Transforming Prison Ministry

eNews_1603_story1It’s Already Working

“The rate of re-offense among inmates wasn’t going down,” a Rockford pastor notes. They needed a solution, and they’re finding one with Philip Acts 8™ (Project Philip) training for inmates. “We need to move ministry inside the prison—instead of inmates being served by someone else, we needed to shift the approach from just saving sinners to training leaders as well,” he says.

So earlier this year, there was an intensive training of Philips (prisoners who are believers being trained as Bible study leaders themselves). An inmate named Quincy participated and says, “This training is already working. Just five minutes after our training I started a Bible study in my cell block. It’s already a thing and God is going to do more here.” Quincy adds with a laugh.

Finding His Way—Again

Another one of those newly trained Philips is Aaron. “It’s really hard being a Christian in jail,” he says. As odd as that may sound, Aaron’s story is, unfortunately, common—someone who believes the Gospel lost his way.

Aaron says, “Thank you for showing us that you don’t believe we’re all just a lost cause. You’re showing us how to be accountable, and Philip Acts 8™ will help me reach others. I will use this with my friends and family and when I find a church home when I’m released. And it has helped me see what’s important—being a Christian is about more than just going to church, it’s about being and doing the right thing.”

Today there are over 40 inmates involved in different Bible studies led by these new Philips, using Philip Acts 8™ Bible studies. And the leaders—the inmates themselves—are ready to reach more with the Gospel of a new life in Jesus Christ.

It Was Almost Too Late

eNews_1603_story1Go Back to Church

After a night of troublemaking with friends, Cossa was arrested for theft (someone in the group had stolen some electronics that night and Cossa was implicated alongside others). “I was put in prison because one of my friends stole something expensive,” Cossa says, “and I spent 7 days there.” This got his attention.

“My mom told me, ‘Son, you stopped going to church and now you went to prison instead. Please go back to church,’” Cossa admits shyly. And he did—and that’s where a believer heard his story and encouraged him to join a Philip Acts 8™ (Project Philip) Bible study. “After several Bible studies, I saw the need of receiving Jesus and I did receive Him as my Savior.”

According to God’s Word

“The first thing I felt was peace in my heart. If I’d lived according to God’s Word, I wouldn’t have to fear prison,” Cossa says. “I am a different person now because Jesus transformed my life through the Bible. Instead of getting into trouble late at night, I’m studying God’s Word. I even went to my mom and asked her forgiveness for the pain I caused her. And I thank God for those who provided the Philip Acts 8™ Bible study for me, and today I have my own Bible. Thank you.”

Mozambique is a country facing violent political divides and devastating economic hardship—these obstacles often hinder ministry for the most vulnerable. But when under-resourced churches receive training and are equipped with God’s Word, they eagerly reach those at risk—whether near larger cities or in rural areas. In the face of significant suffering, people’s lives are being transformed today.

Finding a Way to Plant a Church

Finding a Way to Plant a ChurchTraining Philips – Empowering Believers

This is a rural village with high unemployment and little access to education or—most importantly—God’s Word.  Because of the pervasive poverty in Curacavi, planting a church is very difficult because people have to travel great distances for work. “These long commutes to and from work have a negative effect on churches, making it especially difficult for working members to attend church gatherings during the week.” This is a common concern among the many under-resourced churches struggling to survive in this area of Chile.

Pastor Carlos knew these pressures could easily overwhelm his small church, so he needed a creative way to empower believers and found it using Philip Acts 8™ Bible studies. “We trained Philips, and the eager new members are seeing their first results,” he says, “Three home Bible study groups are now meeting and studying their way through Philip Acts 8™ Bible study materials.”

Their Lives Are Being Transformed

“After the Bible studies are done, on the same table where they were reading God’s Word, they eat a meal together to build the community. All are touched by the Word of God and they are witnesses of how their lives are being transformed,” Pastor Carlos says.

These Bible studies have given new believers the training they need to share their faith with others at work and during their long commutes. Equipped with training and their own Bibles now—something they could not afford—this church is growing and lives are being transformed in Curacavi.

God’s Word Reaches Sri Lanka

God’s Word Reaches Sri LankaA New Church Planter and a New Church

Of Sri Lanka’s 22 million population, the great majority are Buddhist and Hindu, but less than 2% are believers. However, in the northern region of the country—among Tamil speaking people—there is an unusual openness to the Gospel, and the few under-resourced churches there are eager to reach places where there are no churches. As one church leader in this area says, “This land is ready to be harvested, and the people welcome Christians.”

Ruby is a new church planter trained with Philip Church™ from Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka. She is the wife of a pastor, in her 30s and the mother of two children, and God called her to reach a new area. As she completed her 18 months of training, she says, “I began a Bible study in the village, and today there are 10 Bible study groups. Although some people are not able to attend our church service on Sundays, we have about 50 members coming regularly.”

They are Totally Changed

“Before the church was planted here, the people believed Hinduism and its many gods, but today those who accepted Jesus Christ are totally changed,” Pastor Ruby reports. “They are freed from their old ways, and the lives of many who were addicted to alcohol and members of violent gangs have changed—they are totally changed, and all families can testify to this.”

They meet in a borrowed house, and now they have outgrown that place. “In the last few months we have 28 new members who decided to proclaim their faith and were baptized,” she says with joy, “Hallelujah!” She is starting to train new Philip Acts 8™ (Project Philip) Bible study leaders, and wants to start another new church in the next village. “God has healed this land,” she says, “and I am seeing God will bless our land with more Christians who worship Him.”

Faith and Persecution

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Jesus is Lord

The more she learned about her religion, the more disillusioned she became. “I was devastated,” she confesses, “with the violence. I fell asleep while praying and crying to God to reveal himself to me, and a mighty man stood before me in my dream. I asked ‘Who are you?’ And he said, ‘I am Christ Eissa’” (which is Jesus’ name in Islam).

Lilly hid the Bible she’d received from a friend, “Hidden in my room, along with Bible study materials from Bible League International, and I kept reading secretly, searching for more to learn about Jesus,” she adds. And as she read, she became more and more convinced, “and one night I knew—Jesus is Lord.”

Can’t Stop Telling Her Story

“That’s when my mother found out one day while cleaning my room that I had a Bible and Bible study books,” Lilly says. “My father beat me. He called the police and told them that his daughter had renounced Islam and has become an infidel.” She was abused and threatened, and when finally released she was ordered, “Do not talk about Christianity ever again.”

And what did Lilly do? “I still talk about my Jesus,” Lilly says with conviction, “and now I have a real Father—I was adopted by my Creator and I just can’t stop sharing my story.” This is why Bible League International equips Lilly with Bibles in Arabic so she can keep telling her story. The obstacle she faces today, she says, “is that I run out of Bibles.”

How He Serves God

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Church Planting Where Needed Most

Abera grew up in a rural area, and since he was a child he’s seen how important a church is for people. “I was raised in a Christian family and was always active in church ministries,” he says, “and today I’m happy to help churches in my area with youth ministry.” He is modest about the time and travel he undertakes, but shows how confident he is that God’s Word will accomplish His purpose.

As Abera travels constantly, he always carries Bibles and Philip Acts 8™ (Project Philip) Bible study materials with him. “After a Philip Acts 8™ Bible study concludes, the people go to evangelize others who have never heard the Gospel nearby,” Abera says, “and many accepted Christ as their Savior because of this.”

How They Show Transformation

Hundreds of people in the area are participating in these Philip Acts 8™ (Project Philip) Bible studies thanks to Abera’s hard work and the generosity of those who help provide God’s Word in this region of Ethiopia. “Everyone is always thankful once they learn the Gospel,” Abera says.

And when people learn God’s Word, Abera says, “they practice Christian charity by helping the less fortunate—their collection went to support orphans, clothing was donated to families, and then people went to work on the farmland of several widows and the elderly.” Abera adds, “This is how they show their transformation.”

Finding Hope in Albania

God Has a Plan

Would God Change Me?

One of Dako’s dreams was to be a musician, and when a group of Christian artists came to the neighborhood to perform and conduct evangelistic meetings in a small church, Dako was intrigued. “While I was in the church I heard preaching that the Bible is the Word of God and changes people’s lives.”

Dako thought about his own life and his disappointments, “Every night my parents quarreled in our house. Often we went to sleep without eating. I felt very bad,” he admits. “I would come home late just to avoid home.” As he listened to the preacher he heard something that gave him hope. “The preacher told his personal testimony of how God had changed him from an alcoholic into a preacher. I was very surprised and I thought: Would God change me too?”

God Has a Plan

That’s when Dako decided to learn more, and he started attending a Philip Acts 8™ (Project Philip) Bible study. “The more I learned, the more I realized that God had not abandoned me. He has a plan for me. I realized that I was a sinner and needed to repent. One day, I decided to believe in God and asked for forgiveness for my sins. Immediately, joy captured my heart. My life began to change.”

She Needs a Different Life

Gloria heard the Gospel

She Prayed a Lot

But a neighbor knew what Gloria was going through. “She prayed a lot and she invited me to attend a Philip Acts 8™ (Project Philip) Bible study,” she says. A small group meets in the village—sharing the few booklets they have and always able to use more for new people ready to study God’s Word.

This is when Gloria heard the Gospel for the first time. And, she also learned how she could be the one to tell others about salvation and new life in Jesus Christ. New believers are characteristically bold and eager to share with others the story of their transformation, and when Gloria heard this, she confessed that she wanted a story to tell of how God changed her life.

I am a Philip

“I accepted Jesus as my Savior, and now I am a Philip and not just a Gloria,” she says with a smile. In this rural area of Zambia, poverty and personal hardships seem to go hand-in-hand, but Gloria found help in God’s Word.

“I have started a Bible study in my house, and the most exciting part is that even my husband has joined the discussions we have.” The way God has transformed Gloria’s life gives her the opportunity to reach others in her village—everyone knew her old story and today they’re learning her new story of life in Jesus Christ.

Searching for a Better Life

Hungry for God’s WordLearning Boldness

“I used to be afraid of talking to people about Jesus,” Justino admits with a shy smile, “but since my Church Planter Training it’s not so hard.” During his long workdays, Justino looks for opportunities to tell others his own testimony, “and people relate to it,” he says. “People are looking for community and they are under the influences of alcohol, violence, loneliness, and illiteracy. But they’re hungry for God’s Word and when you talk to them, that’s what you discover.”

Learning God’s Word

When he’s not at work, Justino walks through his city, inviting people to join a Project Philip Bible study he leads. “When I completed my church planter training, I began to knock on all the doors of this community,” Justino recalls. The homes that didn’t sic their dogs on him, let him in. “We read one chapter of the Gospel of John each time. We go slowly because people here have just a few years of education and they don’t read that much,” he adds.

The new church Justino planted now meets in a four-walled building, put together with hand-made bricks. It is unfinished — without doors or windows and a single bare bulb dangles from a wire overhead. It’s not much of a building — especially for a church planted by a bricklayer, but Justino isn’t concerned with the building. “This is already too small for this church,” he happily relates.

New Faith and New Churches

Church planters in this area of Peru are from the communities they reach, made-up of common laborers who work long days and still live in poverty. They know firsthand the way people live — their struggles, disappointments, and hopes of something more. After long days, they try to meet new people to share the Gospel and disciple new believers to build these new churches.

“The people here are poor,” Justino says, “and they struggle as laborers or try to run a small shop.” Most in this village live on just a few dollars a day, the meals are cooked over open fires, but they are happy when they gather together to read God’s Word.” And this is the better life Justino was looking for.

Turning to God

Project Philip Bible study

His First Bible

The pastor of Likpamor’s church received training with Project Philip evangelistic and discipleship Bible studies, and began to share what he was learning with the church. “He brought us a Project Philip Bible study in our language —Konkomba — and told us when we study these lessons we can receive our own Bible,” Likpamor says.

Distance and poverty make access to God’s Word difficult in this area of Ghana. So, providing pastors with Project Philip training, and equipping them to reach their villages with Bible studies and Bibles is essential to transforming lives. For many, this was the first time they had the opportunity to learn God’s Word by studying the Bible, and most had never been able to afford a Bible of their own — until today.

Living for Jesus

“When we studied the story of Nicodemus where Jesus told him unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God, I pondered the message and realized I was deceiving myself,” Likpamor confesses. “There I made up my mind to serve the Lord Jesus and stop the idol worship. I dedicated my life to Christ and since then my life has been transformed.”

Likpamor says, “My life has changed, and I am now active in my church. I thank God for my life and I will continue to live for Him alone.”