Guatemala (MNN) — How do you transform prison culture in a country where the jails are over 290 percent filled for their capacity levels and marked with gang activity?
That is what Crossroad Bible Institute set out to do several years ago in Guatemala. They started Bible studies among incarcerated gang members in Guatemala. But eventually that opportunity closed, and Crossroad began to look for new ways to share Christ in Guatemala prisons.
Then they met Pastor Byron Aguilar, chaplain to the police department, prison guards, and the National Guard.
Crossroad’s International Director Cynthia Williams says, “As soon as [Pastor Byron] learned about it, he was really excited. He said, ‘This is exactly what we’ve been looking for, but would you be willing to allow us to use it with the prison guards rather than just the prisoners themselves?’”
Williams shares, “When this concept was presented with us, we thought this is a great opportunity to work with those who have a direct impact on prisoners themselves. What better way to create a better environment — an environment where God can be presented and Christ can be lived out — than to equip those working with prisoners with Christ-centered leadership principles and the Gospel itself? So that is exactly what we’re doing.”
The program has expanded since its inauguration. In addition to Pastor Byron’s chaplain work, he has also taken the role of the Ministry Center Director in Guatemala for Crossroad. They currently have 150 Guatemalan students — from police to prison guards — being mentored by 25 instructors.
Last month, students from the department of correction graduated from Crossroad’s Great Truths of the Bible course. They celebrated with diplomas and cake. Crossroad has another group getting ready to graduate in November from their Survey of the Bible course.
“We are definitely seeing lives changed, and I can only imagine that is having an impact on the workplace itself, and that is really the goal. Pastor Byron comments often that the attitudes change, the focus changes, they see the prisoners differently, they’re coming at it from a Christ-centered view, which is just a completely different view than what society views them as.”
Besides God’s Word impacting the police and prison guards’ approach in their work, it’s also impacting their lives at home.
“As they do these lessons in their homes, they’re bringing their families into it as well. So it’s affecting their family time, their relationships with their spouses and their children. There’s just a broad sense of impact.”
Crossroad’s desire is to see the program expand across the country. They’re also hoping to launch the Bible study courses among prisoners again as well.
Williams says there is a need for support in the ministry: “Pastor Byron has shared with me that most of what he does, he does out of his own pocket. And that has been a tremendous strain on him and his family. So he does need funding for all of the work he is doing, the travel he does to all of these different locations, and what it takes to really implement the program.”
If you’d like to give to Crossroad Bible Institute’s international program in Guatemala, you can click here to give online, or give them a call at 616-530-1300.
And, above all, please pray for the Gospel to permeate Guatemala prisons through the prison guards and police who are saturating themselves with Christ.