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Young prisoners behind bars in a Brazilian prison

FROM PRISONER TO LISTENER TO MISSIONARY

24 April 2018

Last month was TWR’s regional Partner Conference in Latin America, and TWR’s Mariette Oosterhoff visited the office of TWR in Brazil. This is her report, which refers to RTM, which is Radio Trans Mundial – the name of TWR in Spanish-speaking countries.

The first thing I noticed is the young faces! In every position young people are taking up their role in media ministry. RTM Brazil has almost 40 employees and many more volunteers. As we walked from office to office, I quickly fell behind. I was enjoying seeing everyone’s workspace. As we entered a room with three ladies sitting behind computers, it looked like any normal work area. What happens in this room, however, is not normal! These three women correspond with more than 2,000 prisoners a month!

Brazil is notorious for its prison riots and has the third highest population of prisoners in the world. The almost 700,000 prisoners in Brazil are practically a people group in itself, so I am impressed that RTM Brazil has taken the effort to make a Bible correspondence course especially for them.

Love for Prisoners

I spoke with one of those three women, Solange Mendez. She said to me: “I used to answer letters from all sorts of listeners, but whenever I received a letter from a prisoner, I always felt this overwhelming love in my heart. Many of them really reached the bottom of their lives and what they really wanted was Jesus, they had no hope left. One prisoner accepted Jesus after the Bible study, and when he got out of prison he became a missionary!”

Outside the Walls

I spoke yesterday with Andre Castilho about this prison ministry. He explained how it began: “When we started broadcasting in Sao Paulo, we also reached the prison. Prisoners heard the programme, became Christians, and started doing the course. It grew so fast that we decided to focus on prisoners. We adapted the context to better suit their specific circumstances. Prisoners lead different lives than people in freedom. Most of them have had less education. Their daily life is different. They have difficult issues, like when their case goes to trial. And when we talk about sins, then their sins are worse than gossiping as they have murdered or trafficked drugs.”

We receive their letters by mail as prisoners in Brazil do not have access to computers. Thanks to the course the prisoners now have a relationship with the outside world, or what they would call “outside the walls.” They receive the material, answer the questions, send it to TWR and receive an answer. This helps bring back their self-esteem and it makes them feel more important and valued. They know that outside the wall are people who care for them.

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Mission