Argentina: The amazing transformation at Los Olmos prison

 

Argentina: The amazing transformation at Los Olmos prison

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The Olmos prison in Argentina used to be notorious for murders, satanic activity and violent riots. Today, however, you can hear inmates and guards praising and worshipping God.

This all began with one man’s obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. In the mid 80’s Pastor Juan Zuccarelli felt called to prison ministry in Buenos Aires. He had, at that stage, only done crusades in the city and was a bit daunted by the task of ministering in prison, but knew he had to do it. He was told that the only way he could get into the prisons would be to become a prison guard.

He applied for a position and found out that he would have to wait 8 months for the application to be processed. He hoped that God would change His mind in the meantime and that He would call him somewhere else. Amazingly, within a week, he was contacted by the prison authorities informing him that he had the position. Juan took up his appointment immediately and became a prison guard, knowing that he would use his position to preach the Gospel.

300 prisoners attended the first crusade in Olmos prison. Of those, 100 were saved.

Sadly, these men were then physically, verbally and sexually assaulted by their peers because of their commitment. The Lord revealed that the Christians needed to have separate cell blocks, to create a safe space for them.

In 1987 the idea was proposed to the prison warden, but he was completely against it. Juan remembered an old burnt-out cell block that had previously been completely destroyed. He told the warden that if he would give them that cell, they would fix it, paint it and turn it into the best cell block in the whole of Olmos. He suggested that when the government came to inspect the prison they could show that cell block off as the model cell block. The warden accepted the challenge.

21 prisoners started that first cell block and they were able to have times of prayer, fasting and Bible studies which produced amazing results. Eventually they took over the entire floor, which was previously known as the ‘Elephant’s Floor’. It was used to house the most dangerous criminals and even had an altar built to honour Satan. In the past, families would bring the inmates small cats and dogs to burn as sacrifices to Satan, giving him power over the prison. After much prayer, that entire cell block now belongs to Jesus Christ.

The Christians have 24 cell blocks today and 1,600 prisoners have been saved at Olmos.

Once the Christians started to multiply, a group of missionaries was sent from Olmos to another prison to begin a church there. As new prisons were built, authorities approached Olmos and asked them to help them start churches in the new prisons so that they could be built on a similar solid foundation. Up to 200 saved prisoners from Olmos have been sent to new prisons to set up churches. Their growth eventually took over prisons in the entire province. Today there are churches in all 40 prisons across the provinces of Argentina.

The government then contacted Juan to start a completely Christian prison (before, they had only set up churches within prisons). There were 3 small prisons which had been empty for about 2 years and the officials told Juan he could pick anyone he wanted and he would be given the keys.

Juan identified Daniel Tajeda, an evangelical Christian, to be the warden of the new prison. He was very young at the time and only 96th in line for the position. However, Daniel’s faithfulness outshone the other candidates and he was appointed as the warden of 10 prisoners. From there on it grew, from 25 to 130 inmates. This prison is called ‘Christ, the Only Hope’.

The authorities saw the excellent results and gave Juan another prison.

The government was not able to provide any funding for the Christian prisons. There were no beds and mattresses and the cells were completely empty. There was no electricity, running water or gas. They also needed computers and medical supplies. All of their needs have been provided for by donations from ministries outside the prison. This dramatically improved the image of the church in the eyes of the government.

‘Christ, the Only Hope’ prison has 270 inmates and is run strictly on Christian principles. The staff believe that the prisoners have the potential to change and this fact is proven again and again. The inmates have serious criminal records, ranging from robbery, to rape, to murder. However, when these same criminals accepted Christ in their hearts they changed.

What a fully Christian prison looks like, how it’s organized, and the results of this approach when it comes to rehabilitation.

The Olmos prison in Argentina used to be notorious for murders, satanic activity and violent riots. Today, however, you can hear inmates and guards praising and worshipping God.

The authorities agreed with an experiment: a prison with 270 inmates called ‘Christ, the Only Hope’, run strictly on Christian principles.

Prisoners have to follow strict daily routines that train them to be spiritually disciplined. They start each new day with worshipping God. At 6:00 AM all the inmates gather for a time of devotion and praise and this is followed by a time of prayer. They also fast twice a week. In the afternoons the inmates gather for Bible study and fellowship, and later in the day attend a church service. When the inmates go to their rooms, five intercessors take up their posts and begin to pray through the long hours of the night.

One prisoner said, “Although we are locked up physically, God has made us free spiritually. God has blessed us to be an example to the outside world.”

The prison runs a store house where inmates donate food and clothing. They cannot tithe in money, but the things that their families and other visitors bring them are tithed to the store house. This is used to help others in need, both families outside of the prison, and prisoners in other units.

Due to their good behavior, the inmates are granted many special privileges. They are not locked up in cells with standard iron bars. These have been replaced with bright orange curtains so there is complete freedom of movement. They are allowed generous visiting hours with their families and this helps them form strong social ties which will assist with integrating them back into society upon their release. In many of the job creation programs in the prison, prisoners are entrusted with the use of a wide variety of tools normally prohibited in other prisons. This allows the inmates to make money while being in prison so that they can support their families.

There has been no attempt by any prisoner to escape ‘Christ, the Only Hope’. There have been no riots either. If an inmate should cause any problems he is spiritually disciplined. His punishment is to pray, fast and read the Bible. Inmates are never put into solitary confinement.

The lifestyle practiced in the Christian prisons has attracted the attention of other prison authorities.

Judges noticed that criminals wanted to be sent to these prisons. The authorities decided to send one of Argentina’s most hardened criminals to one of these Christian prisons. Hector Sanchez had been sentenced for the rape and murder of two young girls.

Hector says: “When I first got here my family had abandoned me, so the director of the prison asked a pastor to come and visit me. The Lord rescued me even though I was such a bad person who did terrible things. I believe He has put me here because He has a purpose for my life. To those who knew me before I came here – my transformed life is a testimony.”

Statistics show that 45 out of every 100 prisoners who are released end up back in prison for committing another crime. In contrast, only 5% of prisoners from evangelical prisons relapse.

The prison also runs a rehabilitation centre for inmates under the guardianship of the church.

Selected prisoners with less than 4 years can serve, work and live at the rehabilitation centre during the week with no guardianship at all. Over weekends they return to custody. The work they do and the trust they are given helps them build confidence. When they are released into the outside world they are equipped with life-skills to help them make a success of their lives.

It took 21 years to build the Christian prisons to where they are today in Argentina, but it all started with the faithfulness of one man. The challenge to all Christians is to follow the call that the Lord has placed in your hearts, no matter how crazy it may seem. When you act in obedience, God always comes through for you. Like Ed Silvoso says, “See what you’ve never seen before, do what you’ve never done before.”

VIDEO – The unbelievable but true story of how a prison that was once run by the church of Satan has been transformed into one of the most powerful churches in Argentina. An eye opening testimonial of how the power of God can fully restore criminals, their families, and even a corrupt system. This will infuse you with hope!

Source: Juan Zuccarelli, Ed Silvoso

REVIVAL BEHIND BARS

This e-book is a classic that’s only available on our website! Authors Michael Richardson and Juan Zuccarelli describe in detail how the revival in Los Olmos prison started, which changes it brought, how inmate leadership emerged and how the prison church was organised. Specific attention is given to the role of the prayer watches and how the revival influenced other prisons across Argentina. Detailed growth statistics are included.

E-book in pdf | original revival story | 42 pages | reading time: 45 mins

Revival Behind Bars book: https://www.joelnews.org/#e-books

Source: Joel News, # 1179, # 1180,  August 11 & 18, 2020

See also

Prison Revival in Argentina

Christian missionary tortured in prison led 40 to Christ

Iran: How two women brought hope in Tehran’s brutal Evin Prison

Remember those in prison

GENERAL BLOGS INDEX

BLOGS INDEX 1: REVIVALS (BRIEFER THAN REVIVALS INDEX)

BLOGS INDEX 2: MISSION (INTERNATIONAL STORIES)

BLOGS INDEX 3: MIRACLES (SUPERNATURAL EVENTS)

BLOGS INDEX 4: DEVOTIONAL (INCLUDING TESTIMONIES)

BLOGS INDEX 5: CHURCH (CHRISTIANITY IN ACTION)

BLOGS INDEX 6: CHAPTERS (BLOGS FROM BOOKS)

BLOGS INDEX 7: IMAGES (PHOTOS AND ALBUMS)

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Christian missionary tortured in prison led 40 to Christ

Christian missionary tortured by ISIS in prison led 40 to Christ

By Mark Ellis

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Christian missionary tortured in prison led 40 to Christ
https://renewaljournal.com/2018/04/19/christian-missionary-tortured-in-prison-led-40-to-christ

Charged with being a spy, Czech missionary Petr Jasek endured a 14-month imprisonment in Sudan where he was tortured by fellow cellmates. But Jesus supernaturally imparted peace during his confinement and he became a bold witness, winning many to Christ.

 

 

 

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In his role as the Africa regional director for Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), Jasek went to Sudan to document the persecution of Christians, which was happening in the Nubah Mountains in clashes between the government and rebels.

He was detained by the Sudanese police at Khartoum Airport in December 2015. It seems immigration staff found a duplicate passport Jasek carried for security purposes, which led to his immediate arrest and imprisonment.

vomtodd

Jasek interviewed by Todd Nettleton at VOM

“I arrived at this cell at about 1:30 am,” he told VOM. He found the cell overcrowded, with people covering the floor. “They had to squeeze a little bit so they would create some small room for me to lie down on the floor.”

The conditions were sparse. “I had no blanket…two extra T-shirts and one extra pants and a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap; that was all.”

Guards refused him blankets or a mattress, because he was from the Czech Republic and they told him they thought he should be used to cold weather.

At 5:30 am he was awakened by the Islamic call for prayer. All six of his cellmates began praying fervently. “They showed me a place behind them where I was supposed to stand while they were praying. The rule is that me as a Christian, I had to stay behind them so they would not look at me while they are praying.”

After the prayers, they identified themselves as DAESH, the Arabic acronym for ISIS. All his cellmates were ISIS fighters!

“Two days later they started to openly torture me and beat me…I was hit with their fists into my face many times. They called me ‘filthy pig’ or ‘filthy rat.’”

One of the ISIS fighters barked an order: “Filthy pig, come here.”

“I decided at first I would not respond to these rude names and when I did not respond I got hit with a wooden stick they unscrewed from the sweeper that was there to clean the floor.”

Jasek was hit on the head, shoulders and fingers or they kicked him in the stomach and back with their boots. “At that time I was really thinking about the Lord Jesus what He had to go through when He was arrested and they also were beating Him with a wooden stick and were ridiculing Him, slapping Him.

“I became like their slave,” he told VOM. “I was really [made] to wash their clothes, wash all the dishes, clean the toilet with my bare hands. They were just making fun of me. I did not resist.”

“I could clearly see the Lord Jesus and how He suffered for us.”

Then Jesus imparted something to him that was amazing and unexpected, considering the circumstances. “I received a wonderful peace at that time and surprisingly, when I was physically attacked I was experiencing the greatest peace in prison time ever, all these 14-1/2 months.

“I could even pray during these beatings for my family members, I could pray for other fellow prisoners and I was not moved to the point when I used to be before, because I had this peace from the Lord at this time of the physical attacks on my body.

When Jasek began to exalt and and glorify the Lord’s name during his beatings, this made them even more furious. “They decided to torture me even in much worse way.

“Eventually, they decided to do waterboarding to me. It’s a way of torture where a person lays on his back and they cover his mouth and pour water, which gives you the feeling that you are getting drowned.

The Sudanese guards had not intervened to stop Jasek’s torture, because they were intimidated by the ISIS fighters. “It is [thought] that if these Islamists get released they will get revenge on those guards.”

Jasek didn’t have access to a Bible during his captivity, so he meditated on Scriptures he memorized as a young person.

“I was literally asking the Lord that He will keep my mind sound and that I wouldn’t lose my mind through the situation,” Jasek said. “The Holy Spirit kept reminding me some of the verses that I had memorized. This was just enough for me, to give me enough strength everyday to pray,” he told VOM.

He also thought about Jesus’ teaching about loving enemies. He was startled when he heard his abusers weeping late at night when they could not sleep.

“They were crying. They were also missing their family members. They were also crying to God for help,” he recounted. “That allowed me to easily continue to pray for them. I was praying for those fellow prisoners, the interrogators, for the guards, for the prosecutors and for the judge, that the Lord would reveal Himself as the Lord, Savior and God.”

Remarkably, one of the guards intervened to prevent the waterboarding. Jasek said he felt the Lord used the guard to move him out of the cell.

“Later on I told the guard that he saved my life and we became close friends,” Jasek said. “I gave my email address and I started to share the Gospel with him. He was very passionate. I told him that if he ever makes it to Europe, he can stay at my house and we will take care of him.”

Then Jasek was moved to another prison where conditions were even worse.

“We were squeezed in a small room — 15 by 18 feet. There were sometimes 40 of us. That was the situation and I was able to lead 40 Eritrean refugees to Christ,” he said. “It was like new revelation for me. I started to be courageous and openly shared the Gospel with other fellow prisoners. Later on, that resulted in them putting me in solitary confinement again.”

Shortly after being placed in solitary confinement, Czech consular officers were able to bring him a Bible.

“I didn’t have to do anything else but read the Bible all day. I could not read the Bible all day because I could only read when there was enough light, which was about 8 [a.m.] … until 4:30 p.m. I had to stand reading on the bars so that I could have enough light. I was so hungry for Scripture. I read from Genesis to Revelation within three weeks.”

Jasek noted that he gained a profound “new understanding of Scripture.”

He was eventually removed from solitary confinement and moved to a larger prison that can hold about 10,000 people.

“I went from solitary to a cell where there were like 100 people in one cell,” he explained. “We were squeezed. There were 75 beds. Only 75 could have a bed and 25 had to stay on the floor.”

Amazingly, guards at the new prison allowed him and two incarcerated Sudanese pastors to hold worship services.

“The first day I came to the chapel to spend time in Scripture with the Lord. They asked me to preach. I would preach once a week, sometimes twice a week,” Jasek said. “Of course, they were monitoring us and they were reporting what we were teaching about. There were two other pastors from Sudan and we knew that nothing worse could happen to us.”

Preaching in prison allowed Jasek and the other pastors to witness to “people that were hopeless.”

“They were real criminals — murderers, rapists, thieves, drug dealers. It was such a wonderful time,” Jasek said. “They responded to our teaching. We were just teaching the Gospel. It was so wonderful to see the changed life of those who dedicated their lives to Christ.”

vomjail

In February 2017, he was granted a presidential pardon and Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir ordered his immediate release. He returned to the Czech Republic on February 26, 2017.

During the time Jasek was interrogated by the jihadis in prison his wife was in a Bible study back home and the leader stopped the study to pray for the “situation that he is right now in.”

“They stopped reading and started to pray for the Lord’s presence over the situation,” Jasek said. “When I came home, I realized that was exactly the time when I was on my knees before the Islamists and they were beating me. But I was experiencing a supernatural peace.”

“I came for four days to Sudan. But I was there 445 days,” Jasek told VOM. “When you think about all the hardships and seeing what the Lord was able to do through us, then what else can we say but the Lord’s ways are much better than our ways.”

“We know from the words of apostle Paul that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. I felt like I received my life back. I was first threatened to be sentenced to be executed. [Then] later on, life imprisonment. Then, my life was returned back to me. I told the Lord, ‘My life does not belong to me anymore. It belongs to the Lord.’”

To learn more about Voice of the Martyrs go here

Source: God Reports, April 11, 2018

See also

Argentina: The amazing transformation at Los Olmos prison

Prison Revival in Argentina

Christian missionary tortured in prison led 40 to Christ

Iran: How two women brought hope in Tehran’s brutal Evin Prison

Remember those in prison

Barnabas Fund www.barnabasfund.org
Voice of the Martyrs www.persecution.com.au
The Open Doors www.opendoors.org.au

This article is in Mission Blogs

See also The Spirit told us what to do – 2 teenage girls plant 30 churches.

GENERAL BLOGS INDEX 

BLOGS INDEX 1: REVIVALS (BRIEFER THAN REVIVALS INDEX)

BLOGS INDEX 2: MISSION (INTERNATIONAL STORIES)

BLOGS INDEX 3: MIRACLES (SUPERNATURAL EVENTS)

BLOGS INDEX 4: DEVOTIONAL (INCLUDING TESTIMONIES)

BLOGS INDEX 5: CHURCH (CHRISTIANITY IN ACTION)

BLOGS INDEX 6: CHAPTERS (BLOGS FROM BOOKS)

BLOGS INDEX 7: IMAGES (PHOTOS AND ALBUMS)

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Iran: Two Women brought Hope in Tehran’s brutal Evin Prison

Two women brought hope in Tehran’s brutal Evin Prison

May 22, 2013

* 20,000 New Testaments given
* House church for prostitutes
* 259 days in the notorious prison
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Iran: How two women brought hope in Tehran’s brutal Evin Prison

Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh knew they were putting their lives on the line. Born and raised as Muslims, both women grew unsatisfied with the teachings of the Koran and converted to Christianity after personal encounters with Jesus. Though Islamic laws in Iran forbade them from sharing their Christian beliefs, in three years they’d covertly put New Testaments into the hands of twenty thousand of their countrymen. They’d started two secret house churches, including one for prostitutes – many of them women who had been abandoned by their husbands and had no other way to support themselves and their children.
 

“We both had the same vision from God for evangelizing Iranian people by distributing Bibles. God showed me how Iran is like a land that needs seed. He told me, ‘I will raise and grow this.’ Maryam also had a dream about this, so we became sure it was God’s will,” explains Marziyeh. “We decided to cover all parts of Tehran. We usually went at night and distributed Bibles into mailboxes. Every day we went shopping or to restaurants and talked to people, often handing them a New Testament. We also started a house church for young people and another for prostitutes. All of this is illegal and dangerous because no one is allowed to talk about any religion except Islam. During this time, we could see God’s miracles every day. We have many stories of how God protected us.”

But finally – perhaps inevitably – in 2009, the two young women were arrested. For some reason in the months before that, they were unable to hand out Bibles, as the Holy Spirit took away their desire to evangelize. “We knew something would happen, that there would be a change in our lives. Only after we got released we heard from one of the security police that they were watching us for two months before arresting us. But they couldn’t prove we were handing people Bibles. We believed it was God’s protection for us.”

“After hours of praying and singing, we felt God’s peace in our hearts.”

The two women were held in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, a place where inmates are routinely tortured, and executions are swift and sudden. 

“Our first night in prison, we both were so scared,” recalls Maryam. “We had no power to speak. The first thing the security police tried was physical torture. They put us in a dark, cold cell and said they would come to torture us. We just hugged each other and said goodbye, thinking it was the last day for us. We began to pray for each other. After hours of praying and singing, we could feel God’s peace in our hearts. But it was not easy. Every day was mental torture. In interrogation they threatened our families, which was even worse than hearing about execution.”

“One day they invited a university professor in to convince us to deny our faith. He told me that if I was one of his family members he wouldn’t wait for the court’s decision – he would have killed me himself,” says Maryam. “We went to something like 10 courts, and in each court the judges would threaten us with execution,” says Marziyeh. “But the hardest part was the execution of other prisoners. I never experienced such a difficult thing. After the execution, there was this spirit of sorrow and death everywhere, and sometimes we couldn’t say anything. Everyone was under pressure.”

But in the face of chilling interrogations and intimidation, something remarkable happened: instead of succumbing to fear, they chose to take the radical – and dangerous – step of sharing their faith inside the very walls of the government stronghold that was meant to silence them. They found the prison being fertile ground for the gospel.

“Prison was like a church every day. We gathered and prayed.”
 

“Prison is the place where most people are hopeless,” Marziyeh says. “They all need someone to save them. The prisoners were open to hear about Jesus and many were asking us to pray for them. Before we were imprisoned, we would ask God to show us whoever he chose, and that we would be able to talk to those people. But detention and prison increased those opportunities, since it was like a church every day. We gathered and prayed. It was easier to evangelize because we were already in prison.” “We just tried to love them,” Maryam says. “This had a great affect on most prisoners and even the guards.”

“Prayer was the only thing that helped us, strengthened us,” says Marziyeh. “Sometimes we couldn’t even pray in Farsi, our language. We didn’t even know how. Many times we were praying in tongues. We witnessed power in prayers, especially in difficulties. We could see the miracles of God every day and it made our faith stronger. We didn’t have a Bible with us in prison, but every day we could touch God. We could touch Bible verses inside the prison because we were living them. We learned how to forgive our enemies. We remembered how Jesus forgives our sins and how he suffered for us.”

After international pressure from the United Nations, Amnesty International, and other human rights groups, the women were released. They left Iran to continue ministry through writing and speaking in the United States. In their book ‘Captive in Iran’, Maryam and Marziyeh recount how God used their 259 days in Evin Prison to bring about a miraculous reversal: shining light into one of the world’s darkest places, giving hope to those who had lost everything, and showing love to those in despair.

Source: Joel News International 861, May 22, 2013

See also

Argentina: The amazing transformation at Los Olmos prison

Prison Revival in Argentina

Christian missionary tortured in prison led 40 to Christ

Iran: How two women brought hope in Tehran’s brutal Evin Prison

Remember those in prison

Barnabas Fund www.barnabasfund.org
Voice of the Martyrs www.persecution.com.au
The Open Doors www.opendoors.org.au

Revival PDF books on the Main Page

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GENERAL BLOGS INDEX

BLOGS INDEX 1: REVIVALS (BRIEFER THAN REVIVALS INDEX)

BLOGS INDEX 2: MISSION (INTERNATIONAL STORIES)

BLOGS INDEX 3: MIRACLES (SUPERNATURAL EVENTS)

BLOGS INDEX 4: DEVOTIONAL (INCLUDING TESTIMONIES)

BLOGS INDEX 5: CHURCH (CHRISTIANITY IN ACTION)

BLOGS INDEX 6: CHAPTERS (BLOGS FROM BOOKS)

BLOGS INDEX 7: IMAGES (PHOTOS FROM BOOKS)

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