I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles… Ephesians 3:1
Prison! Even the word sends shivers down the back and the thought is immediately pushed to the back of our minds. Yet we in the western world often have no idea just how horrible conditions are in prisons in non-western countries.
For most people anywhere in the world, imprisonment is simply the biggest shock of their life. One of the most famous prisoners, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, was almost poetic in his description in his book The Gulag Archipelago. “Arrest [and imprisonment] is an instantaneous, shattering thrust, expulsion, and somersault from one state to another.”
Prison is extremely challenging for those, like Aleksandr, who find themselves there unjustly. It is rigorous even for those who acknowledge their guilt and must pay the price. But a strong faith in God and trust in God’s ultimate goodness and purposes enables Christian prisoners to emerge with victorious testimonies. And like the Apostle Paul they can say they were “prisoners of Jesus Christ.”
For example, Pastor Steven in Vietnam is a courageous leader of the unofficial church. He had a ticket to the USA in 1975 but chose to stay and suffer with his people. He is passionate about the gospel and says, “I always have my suitcase packed by the front door, ready for prison again.”
He spent seven and a half years in a tiny cell after being arrested for “illegal Christian activity.” He was tortured for sharing Christ with other prisoners, but his faith impacted thousands. One Vietnamese pastor says, “Before 1975, we were only allowed to preach in prisons on Tuesdays, but now there are brothers witnessing there seven days a week!”
An Open Doors-Africa co-worker named Solomon was assigned to find out if there were many Christians in prison or labor camps in Mozambique during the communist regime there. While researching, he was arrested himself. “In prison, all my possessions, including my Bible were taken from me. Then I was subjected to a cross-examination for six hours, after which I was thrown into a cell, exhausted. I had to sleep on a concrete floor without even a blanket.
“Knowing that my heavenly father would never forsake me, I directed all my attention to my fellow-prisoners. Although I still had to sleep on the floor and was harassed by malaria, bugs and gnawing hunger, I tried to talk about my faith as much as possible…
“I had the opportunity to preach to my companions. I prayed for the sick and the Lord heard my prayers and healed them. That was of great support to them and during my stay in prison, I led fifteen people to the Lord.
“Unexpectedly, I found out that there were more Christians in prison. Now it became clear to me why I had to be arrested. In the first place, to bring the message of salvation to the lost ones in prison. And secondly, to strengthen my fellow Christians.
RESPONSE: Today I accept the fact I can be a witness for Jesus anywhere and everywhere He leads.
PRAYER: Pray for Christians in prison (Hebrews 13:3) and pray they will be used of God while there.