During our final week and a half, we also spent considerable time at the prison working and providing instruction and encouragement to the inmates on some of their projects. Since my last visit to Puerto Lempira, many changes have occurred within the penal system. Due to widespread protests within prisons, the government has deployed the Military Police to work alongside the National Prison Workers to assist them in maintaining peace and order within each penitentiary.
As you may have heard, a few months ago, over 40 female inmates in a women's prison here in Honduras were killed by a rival gang when their cells were all firebombed. This led to a lot of public outcries from several sources. Gangs have been a scourge within many Latin countries for many years. They are deeply rooted in the illegal drug trade, human trafficking, and extortion & money laundering activities. El Salvador recently opened a new high-security prison in San Salvador that houses 40,000 gang-affiliated inmates! Honduran prisons now operate with one prison guard and one military police member for each inmate. This is hugely expensive and does not seem to resolve the ongoing surge in gang-related activities throughout Latin America. We know what the real solution is, so please continue to pray for these countries.
I spoke (through an interpreter) at our final session to the whole prison population and several guards on the life of Joseph and how God had had a call upon his life. Yet Joseph had to endure betrayal by his brothers, life as a slave, betrayal by Potiphar's wife, and life in prison. Then, through God's enabling foretelling of the Pharaoh's dreams, Joseph was finally appointed as Egypt’s Prime Minister. I was surprised by how engaged the inmates were with this story. I wanted to share with them how God knows and loves each one individually. Despite their past and current situation, they can come to Jesus for forgiveness and cleansing and begin living the life they were created for.
One of the inmates that was present had been led to the Lord ten years ago. He is facing a 50 sentence for killing 3 drug enforcement officers while trying to import cocaine into Honduras to forward to the US. He has served almost 19 years of his sentence. He is now the longest-serving inmate at this penitentiary and has become a model prisoner since becoming a Christian. He has applied for early release, and it looks very promising that he might be granted an early release in January 2024. Thank you for your prayers regarding this work with these inmates. It is a life that most of us know little about and hopefully will never have to experience firsthand.
By John R. Steinmann