As I passed through the first two checkpoints of security and proceeded to the common area, before entering general population, I immediately saw the aftereffects of the recent upheaval within the prison at Santa Adelaida. To my left, totally exposed to the elements without benefit of shade or shelter, were about 35 men who were the victims of the most recent conflagration. They had been in this condition, in the open without bedding nor toiletries, now for four days.
It is difficult to refer to these men as victims, because they were the former prison leaders of the Gulf Coast Cartel, but now they have been stripped of their power and cast out. Changes in the cartel’s power structure outside the prison always has its affect within the prison, and a violent riot ensued to make the changes. By the Grace of God nobody was killed, but many were wounded with also a whole cell-block being torched. These men were tired, filthy and carried the weight of a hopeless desperation, not knowing if they would be alive the next four days, knowing what had transpired during the past four.
I left the sight of these beleaguered souls to enter the men’s section of the prison where I would be ministering for a few hours, taking them their Bible Studies. Upon leaving the men to go to the women’s section I had to walk within a few feet of these men, separated only by a chain-link fence. After delivering the Bible Studies to the women I once again had to pass by these men so as to begin the security process to exit the prison. As I was walking by one of the men arose from the ground, approached the fence and spoke to me. He asked: Preacher, would you please come in and talk with us for a few minutes? I do not pretend to know all these men in the prison, but I can honestly say that there are probably very few who do not know me. I have been ministering openly in this prison for over 17 years and due to the myriad of activities that we have had with these men and women, both spiritually and socially, we are known.
These men were isolated, were not permitted visits and I noticed a few of the guards watching us as we conversed. I told him that I didn’t know if the guards would permit me or not, but that I would inquire. As I was passing through the gate so as to exit I told the guards that, with their permission, I would like to speak with these men for a few moments and, surprisingly, they waved me through. As I approached all those that were on the ground stood to their feet and began moving my way. Within seconds I was surrounded by men very eager for a visit. The first words out of my mouth were: I do not know all the details of what happened, neither do I care to know, but one thing I do know is that God had mercy on you all because nobody was killed. With heads shaking in affirmation to what I had just said and eyes beginning to well with tears, one of the men stepped forward and asked a question that will never be forgotten. Preacher, will you please pray with us.
I have learned over the years not to be surprised or shocked at anything I hear in the prisons. The worst of the worst has a place in their heart that is seeking for something more out of life and I couldn’t help but think that only a few short days ago I would have been able to talk with these men about the Lord, but never would have gotten them to pray. Now, THEY are asking me to pray WITH them! The fear of death and contemplation on eternity has a way of changing a persons perspective when they know they are not ready to die. It wasn’t hard to pray. Actually, it was as much of a salvation message being delivered as it was a prayer, and the men were ready to listen. I really don’t know what the guards were thinking; seeing me surrounded by these men, but not fully being able to hear what was happening, but they knew something was happening.
As I left those men I walked away with a rejoicing heart. I am not submitting to you that over 30 men received salvation that afternoon. I honestly can’t tell you for sure if any of them did. However, what I do know is that these men had, and accepted the opportunity to hear a Gospel message of God’s love and Grace. I wasn’t able to follow up with them. They had been transferred by the time of my next visit.