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I went to a prison Thursday that had no prisoners.  Its the third time that I have visited a

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New large men’s prison next to smaller women’s prison

prison with no prisoners.  The first two times I went to Alcatraz in San Francisco. An old prison closed for many decades.  The one that I went to on Thursday is brand new.  I have been watching its construction for the last three years from where I live, across the highway, at a home for needy children, in Oaxaca, México, where I serve.  I went there with 11 others, also from the mission.

There is a women’s prison next to the new prison.  It has been in operation for about 15 years.  I have been teaching an English class there for over 7 years.  Others involved in  prison ministry from the children’s home were in the group. Enrique, who is in charge of the prison ministry was there, as well as his wife and  Mundo and Linda, who assist him.  Elaine, who teaches art and sewing in prisons was also there with her husband.  Niche, the mission administrator was there with Laura, her assistant.  Two house parents were also there.

This new prison was an impressive structure, expected to house over a thousand prisoners

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New cell block which includes a dining room.

who will come from seven different prisons in the state of Oaxaca.  We all went through two security checkpoints before meeting with the prison administration officials.  Then we had the grand tour which included a cell block, one of eight on the property.  The kitchen, which has a bakery and a large place to make lots of tortillas. The medical clinic, which is basically a mini hospital, with 20 beds.  The last room we saw was a morgue, with two beds.  You eventually get out of prison, one way or another. The tour lasted about three and a half hours.

So why did 11 of us go?  We all had a lot of work to do at the children’s home.  It was supposed to be a day off for one of the house parents. What was so important about going to a prison that has not even opened yet?  It was important because we don’t see it as simply a prison.  We see it as an opportunity to make disciples of Christ.  The mission statement of Foundation for His Ministry, is that we exist to glorify God by making disciples of Christ.  We not only want the children at the home to be disciples, but also our neighbors, which will soon include over a thousand incarcerated men.

After the tour, I asked Ceferino , a house father, why he went,especially since it was his day off.  He told me that we will probably have children at the home whose fathers are in prison, and he will need to talk to them.  An opportunity to make disciples.  I went because I plan to teach an English class using Christian curriculum.  Another disciple making opportunity. Naturally, Enrique, Mundo, and Linda went because they will be preaching and teaching the Gospel, and counseling hurting men, pointing them to the healing power of the Savior. More disciples.
So, while many see a new prison in their backyard as a problem or a nuisance, we see it as an opportunity to follow our Lords example, and set the captives free.  Not free from the bars, razor wire and thick concrete walls, but free from lives of desperation, darkness and depression,  to disciples of Christ.

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