Bringing the Gospel to Prisoners

Bringing the Gospel to Prisoners

By: Adones Martinez, Dominican Republic Field Communication Specialist   |   Posted: March 14, 2011

Compassion's Leadership Development Program Helps a Young, Rebellious Girl Become a Servant-Leader.

At a young age Mafelin was a leader, but her rebellious spirit worked against her.

At age 9 she joined the Compassion program at child development center DR-404. She had a vibrant servant's heart; however, she had an attitude that tested the tutors.

"I was the most rebellious child. I was a good servant though," Mafelin remembers. "I fought with everyone … I argued with all the teachers. [In my center class] I cried out 'I'm leaving!' I left, and everybody in the class followed me. … The classroom was left empty."

Her rebellion led her to quit the Compassion program several times. The pastor's wife could see past Mafelin's actions and encouraged her to continue to attend the center. Shortly after, God started changing Mafelin's heart and transforming her character.

Going Beyond the Child Development Center

Once she graduated from the Child Sponsorship Program, Mafelin entered the Leadership Development Program (LDP). A common activity for students in this leadership program is to plan and perform acts of social service. The plans go from visiting an orphanage or an elder's home to taking the gospel in public schools and universities.

When Mafelin attended the child development center as a child she learned dance and pantomime, and it became a passion in her life. She is now a dance and pantomime teacher, and because of this, it did not take her long to lay out her plan for social service for the summer of 2010. It was quite uncommon but very beneficial.

Last summer break, she arranged to be a pantomime teacher for a group of men in the Vista Al Valle Model Prison of San Francisco, her hometown. Her limit was 10 men, but because around 50 wanted to be in her class, she admitted 12.

Every Wednesday, she was with the men under the care of a guard. The prisoners weren't quite sure how pantomime would be useful in their lives and they were a bit unbelieving at first, but the effect of the training began to bear its fruit. Men who didn't talk much began opening up and sharing their testimonies.

"There was one of the men in the group, one that didn't graduate because he was transferred, he cried [with tears] in every class, because the [pantomime] plays reflected his own life regarding sin," Mafelin recalls.

Prisoners and Prayer

In every class from July to August, Mafelin began with a reading from the Bible and a prayer. One day Mafelin talked about prayer, and she had the group split into smaller groups of three so they could pray for one another. "Most of them asked us to pray for their families," Mafelin remembers, "also that the Lord would help them be released from jail."

The summer culminated into a big event. Around 60 prisoners, those with privileges, attended the three plays that they had been rehearsing. The plays were about the reality of sin and forgiveness, and these attending prisoners were able to hear about God's offer of forgiveness for them.

After the performances, three of the 12 men were transferred to other prisons and the other nine were able to participate in a graduation ceremony.

A Heart of Forgiveness

"In the end they made me a heart out of recycled materials; they used cardboard and sand, which they put together using glue," Mafelin says. "I was not expecting that from them. And they also made me a wallet out of potato chips bags and fruit juice bags." Interacting with the prisoners benefited Mafelin as well. She learned not to judge others and to have a heart of forgiveness.

"One of the men quite often showed me a picture of his daughter and said: 'Look, she is why I'm longing to be released and be a new person!' That was very impacting to me, because many times we have opportunities and we just ignore them," she says.

Today Mafelin is a business administration student in the Leadership Development Program in the Dominican Republic. She is an exemplary steward in the program, and she understands that it is only by the grace of God that she is who she is today. She is grateful that her sponsors and the pastor's wife saw her potential.

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