It was my first time to prison. I had visited inmates in the states before, but had never gone inside one, let alone a Honduran prison. The Holy Spirit asked me once if I was willing to go there for Him, and His conviction was so strong, that I started to think that maybe I would get arrested. After pondering His question a few days, I said I would go for Him, if He wanted me to. Then I heard Him say, "Just checking." Back then, I never even knew what prison in Honduras was like; I was just willing to go where God would need me.
The week started with the arrival of the team on Wednesday. After picking them up and driving back to Cortes, we checked into the hotel and had service at MLV. Word had gotten around that we had guests and we received many new friends in the community for worship. The Holy Spirit made Himself known after the third song and there was no denying His presence. Our Mechanic teacher's brother, Elton, accepted the Lord in the service and God turned his life around. His presence was with us everywhere the team went.
We spent Thursday morning in intense prayer for the week, covering everything we had planned to do. That evening and Friday evening, the team gave conferences on our identity in Christ, and also on how to pray for the sick. The first evening we had about 45-50 students, family, and friends show up. The second night it was the same. We held the conferences in the computer classroom, and it was packed. It turned into a sanctuary with people crying in the Spirit, being healed and giving their lives to Jesus. What a great way to start the week!
Saturday was our big party at the waterpark. Two hundred people attended to support our six graduates: two from mechanics, three from welding, and one from sewing. A student committee helped us with decorations and set-up at the party, really making it all look amazing. We had worship and a time of prayer. Then it was a free day to swim. That is when God really started to move. Pastor Rafee's wife had had a dream about some curved feet before he came on the trip and at the party we met a couple whose children had curved feet. We prayed for them and the parents were so moved that they accepted Jesus! Then my student, Wilmer, accepted Jesus, and Elton was baptized in the lower pool! It was a party to answer so many prayers.
We felt energized and anything was possible. After a week of ministry with the San Diego team; a week that exceeded our prayers and expectations, we were standing at the gate to a whole new world within a world, asking permission to visit hard criminals. A warden told us they were preparing for us, whatever that meant. We sat on a wooden bench in a narrow hallway, waiting for the ok. The warden motioned to us and we followed him down a dimly lit corridor with green walls and old paint, past a kitchen of sorts where a shirtless tattooed man with an afro was heating up tortillas. He stared at us as we passed by. At the end of the passageway was an old, rusty iron gate. The rebar was so thick and heavy, it was hard to swing open. When we stepped across the threshold, we were no longer in Puerto Cortes, but in a wonderland of failure, misfortune, sin, and desperation.
We stepped into a sea of bare bodies, tattoos, and noise. The space was crammed with criminals, gang members, murderers and thieves, all in one room. It was almost like a city inside, made up of little neighborhoods or territories. Several radios, playing distinct music clashed in the air, trying to dominate our ears. We passed gambling tables where the prisoners played cards. We turned a bend and saw a common area, full of people, practically shoulder to shoulder due to limited space. To the left was a basin where men were showering. In front was an area where the prisoners had set up plastic chairs for us. To the right were wash basins for laundry. Behind us, were bunks to sleep, and around the other corner was a group of men all getting high on marijuana. The cloud of smoke was so thick, you could barely see their faces. Two black doors were in the wall and periodically a person would go into one, receive his fix of heroin or crack and come back out. There were clusters of gangs in different parts, listening to their own music and eyeballing us. The warden introduced us to the pastor in the prison and then left. The pastor gave Octavio a microphone and he and Rafee started to preach. I stood in the back by the showers and started to pray.
At some point a small man, but tough as nails, pushed his way toward me. He grabbed my hand in a firm shake and stared coldly into my eyes to see if I would flinch. I smiled at his tattooed face and black eyes, but he did not smile back. I thought, I better watch out for this guy. He walked past me and I continued to pray and talk to another, friendlier prisoner. After a while Alex, who I was talking to, told me someone else wanted to see me. I turned to see who he was indicating and it was my black-eyed, stone-faced man sitting on the edge of the basin behind me. As I got close, he grabbed me and pulled me up to his face. He shoved a letter into my hands. He said he wanted me to read it. I looked down at the folded lined paper and took it without knowing what it was. I put it in my back pocket at his insistence. "I am so full of hate and rage," he said, "that I just have to talk to you. I want revenge, but I don't want to be like this anymore. I saw you, and I knew in your eyes that you were a good man and that I could talk to you," He said.
He told me his name was Ikna, but that he had a false identity there in the prison where his name is Ramon. I started to pray for his rage and anger, and for the Holy Spirit to come. I asked him if he knew Jesus. He said he knew of Him, but had never prayed for Him to help him. Rafee came up to us and together we led him in a prayer of salvation. As he prayed, I prayed for joy to enter into him and for it to show on his face. Rafee left us and we continued to talk. He told me that Satan asks him for blood sacrifices and he hasn't given him one in days. He said that he had done terrible things and they were all written out in the letter in my back pocket. I told him it did not matter what he had done or what he was before, but that in Jesus he had a new start. His old self was dead and his new life was just starting. His stone face softened a smudge, like dragging a finger over a pencil sketch. I told him his sins were forgiven and forgotten, and the tense muscles in his brow relaxed. We talked about new life in Jesus and in the kingdom. I shared verses with him from memory and he ran to get his Bible, a little Gideon pocket new testament. I wrote the verses in the front page for him to study later.
As we talked he grabbed his stomach and I asked him what was wrong. He said since he prayed for Jesus to come he felt sick to his stomach, like he wanted to throw up. I remembered a few people with demons that Pastor Juan and I had prayed for in Agua Caliente. They had vomited while being liberated. I stood to the side of him, just in case he did throw up it wouldn't be all over me, and I began to order the evil spirit to leave him. He started to burp and his nausea went away. I asked what happened. "A bad air left me," he said. I asked him how he felt. "Empty," was his reply. "Holy Spirit, come and fill this house now with your presence," I prayed. "Fill your son up with your love and grace." When I looked at his face again, he was smiling.
For the rest of our time together he was smiling. I told him to look around at the other prisoners who were praying and talking to Jesus. I said, "These are your brothers. You can get together with them and fellowship and grow." "I can't talk to him," he stated as he pointed to a tall athletic type in front of us. "He's from the other gang. I am one gang and he is another." "You don't have gangs." I said. "That old Ikna is dead, remember? You don't have gangs because now you have a family." He smiled again and repeated what I said.
After sharing an amazing God moment with him, seeing his face transformed, his black eyes turn to brown, it was time for us to go. He shook my hand again, this time not with intimidation, but with gratitude and love.
We made our way back through the gestating sea of humanity and tattoos back to the rebar gate separating our world from theirs. We had to call out to the police for them to come and get us. The door was opened and we stepped back into the paint-peeled hallway. Mike and I drove back to MLV together, talking about the experience. Mike was amazed that we got in and out without anything happening, because there were no guards with us. Anything goes in prison and no one interferes. They literally dumped us in the prison for a morning and anything could have happened. What happened was Jesus was made king.
So much more happened this week, I cannot write enough. If you have read my updates for a while, you may recall a testimony I shared a few years ago when the San Diego team went to Las Flores. We were visiting Williams, the crippled boy in a wheelchair, when his brother climbed a palm tree to get us coconuts. He fell flat on his back from a great height, and they brought him to us limp as a noodle in soup. His eyes were rolled back in his head and he seemed to have fainted. We prayed for him and he came to, and started to move his limbs and talk. I prayed for five minutes and then started thinking about a hospital, but the team prayed for ten minutes, convinced that God would do something. I jumped back in to pray more and the boy improved after 15 minutes. I have shared the testimony several times in the ministry to talk about faith because I had five minute faith and saw nothing, because the situation required 15 minute faith for God to move. After 15 minutes, the boy got up and started to play again and we all praised God for the miracle of healing that He performed.
We went to Oscar Bueso's wedding in Agua Caliente and Marta, Williams and his brother were there. The team said hi and started taking photos with them. Maria Luisa asked the little boy if he remembered us. He said yes. She then asked if he remembered us praying for him. He again nodded. She asked him what he had felt when we prayed. What he answered blew us away! He said," When I fell from the tree, I was in heaven and there was a bright gate, all white, and I was about to go into it when Jesus stopped me. He said He was going to send me back because the brothers and sisters were praying for me. Then I woke up and you were over me." We were shocked. The miracle we had all shared so many times, just got even better! We had no idea that through our prayer God had resurrected a little boy! It is so real. God is a God of power and love, and He is active today. We should all have 15 minute faith, knowing that God answers, and go out to fill the earth with prayer.
William's Family and ours
Ariel, who went to heaven
May you be inspired!!
God bless, Brian