We talked yesterday about prison ministry in the United States during COVID-19. Our ministry partner, Crossroads Prison Ministries, also works around the world to connect prisoners with Christian mentors through mail-in Bible studies. They have been getting reports back from their international Extension Centers about ways the pandemic affects their prison ministry in various countries.
In February – just as rumblings of the coronavirus began to surge – Crossroads’ Vice President of Programming, Brenda McGowan, traveled to meet with the ministry’s staff members and Extension Center Leaders in West Africa.
Already, McGowan could see caution growing on a global scale. “I just recall boarding and deboarding in every airport and having to put antibacterial solution on my hands, having my temperature taken, and that was back in early February.”
The Crossroads team briefly returned home to the States, then went right back out in early March to meet in Colombia for a learning exchange.
McGowan says, “I remember we had originally planned to go into a prison in Bogota to visit some of our graduates…. Initially, we were told that there was a mumps outbreak in the prison we were going to visit and so that trip was canceled. We were given additional options to visit another prison and then were told the next day all the prisons were now shut down due to COVID-19 concerns.”
After a few more stops, the U.S. team returned home on March 13th in the nick of time. Then everything was shut-down and “things changed significantly from that point on.”
Since then, Crossroads has heard several stories – both heartbreaking and hopeful – from their international prison ministry leaders.
McGowan says the most difficult report came from their Extension Center Director, Angel Aguirre Villamar, in Ecuador. His message read:
Dear brothers, I regret to inform you of the unfortunate death of one of our mentors, Brother Hugo Salomón. He was a doctor and attending to patients in a Guayaquil hospital he was infected and after several days of fighting, he died. Now God has him in his glory.
“He went on to say that the prisons were closed to outside visitors, including family members, and that basically is what happened across the world,” McGowan says. “The people of Ecuador suffered a significant amount of Coronavirus deaths, particularly in the high poverty areas. There are bodies that cannot be buried. The funeral homes and churches are overwhelmed. So much so that families are leaving bodies in the street. It is absolutely tragic.”
Some of Crossroads’ Extension Center Leaders run other businesses that also support the ministry. Unfortunately, many of them had to shut down their businesses to abide by social distancing rules.
Crossroads is also hearing concerning reports from countries where it is difficult to social distance. “Like in Latin America, families are experiencing incredible amounts of infections and deaths.”
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SOURCE: Mission Network News, Lyndsey Koh
CALL TO ACTION
- Pray for countries with low infection rates to remain stable and healthy.
- Ask the Lord to comfort communities hard-hit by the virus.
- Pray for Crossroads’ international ministry partners to be bolstered as they reach prisoners with Jesus’s Love.