother, you may be in jail now, but remember that the Lord has already truly freed you. Time will come that you will be out of jail to fully serve Him.” I never knew how those words could become a reality, but I just wrote them anyway. Nathan took that book with him to the national penitentiary. He was put into maximum security where the notorious gangs and drug lords were.

Two to three years had passed, when things turned out in unexplainable ways. While serving his sentence, Nathan had the opportunity to study in a Bible school inside the national prison. But before he could finish his course in that Bible school, he received a much better and long-awaited diploma – a release order from the Court of Appeals! The Court dismissed his case on the grounds of technical mishandling of pieces of evidence. Nathan came home at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. The world was in chaos, but he was full of hope! He finally had the chance to catch up for the 9 years he was not with his family.

Meanwhile, almost simultaneous with the release of Nathan from the national penitentiary, the regional trial court had also dismissed the case of my cousin! The court favored him based on the testimony of a psychiatric doctor who examined and diagnosed him to have had a schizophrenic tendency.

When Nathan came to the church I’m pastoring, I enlisted him in a church-planting team. When we got to the place, we went to my cousin's house and were gladly welcomed by him. On that day, Nathan and my cousin, who were together for the very first time out of prison, joyfully shared their stories of how God had been so faithful to them! They chatted for more than an hour in front of us. We were awed by their stories.

A Bible study was started at my cousin’s house and has been going on until now. His wife and two daughters have also received Christ and have been very supportive of the ministry. A vivid transformation in their lives was witnessed by the community. Consequently, more and more people are attending Bible study in their house. My cousin’s parents and siblings have also been attending regularly!

With Nathan as the Team Leader, the ministry has been thriving consistently. To date, the fellowship is transitioning into a local church with an average attendance of 30 adults! More children and young people are also flocking in. My cousin and his wife gladly provided a small lot at the back of their house where the fellowship center will be put up.

Praise God for what He is doing! These are undeniable imprints of His sovereign grace and power. We are merely His instruments who gladly obey at His disposal.

[Story submitted by Rev. Judah Jim E. Cantoria]

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