Only the beginning....
Update from Awana Lifeline Prison Ministry Training Seminar
The culmination of much prayer and planning and printing, the week of March 17-24, 2018 was really only the beginning . . . .
A team from Awana Lifeline Prison Ministries came to San Jose, Costa Rica, to be part of the training for Malachi Dads and Hannah's Gift--two books of the Awana Lifeline Prison Ministry curriculum that with much prayer and effort are being introduced to Costa Rican prison inmates.
This curriculum and program entails continual Bible study with the aim of not only reaching prison inmates with the gospel, but also restoring them to their families and re-positioning fathers and mothers as the spiritual leaders in their families. This process requires turning one's life over to the Lord, asking forgiveness of family and victim(s), studying the Word of God, and passing the joy of this relationship on to one's family--even from prison.
Through the contact of Pastor Carlos Córdoba, we have been working here in Costa Rica with Pastor Carlos and Karla Cunningham, from Voz de Libertad (Voice of Liberty) prison ministries. Joining us for the week from the states were
Dan Bostrom, International Director of Awana Lifeline Prison Ministries, and his wife Marylin Bostrom
Mike Broyles, Director of Awana Lifeline Prison Ministries,
Kristi Miller, author of Hannah's Gift,
and the director of our mission, Bob Rohm (Grace Global Ministries) from Cedarville, OH.
The first part of the week's ministry included several days of presenting the program to wardens and inmates of three different prisons in the San Jose metropolitan area. As Dan met and observed the various pastors working to reach inmates in San Jose, he shared, "We are thrilled to partner with such a passionate team doing prison ministries in Costa Rica. We are 'jumping on a moving train heading in the right direction.' ONLY GOD!"
Bob Rohm, representative of Grace Global Ministries, serves also as an elder for Grace Baptist Church in Cedarville, OH. Grace Baptist provided the funding for the printing of the curriculum that was part of the March 24 training session at the Spanish Language Institute.
With help of translator Juan Carlos, Bob had opportunities to speak at several of the prisons visited throughout the week. "It was an amazing week of ministry," Bob shared. "For me the highlights were the several prisons we had the privilege of ministering in. To see both men and women served by the sharing of the Gospel was incredible. One of those ministries was in the San Sebastian Prison in the center of San Jose. We shared a message from Luke 18 about the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, and at the end of the 20 minute message 9 or 10 men placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord!"
The Lord certainly did open doors this week. Not only did we have opportunities to share the gospel with inmates, we also were able to share with various wardens--all of whom showed considerable interest in the program of Awana Lifeline Prison Ministries. Without the cooperation of wardens, working with inmates would not be possible.
Furthermore, a huge step forward came with the visit with Gonzalo Ramírez Zamora, the president of the legislative assembly (the equivalent of the president of the US Senate). This meeting provided exposure with government officials, an important part of the furtherance of ministry in the prison system of Costa Rica.
Reaching into the women's prison was also an important goal. Marylin Bostrom shared, "I shall never forget visiting the women's prison, seeing so many very young women, eyes welling up with tears, expressing the pain of separation from their children. This group of women were in a holding area awaiting their trial. . . . A glimmer of hope appeared on their faces as we told them God loved them and talked about the Hannah's gift program that could help them become godly mothers." Marylin shared everyone's excitement in seeing how the meeting with the women's prison officials progressed from "'we will consider this program' to 'Yes, we would like this program. Can you write up a plan?' Only God!"
Another special guest this week, Kristi Miller, the author of the book Hannah's gift and national director for Hannah's Gift. She has worked as both prison chaplain and assistant warden of a Louisiana women's prison. So Kristi, too, has a strong interest in developing curriculum for those in prison--both to bring them to salvation and back to their families. During her visits to the prisons throughout the week, she noted, "There is a mighty army
of God's people already doing a great work in the prison settings in Costa Rica. Beautiful feet that are bringing the gospel to those despised or forgotten by society." After meeting those with whom we work in Costa Rica--Carlos and Karla Cunningham of Voz de Libertad (Voice of Liberty), Kristi shared, "I am honored to help and equip the 'Voice of Liberty' ministry and the substance abuse center [Casa Zoe, Alajuelita] in any way that I can With any resources that I can share."
On Saturday, March 24, we worked with Pastor Carlos Cunningham and his wife Karla from Voz de Libertad (Voice of Liberty) to provide training in the curriculum of Awana Lifeline Prison Ministry--particularly using the books Malachi Dads and Hannah's Gift. Training books and copies of the curriculum were provided by the funding of Grace Baptist Church in Cedarville, OH. Kevin and Tia together with Bob Rohm, an elder from Grace and the director of our mission, Grace Global Ministries, helped throughout the event--distributing materials, organizing logistics and meals, guiding the PowerPoint presentations.
Dan Bostrom was the chief trainer in an all-day seminar for those who minister in local prisons and jails. As Dan shared, "There is a very active and committed prison ministry team in CR now. Many inmates are well taught. God is at work!" Other speakers included Mike Broyles, Director of Awana Lifelines; Pastor Carlos Cunningham, Voice of Liberty; and Kristi Miller, author of Hannah's Gift.
Although around 90 participants were expected, the Lord blessed for His use an attendance of 130. Eight-five percent of those are already ministering in prisons, and showed such enthusiasm for the ministry God has given them and the materials now available to develop the spiritual and family lives of those for whom their hearts are burdened.
We had--with the help of Grace Baptist in Cedarville, OH--4500 pieces of material printed, ready for this day of training. And with the knowledge of even more books that could be translated and printed, these lay-leaders are already requesting that the other materials be made available.
Please pray for this giant first step--a week of meeting with the wardens, the prisoners, the government leader, and then the training of 130 willing servants for the Lord's work. This is only the beginning.
Pray for the continued openness of prisons and that hearts will be challenged. These are not easy places to reach into. The conditions are harsh and over-crowded, guards and wardens are frequently unwilling to take the risks needed for time and visitors.