Colombia (MNN) — Colombian prisons aren’t the first place you’d look for God’s Holy Spirit, but He’s moving there nonetheless.
Hans Daza Bolaños leads the work of Crossroads Prison Ministries in Colombia. Through an interpreter, he says many prisoners are encountering Christ’s love and truth through their work.
“Students, the prisoners, have been overjoyed and have said to me, ‘We have never had anyone pray for us by name like this. We have never had anyone write to us personalized letters of encouragement. We’ve never had anyone do that before’,” he shares.
In an overcrowded, dirty prison block, prisoners feel unseen – they’re just another unwashed face in a sea of rejected humanity. Everything changes when a prisoner receives a hand-carried letter – addressed solely to him or her – filled with Bible verses and encouragement.
“It really makes them feel like somebody cares.”
From wealth to poverty
Bolaños didn’t begin his working years in ministry but the Holy Spirit led him there anyway. Over the past two decades, God brought Bolaños from upper-class clientele to the outcasts of Colombian society.
“I had a very prestigious and well-paying job at a well-known bank… but, in the year 2006, the Lord called me to resign,” he says. He spent the next several years in a fruitful church planting ministry.
“Together with my lovely wife Sandra, we were able to plant two churches in the first two years.”
Many took notice of Bolaños’ gifting – including Antonio Prieto Surmay, the former director of Crossroads: Colombia.
“He started talking to me about prison ministry…. initially I didn’t want to work in prison ministry but Antonio saw a lot of potential in us, so he arranged a meeting,” Bolaños recalls. “I resisted but… [he] encouraged me to pray and think about it because they (Surmay and other leaders) felt we had tremendous potential.
“I wanted to see what’s going on inside the prisons…how could churches help the prisons?”
It turns out Bolaños’ passion for local church ministry and Crossroads: Colombia’s needs were a perfect pair.
“In the last year and a half, we have impacted about 600 students,” he says, and 400 local believers are involved as volunteers. These individuals are growing in their faith as they grade Bible study lessons, correspond with prisoners, and help with letter deliveries.
Bolaños isn’t satisfied with maintaining the status quo. His eyes are on the horizon.
“There is one prison in Bogota, Colombia, where we have the potential opportunity to work with 5,000 students,” he says. “There’s also a huge potential in other parts of the country.”
Just as his predecessor saw tremendous potential in him, Bolaños sees endless possibility in Crossroads: Colombia. One prospect pairs Bolaños’ knowledge and experience with the transformation of prisoners’ lives.
“I see this as one way through which we can establish and plant new churches.”
When prisoners experience Christ’s love and hope through Crossroads’ curriculum, they share their encounter and the lessons with their spouses and children. This opens entire families and communities up to the Holy Spirit’s movement.
Additionally, some illiterate individuals are learning how to read and write through Crossroads’ Bible studies. Bolaños wants to acquire additional resources so that Crossroads: Colombia can give students a Bible and more when they finish their coursework.
Click here to contact ministry staff if you’d like to help Crossroads: Colombia.
Header image is a stock photo obtained via Pexels.