Drugs, human trafficking and disappearances are a sad reality in Mexico. Corruption complicates trials as well as the whole justice system. The same is seen in Mazatlán, in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, the prisons are overcrowded. And prisoners soon learn that the mafia also calls the shots in prison. Light in the darkness is when the Gospel can shine in amidst such circumstances.
The Mexican city of Mazatlán has around 380,000 inhabitants and is located on the Pacific Ocean, just opposite the southernmost tip of the Mexican state of Baja California.
INVITATION TO THE PRISON
On an ordinary weekday, Yolanda, a Bible for Mexico worker, contacted me. She invited us to visit the women's prison and help provide and distribute Bibles there. I was immediately excited about this opportunity to visit prisoners and give them a personal Bible! At the same time, I was nervous and didn't really know how this would all play and work out in a very practical way. Will they react with interest or disapproval to our visit and our message? Soon we got prepared with the appropriate resources so that we could start this project with a small group of volunteers.
FIRST TO THE WOMEN...
One Friday we went to this women's prison to share the love of Jesus with the prisoners by showing them the Good News and giving them each a Bible. A few policemen and guards searched us at the beginning and explained the rules that apply. Then the social worker present in the prison led us into the yard where several women had already gathered. We were received very open-heartedly on the one hand and skeptically on the other. But many of the inmates participated eagerly in the small group discussions that followed.
I remember Valeria quite well: she had a glow in her eyes and radiated something wonderful. Later she told me: "I am in prison for life, but a few years ago I gave my life to Jesus! Since that day my heart has been free despite being imprisoned." She rejoiced enormously in the Bible and went on to tell us that she would sometimes meet with interested fellow prisoners during the week to read and study God's Word together.
...THEN TO THE MEN
To our surprise, the local social welfare office asked us to do the same in the men's prison - there are over 1.000 inmates there. This presented us with a financial challenge at first. However, when we approached various Bible distribution centers, the 1.000 Bibles were donated. God provides through the generosity of people! Thus, we were also able to give Bibles to all the inmates in the men's prison. Prison pastors were also present during these visits. It is amazing to hear the testimonies of these pastors who have been working in the prison for years.
FORMER KILLER BECOMES A PASTOR
It was also a miracle that even the drug mafia in prison got their hands on Bibles! This section is otherwise very reserved and secretive, almost inaccessible. But one of the leaders from that sector welcomed us when he heard that Pastor Juan Carlos (name changed) was also part of the action. Pastor Juan Carlos' testimony also touched us deeply: For many years he had been a professional hitman for the mafia, then he gave his life to Jesus. After his imprisonment, he became a pastor - today he helps many people out of a life of crime and addiction.
Such stories encourage us to hold out the hope of the Gospel to the seemingly hopeless situations we encounter here. "I was in prison and you came to me." This word from Matthew 25:36 took on a whole new meaning for us. All people, after all, desire to be seen, heard and appreciated. A visit - whether in prison or otherwise - expresses in a very practical way this kind of recognition and reconciling love of God. God's Word also overcomes prison walls, and His freedom is above all!
Andrea and Alejandro have been working in Christian Development Aid in Mexico since 2014. Their commitment includes evangelism, Bible teaching and encompassing health care. To this end, they organize meetings, maintain ongoing contacts and – as described – have also built up a prison ministry.