​Sycamore Tree Restoration Through Prison Ministry

February 10 2016

Crime has a widespread and long-lasting impact on victims, offenders, and the community. One Mission Society partner ministry Prison Fellowship of Colombia promotes healing for those affected by crime through its restorative justice program, Sycamore Tree.

Based on the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who agreed to repay the people he had cheated, this project brings victims into prisons to meet with offenders. Prisoners come to a full understanding of the effects of their crimes and discuss what it would mean to take responsibility for their actions. Victims and their families are also afforded the opportunity to offer forgiveness.

OMS partner, Lacides Hernandez, president of Prison Fellowship of Colombia, tells of one prisoner who recently completed the program. He had been involved in the murder of seven people, whom he secretly buried. However, after participating in Sycamore Tree, he wanted to help bring closure for the families of the seven victims by helping them recover the bodies of their loved ones. He called the authorities, who came to the prison. As a result of his action, the bodies were recovered for the families. This is very important in a country where many people have simply disappeared over the years.

Sycamore Tree emphasizes relationships, accountability, human rights, healing, and transformation. It gives victims a voice, lowers the rate of repeat offenses, and offers a powerful example of the application of biblical principles to social problems.

Painting by James Tissot, late 1800s. (Brooklyn Museum/Wikimedia Commons)

Tags: prison ministry, restoration, murder, colombia, forgiveness,

​From Masterminding a Murder to Christ’s Forgiveness

February 2 2016

For many decades, Colombian prisons were notorious for their violence and hopelessness. But today, by the grace of God, lives are being transformed through the love of Christ and the ministry of faithful believers in those same prisons. Colombian prisons now have become a place of forgiveness, healing, and restoration for hundreds of inmates.

Miriam is one of these. After masterminding the murder of her husband, Miriam was sentenced to prison. She says that for 20 years, her husband abused her, leaving scars all over her body, which to this day still show the evidence of his abuse. Though she sought to put an end to her troubles through his death, her guilt so consumed her that she turned herself in to the authorities.

When she arrived at the prison, she joined one of the cell block prayer groups. She had heard of God, but for the first time she began to truly understand his love. She later signed up for training in the prison Bible school, which deepened her understanding and love for God.

Now, Miriam is living for the Lord. He has done miraculous things in her life. She has received forgiveness from her children for the murder and no longer lives with the burden of guilt.

But the greatest miracle of all, she says, is that she feels completely loved by Jesus Christ.

Follow these blogs and OMS social media to hear more about how prison ministry in Colombia is changing lives...

Tags: prison ministry, colombia, restoration, forgiveness,

What Might Happen? - Plan

April 16 2015

Plan.

I love it when a plan comes together, especially when it is God’s plan. On March 15, 2014, the plan was in place, and Pastors Willy and Vicky moved from Tarlac City to Tacloban City. By car, this is a more than 24-hour move. Their plan was to distribute roofing sheets to people who lost their roofs during the typhoon. This would give them an opportunity for connection to the community.

In the first two months they had distributed sheets to 44 homes in one area and 22 in another. They requested the roofs be painted red so you can see which houses were given new roofs. The picture gives a view from the top with several homes “seeing red.” The best part of the ministry is the relationships built with people who have started attending house churches as new believers. In two months they already had two worshiping groups meeting weekly with more than 50 total in attendance.

The people of the Philippines are such giving people, despite what little they may have. If you are visiting, they will prepare a meal or an afternoon merienda (snack) from what little they have. Many of the locals lost their families. Parents lost all their children, children lost all of their family – 26 people were lost in one family alone.

A woman survived with all eight of her children by clinging to trees while the storm surge hit. By God’s miraculous grace they all survived. This is not the case for many as more than 6,000 people lost their lives in Typhoon Yolanda. The area was devastated, yet the people still show love and hope.

Pastors Willy and Vicky have committed to stay three years to help those in need and build up leaders in the church. They live sacrificially and have a true heart for glorifying God in their daily lives. They yearn to do more for the families of Tacloban City.

To be continued…

Tags: god's plan, philippines, typhoon, relief, restoration, house church, worshiping groups, grace,