We started our prison ministry in 2013, at the invitation of the police and the Government of Nicaragua. Members of the police had seen the impact we have on people struggling with addictions and living on the streets of Granada. They recognized that many young men in prison were there because of these same addictions and unless something changed, they were at a high risk of re-offending when their prison term ended. If our ministry is effective on the streets, perhaps it could be effective in prison as well.
We begin from the reality of life for each of the inmates we see. We know they need help with food and essentials such as personal care items (toothbrushes and toothpaste for example) So every two weeks we provide a meal and periodically we provide other essentials. This opens the door to an initial relationship; they recognize that we are there to offer care and support.
Every other week we meet with a group of inmates in a classroom environment provided by the prison. Using the inductive method, we share our own stories, our failures, and how we face those failures by applying our faith through the word of God as we understand our context, the culture, and our upbringing. As they learn more they begin to ask questions, asking us to share with them about: love, self-worth, acceptance, forgiveness, inclusion, education, engagement, participation, and how each of these subjects is part of our faith and the love of Christ in their lives.
In prison, they have the advantage of being away from the drugs and alcohol that fueled their addictions. As they learn about faith and begin to experience the love of Christ relationally, they begin to have a new perspective on life, in themselves, and hope for the future.
Many of the inmates we see struggle with loneliness. Some have lost their parents, spouses, and families while in prison. Even those who do have families, or other supporters are unsure of what will happen as they finish their sentences and are released from prison. We let them know that what we offer does not end at the prison gate, but that they can continue to seek help with us after their release.
The prison ministry benefits the inmates, but it also benefits our programs. It has become a place where we can test our concepts, a place where we can see how what we do works with a group that is free from the influences of the streets. We also see it as a link in the future to the Rural Treatment Center we are planning. We believe that many of the inmates we work with in the prison will become participants in the Rural Treatment Centre and will find both faith and skills to have fulfilling, addiction-free Christian lives.