Topic: Luke 4:18
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners." Luke 4:18
The prison door clanked loudly behind us as we passed through the gate. Once inside, we surrendered our valuables and passports and then received a pat down search before passing into the central prison area. We were at Paraguay's maximum security prison, home to 3200 inmates, including some of the worst of the worst. As we made our way through the central area of the prison, we were told to stay close to the security that flanked us on either side and not to make eye contact with the prisoners until we reached Liberta Church.
In many ways, this was like any other high security prison, with guards, guns and razor wire. But there was something different deep inside. Some 500 inmates had signed an agreement to be housed in the "church" section of the prison and live by the rules of the church and by the teachings of the Bible.
The church is run by prisoners and the pastor is a prisoner. Inmates awake each morning with Bible orally read over the loudspeakers. They study the Bible and share in small accountability groups. They worship together and study how to live their live by God's word. One inmate, in for an eighteen year sentence, has only three years to go and told us he looks forward to reuniting with his wife and children and to being a Godly father, husband and grandfather. Another inmate took me into his cell to show me his Bible.
We worshiped with them, sang with them and prayed with them. I was asked to speak to the nearly three hundred prisoners gathered in the courtyard of the church prison section. I brought them greetings from the American Bible Society and brought a brief devotional on the prison of the heart. I told them that the real prison of man is not one with walls and razor wire, but the prison of a heart lost in sin.
As I lifted my Bible in the air, I told them that "this book has the power to change your heart, your life and to change the world." I told them that that whoever they are or wherever they are, God has a plan for them to escape prison by accepting His son Jesus Christ and then their heart will free. We came to bless them, but they blessed us.
Later in the day, once again the door shut behind us, but this time it was a click rather than a clank. Rather than a prison door, it was the front door of the presidential palace, as we were ushered in to meet with the President of Paraguay, who received us warmly.
As we sat around the President's dining room table, once again I brought greetings from the American Bible Society and once again we shared the importance of God's Word. As I pulled a Bible from my coat pocket, I handed it to him and said, "Mr. President, this book can change the lives of your people, can change your country and change the world."
In a prison cell or in a palace, with a prisoner or with a president, the message of God's Word is always the same.
How has God revealed the power of His Word to you in unexpected circumstances?