A Spirit Set Free Behind Bars

Rachel Chimits

The Great Physician came to heal the sick, and he continues to do his powerful work in the United States’ prisons.

One of World Challenge’s partners in the United States, a husband and wife team, have a ministry in the prisons reaching out to inmates with the gospel. Sadly, COVID-19 restrictions have kept Chaplain Mario and Barbara from being able to enter the facilities the last few months.

Through much persistence, Mario was recently able to deliver 600 of David Wilkerson’s books along with stacks of Gary’s booklets to one of the prisons where they work. “From there,” Barbara explained, “inmates will typically read the literature and then pass it along to others and even carry it to other institutions, scattering the books throughout the prison system.

“We’ve seen books like this still circulating among inmates decades after distribution. We’re grateful to World Challenge for their literature donation and know this is an incredible gift to inmates suffering intense isolation for months during this pandemic.”

As much as they work with the inmates, it’s rare for them to hear how one of these men is doing after being released. Mario was out one day doing routine chores when a young man recognized him. He could not thank Mario enough for the many times he had come to minister and encourage the often forgotten men behind prison walls, and he shared more of his story.

Falling Into the Dark

The young man shared that he had grown up knowing about God but without any kind of personal relationship with the Lord.

“As a kid, I grew up in a divided family. Mom and Dad divorced when I was a year old. I was raised by my grandparents who were devote Roman Catholics. I was surrounded by God and the church from the very beginning, and I went through the motions of all the ‘church’ things I thought you were supposed to do. My image of God was of a punisher.

“I didn’t really know him. I just knew of him.”

This incomplete knowledge of his creator began to affect his heart and mind in ways he didn’t fully understand at that time, underlying the already tough family situation and feelings of loneliness and abandonment.

“I often found myself searching for meaning and purpose in life through other people and materialistic things I thought would fill that empty void inside. I became very selfish and fixated heavily on my image and what others thought about me. I was living for the approval of the world and ignoring the fact that I have already been accepted by the Almighty God.

“I quickly began to fall into a very dark place and turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain that I was dealing with. As a result of my lifestyle, I ended up in prison.”

The Father Does Not Leave

“At my lowest point, when I was alone and afraid, I met Chaplin Mario in [name redacted] Correctional Institution, and he was instrumental in leading me back to Jesus again.

“Growing up in a Christian home, I knew what to do. I knew that God could save me, if I just let him. I confessed that I am a sinner and that I was trying to find life in everything else other than Jesus. I acknowledged that he sent Jesus to die on the cross so that I could be saved from my sin and have eternal life.

“I committed to living for God instead of myself.

“Since establishing a relationship with God and coming to know him better, he has shown me that being a ‘Christian’ isn’t about just doing good works. He made it clear that I do not have to earn my salvation or his love

“Ephesians 2:8-9 says that God saved you by his grace when you believed. You can’t take credit for this. It’s a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. He has given me fulfillment and purpose and joy. I am not perfect, and I still mess up, but God loves me despite my flaws and imperfections.

“When the things I was pursuing before constantly let me down, God has never once left me. He has shown himself to me in his word daily.”