J. Lee Grady on Jesus Is Transforming Salvadoran Gang Members

FILE PHOTO: Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang members wait to be escorted upon arrival at the maximum-security jail in Zacatecoluca, El Salvador, January 31, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas/File Photo

This Monday, I stood in front of 600 male inmates at a prison in Izalco, El Salvador. The men were dressed in white T-shirts and white drawstring pants, and many of them sported tattoos on their faces and necks. All the men were members of violent gangs when they were incarcerated. About 20% of them were affiliated with the MS-13 gang—a group known for horrific attacks on women, children and police officers.

Yet I felt no fear as I looked out over the crowd and shared a message from Luke 15 about the prodigal son. Most of the men were carrying Bibles, and when I announced my text, they immediately turned to the passage. I could hear them yell, “Amen,” or “Gloria a Dios,” when I stressed an important point. And they clapped and cheered when I reminded them that the kosher Jewish father in the story welcomed his wayward son home even though the boy smelled like pigs.

Almost every prisoner in this huge group became a Christian after arriving at the Izalco prison. Two churches now operate inside the facility, pastored by men who were once tough criminals. All the men now gather for Bible study every day, they hold prayer and fasting vigils, and they are helping each other to grow spiritually.

When the men worshipped on Monday, six guys used plastic paint tubs for drums while an inmate with a huge smile led the praise choruses. The men sang louder and with more passion than I’ve witnessed in most churches in the outside world.

I told the inmates: “!Jesucristo vive dentro de esta prisión!” (“Jesus Christ lives inside this prison!”) The men screamed with approval.

“Our government is encouraging this movement,” says Oscar David Benavides, director of the prison. He says in 2016 he was allowed to encourage evangelism among inmates. When men experienced conversions, he intentionally moved them into buildings where there were non-Christian inmates.

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SOURCE: Charisma News

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