Personal Transformation In Prison

Colombia

By Luke Bergmann Canada

Growing up in the rural Bible-belt of British Columbia, Canada, I had no exposure to those who had spent time in prison. Prisoners were individuals to be feared. They were irreparable, broken people due to their selfish and harmful actions.

I traveled to Colombia, in November, 2018, and was faced with the intimidating prospect of door-to-door evangelism, manual labor, and encouraging a young pastoral couple in rural Concordia. However, the work that changed me the most was at Bellavista Prison. I had heard the horror stories of its past and the dramatic transformation through the work of the Holy Spirit. The prison was something I had to experience. Even if the prison had changed, I was sure we would still be kept at a “safe” distance from the prisoners.

Colombia prison
Exercise yard of the prison in Colombia where the MFM team worked alongside prisoners.
No guards entered with us when we were ushered into the outdoor area, adjacent to the living quarters of the prison, where we would be painting the walls. The door locked behind us, and we were surrounded by prisoners. Hugging the wall like a teenage boy at a school dance, I recognized my own fear. God did not ease my fears by removing me or the prisoners from the situation; rather, God delayed the paint and materials from arriving. Others from my team played basketball with the prisoners or attempted to speak with them using their limited Spanish vocabulary while I stuck to the wall, longing for the day to go faster.

My attention was grabbed by a commotion next to me. Fellow team members were talking with a group of men. One of the prisoners commanded the attention of everyone on the patio with his intimidating stature, brass knuckle tattoos on his face, mohawk, and ankle scars from gunshot wounds.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed that he was crying. While we had been waiting for the paint, he was being led into a relationship with Jesus Christ. The very purpose of our trip was being fulfilled in this one moment, not by painting, but through a simple conversation. This man was being washed with the blood of Christ and his eternal destiny was being decided. The two days of working alongside him were phenomenal. He delighted in helping, gave us hugs at the end of each day, and was making connections with the chapel program to enter into discipleship.

The prisoners that I once feared joined with us for two days of hot and frustrating work. There was no concern of the mess left from dripping paint and having to mix the paint with their hands. They seemed to delight in it. The mess of their lives and mine was not a concern for the Lord either. He delights in our mess because when He redeems “a mess” it shows His power. He had brought me to Bellavista Prison in Medellin, Colombia, to show me that He sees these men just as He sees me, broken and sinful, yet so deeply loved by Him. God had taken men I feared and made them brothers in Christ. What a great God we serve!

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