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I am constantly amazed to see how God can reach out to a person who has hit bottom and lavish them with his love. The result is a life that is changed forever. Such was the case on one of my trips to Indonesia.

I had been asked if I would consider ministering in a prison. I have had many opportunities to minister in detention centers and prisons around the world and have found them to be some of the most powerful times of ministry I have ever experienced. It seems like when a person hits the bottom there is nowhere to turn but up - literally.

I was reminded of another occasion in a state prison in Mexico that I will never forget. Our group had arrived at the prison and was in the middle of setting up for our outreach and I had to make a phone call back to our contact. One of the guards took me to where there was a phone. When I arrived, there was a line of prisoners, each waiting to make a phone call.

As I stood there I could not help but notice a young American man on the phone, who was barely able to speak, because he was weeping uncontrollably. When he had finished his call he turned and started to walk by me. I stopped him, introduced myself, and asked him if there was something I could do. He told me his name was Mike and that he was 18-years-old. He had just informed his fiance that he had been sentenced to ten years in prison for a drug related charge.

Mike had just graduated from high school in Iowa and was on a graduation trip with some of his buddies. It was to be his last trip as a single man. He was scheduled to marry his high school sweetheart at the end of the summer. They had been doing some drugs while on their trip and on the way back were stopped at a roadblock. As the officials searched their car they found some of the left over drugs in one of the boy's suitcase.

Now there he stood, locked up for what could be as much as 10 years. He told me that in the first few months he thought that they would just let him off, but he was repeatedly warned that Mexico was hard on drug offenders. When he was sentenced he became suicidal. He thought it would be better to die than live his life in prison for the next ten years.

In spite of his girlfriend's promises to wait, he knew he shouldn't expect it. Later that day Mike sat and listened as we ministered the hope and freedom that only Christ could bring. He answered our invitation to accept Jesus as his savior and I had the opportunity to pray with him. We were able to give Mike a Bible and a prayer book and told him that we would continue to pray for him. That day we gave Mike the greatest gift he could have ever received-Hope.

Recalling this incident in Mexico, when asked if I would minister at a prison in Indonesia, my immediate response was yes.

The prisoners were considered minor offenders, imprisoned for stealing, possessing or dealing drugs, etc. Most of the prisoners would be incarcerated anywhere from three months to three years. The inmates were both male and female and were housed separately in the same facility. They ranged in age from very young teenagers to the elderly.

It was encouraging to see how some of the newly converted Christian inmates tried to look out for the young prisoners by taking them to weekly chapel services.

The morning that I preached, a young boy, around 13-years-old, had just been brought in for stealing. I ministered about the power of God to change lives and how he can take a life that is broken and useless and fix it, and then use it for His glory. I also talked about the powerful change that the Apostle Paul experienced and the miracle of the new birth.

As I ministered, this boy sat in the chair and wept. When I gave the invitation to experience the miracle of salvation he raised his hand along with seventeen others, and gave his heart to the Lord. He cried all the way through the prayer and then asked if he could be baptized.

We were scheduled to baptize six but he and a young teenage girl that also accepted the Lord that morning insisted on being baptized that day. So, we walked around to the back of the little chapel where there was a little baptismal and baptized eight people, with this young man being last.

After his baptism he stood and sobbed. He had truly experienced the miracle of the new birth.

I rejoiced with the prison chaplain when he told me that 17 of the 18 that had been born again had formerly been Muslim, as well as seven of the eight that we baptized.

I praised God when I saw how he is still reaching out his loving hand to save the sons of Ishmael. I was reminded of the Bible's account of Abraham sending Hagar and her son Ishmael away from his family.

After walking in the desert for some time their limited provisions ran out and Hagar sat her son under a bush and left him because she thought "I cannot bear to see my son die." As Ishmael lay there dying and crying out, an angel of the Lord spoke to Hagar and said, "Get up and go to your son for I have heard his cries and I will save him."

Today the sons of Ishmael, namely his Muslim descendents, are still crying out and God is mercifully answering.

Copyright © One World Missions
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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