Wolves to lambs: Finding God behind bars in El Salvador

Members of the Torre Fuerte (Strong Tower) evangelical church participate in a religious service at the San Francisco Gotera prison, in San Francisco Gotera, El Salvador, March 9, 2018. Former members of the Barrio 18 gang abandoned their gang and decided to form two churches in order to leave their violent past. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

By Jose Cabezas and Nelson Renteria

SAN FRANCISCO GOTERA, El Salvador (Reuters) – Pastor Manuel Rivera’s voice echoes through the crowded courtyard in the notorious San Francisco Gotera prison in El Salvador, as hardened criminals weep and bow their heads in prayer.

Brutal ‘mara’ street gangs and chronic poverty have made El Salvador one of the most murderous countries on the planet, but the growth of evangelical Christianity behind bars is giving gangsters a way to break the spiral of violence.

Rivera, an ex-hitman from the powerful Barrio 18 gang, speaks to rows of men with spidery black tattoos on their arms, necks and faces, delivering a message of salvation: God had rescued them from violence. Returning to gang life would mean death.

“We used to say that the gang was our family, but God took the blindfold off our eyes,” says Rivera, 36, dressed like the other inmates in a white t-shirt, shorts and plastic sandals.

Some weep silently while he reads from a black bible. Others sing hymns, clapping and waving arms enthusiastically. They chorus: “Amen.”

Former members of the Barrio 18 gang participate in a religious service of the Torre Fuerte (Strong Tower) church inside the San Francisco Gotera prison, in San Francisco Gotera, El Salvador, March 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

Former members of the Barrio 18 gang participate in a religious service of the Torre Fuerte (Strong Tower) church inside the San Francisco Gotera prison, in San Francisco Gotera, El Salvador, March 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

By embracing religion, these men can leave their gangs without retaliation, Rivera says. But if they do not show real devotion, their former gang-mates may kill them, fearing they will join other gangs and become enemies.

Convicted murderer Rivera’s own transformation came behind bars, when, battered by years of running from police and enemy gangs, unable to see his son, he turned to prayer.

When God appeared in a dream, prophesying Rivera would have his own flock, he became a pastor, he says. He is now half-way through an eight-year sentence for criminal association.

Evangelical Christianity has grown rapidly in Central America in the past decade, coloring local politics. Dozens of lawmakers embrace it, defending hardline positions against gay rights and abortion.

The fervor has spilled into jails, where it is welcomed by officials who sense its potential for reforming ex-gangsters.

President Salvador Sanchez Ceren’s government plans to use Gotera as a model of religious rehabilitation it hopes can be replicated.

Two years ago the prison, located about 100 miles (166 km) east of capital San Salvador, was almost entirely home to active gang members. Now, the majority of its approximately 1,500 inmates want to find redemption, says prison director Oscar Benavides.

The conversions “show the country that it is possible to rehabilitate those in the Mara Salvatrucha or other gangs,” says Security Minister Mauricio Ramirez, dismissing criticisms that the government should do more.

The Mara Salvatrucha, a notorious cross-border crime group also known as MS-13, was founded by Salvadorans in Los Angeles in the 1980s.

President Donald Trump has blamed MS-13 and illegal immigration from Central America as a major source of violence in the United States.

Outside the relative tranquility of the prison, danger permeates the streets of El Salvador.

Crime has fallen from a record high in 2015, but at 60 per 100,000 inhabitants last year, the murder rate is still one of the highest worldwide.

Inside Gotera, where some inmates are serving 100-year sentences for accumulated crimes, colorful drawings of angels and prophets decorate the walls alongside biblical quotations.

Inmates wearing shirts emblazoned with “Soldier of Christ” and “Jesus Saved My Life” study prayer books, weave hammocks and tend to a garden.

Rodolfo Cornejo, 34, with intricate black tattoos circling his neck, started praying and growing cucumbers when he entered the prison on a 12-year sentence for carrying firearms, wanting to leave the rough life that had isolated him from his kids.

“People on the outside don’t trust us very much: they think we can’t change. But yes, we can show them.”

Click on https://reut.rs/2HJg8kN to see a related photo essay.

(Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Rosalba O’Brien)

Message from Pastor Jim Bakker “This is One of the Great Moments in Biblical History.”

Pastor Jim Bakker

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they that love thee shall prosper. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will say now, peace be within thee. For the sake of the House of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.

– Psalm 122

In a live message recorded shortly after the proclamation by President Donald Trump, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Pastor Jim Bakker spoke to Christians about this historic moment.  

“Our President has stood up for Israel.  He has stood up and fulfilled his promises.  The press has said that ‘The President has changed the course of history today.’ He knows the authority of the Bible”  

Please watch this compelling Christian view of this momentous and bold act by our President and what God says about Israel.  Please continue to keep both Israel and our President in your prayers!  

Posted by The Jim Bakker Show on Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Perry Stone ~ “God never quit speaking; people have quit listening!”

Perry Stone

By Kami Klein

Recently, our special guest, International evangelist and teacher Perry Stone had much to say on The Jim Bakker Show! In fact there was so much information, that Pastor Jim felt that Stone’s new book, The Revelation Generation, and the impactful visions and teachings from Perry could only be experienced with a week’s worth of shows that will begin airing on Thursday, June 22!  We encourage you not to miss any of them!    

Perry Stone began his interview by speaking on our lack of listening to God’s Word in our lives.  “God has never quit speaking, people have quit listening,” he explained when discussing the subject of hearing from God.  “Everybody has natural ears, but there is the ear of the spirit, the spirit of the inward man.  People have allowed cares of life, as in Mark 4:19,… the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the lusts of other things entering in to choke the Word.

These are things that clutter people to where they cannot hear!”  

For months, The Jim Bakker Show has been bringing prophet after prophet to Morningside and most are speaking as one: that something big is coming, and we must be prepared for this.  We must listen to what the prophets are saying and HEAR them!  We must learn and listen in our own hearts to discern the truth!  We can listen to what they are saying, but are we actually hearing them?  Are we stopping long enough to hear from God?

Perry Stone encouraged “If people will open up that spiritual ear and remove the clutter that is in their mind and spirit and free that up, God will ALWAYS speak to people. He will give you a vision!”  In Revelation 2:29 Jesus says, “He that has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.”

No one can deny that there are Revelation Events happening now all over the world and that God has set forth a plan for Christ to return.  But he has never wished for us to be unprepared. He does nothing without revealing it to his servants.  Amos 3:7 (MEV)  “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets.“

God has revealed much to Perry Stone in his new book Revelation Generation. This book is filled with the Revelations that God has promised, examples of the natural and unnatural prophetic and historical events that are happening in our world and includes many prophecies that Perry, a proven prophet, has been given.  

These are powerful shows.  Shows that will teach you how to open up your spiritual ear and remove the clutter.  These shows contain powerful visions of the future and the dreams and visions that God is giving to His Servants.  These are shows that you cannot afford to miss!

Please join Pastor Jim and Lori Bakker with their special guest, Perry Stone, beginning Thursday, June, 22.  Catch these shows on your local television channels, or download the PTL Television Network on Roku or Apple TV. These shows will also be available on The Jim Bakker Show and PTL Television Network websites.

 

 

 

 

Where Was God on 9/11?

The Ground Zero Cross watching over workers

There is a minister who preached on the Sunday after 9/11 in one of our little churches here in the Ozarks.  The congregation came in that morning somber, still shaken and many were filled with an anger that troubled every moment.  The Pastor walked slowly to the podium and said,  “Even those with the most powerful faith are asking God a question.  Some of you have probably shouted it so all of heaven could hear you. Some of you have kept it quietly buried in your heart, but most of us have asked at least once,   ‘Our Heavenly Father, Where were you?’ ”  

His answer came from God’s word.

Joshua 1:9 Have not I commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

There are those that are given a gift of creativity that communicates His Grace directly to our hearts.  

This poem, written by Stacy Randall, is truly God inspired and answered the question from that Sunday perfectly…

MEET  ME IN THE STAIRWELL’

By Stacey Randall

You say you will never forget where you were  when you heard the news On September 11, 2001.

Neither will I.

I was on the 110th floor in a smoke filled room with a man who called his  wife to say ‘Good-Bye.’  I held his fingers steady as he dialed.  I gave him the peace to say, “Honey, I am not going to make it, but it is OK.  I am ready to go.”

I was with his wife when he called as she fed breakfast to their children.  I held her up as she tried to understand his words and as she realized he wasn’t coming home that night. I was in the stairwell of the 23rd floor when a woman cried out to Me for help.  “I have been knocking on the door of your heart for 50 years!” I said.

“Of course I will show you the way home – only believe in Me now.”

I was at the base of the building with the Priest ministering to the injured and devastated souls. I took him home to tend to his Flock in Heaven.  He heard my voice and answered.

I was on all four of those planes, in every seat, with every prayer.  I was with the crew as they were overtaken.  I was in the very hearts of the believers there, comforting and assuring them that their faith has saved them.

I was in Texas, Virginia, California, Michigan, Afghanistan. I was standing next to you when you heard the terrible news.

Did you sense Me?

I want you to know that I saw every face.  I knew every name – though not all know Me.  Some met Me for the first time on the 86th floor.

Some sought Me with their last breath.

Some couldn’t hear Me calling to them through the smoke and flames; “Come to Me… this way… take my hand.”  Some chose, for the final time, to ignore Me.

But, I was there.

I did not place you in the Tower that day.  You may not know why, but I do.  However, if you were there in that explosive moment in time, would you have reached for Me?

Sept. 11, 2001, was not the end of the journey for you.  But someday your journey will end.  And I will be there for you as well.  Seek Me now while I may be found.  Then, at any moment, you know you are ‘ready to go.’

I will be in the stairwell of your final moments.

 Love,God

Learn to Love the Journey

I am constantly asked how I got to where I am today.  How did you get to Morningside?  How did you become the co-host of an internationally syndicated television program at 24 years old? Was it easy?  Did it happen overnight?  I want to say a resounding NO.  It did not happen overnight. Of the stories you have heard so far I feel like I have lived a pretty supernatural life.  I have always been sensitive to the supernatural realm and I listen to the Holy Spirit inside of me.  If He tells me to do something, I do it. Continue reading

Museum To Present “Overwhelming Evidence For Creation”

A new museum proposed for Boise, Idaho is being described as a place to present “overwhelming evidence’ for God’s creation of Earth and life.

The Northwest Science Museum is proposing a large national history museum that would have exhibits detailing the Earth’s history from a Biblical perspective.  The museum’s proposed building would appear similar to Noah’s ark with a dinosaur on the roof.

“We want to show a lot of science that’s being censored and not presented to the public,” Doug Bennett, the museum’s executive director, told the Idaho Statesman.

Bennett told the Christian News Network that the goal is to show how science actually backs up the creation story in Genesis.

“They need to know that there is true science that backs up creation,” Bennett asserted. “The church as a whole has shied away from this issue. Our goal is to help pastors and lay teachers understand the overwhelming evidence for creation from a scientific point of view, and that we don’t need to be afraid to talk about origins.”

“All Christian doctrine is based in Genesis and most within the first 11 chapters of Genesis. So it’s extremely important to understand origins,” Bennett added.  “Understanding origins leads one to have to make a decision about God as a creator, and if God created you, then he makes the rules and you are accountable to him; and if you are accountable, then you have to either accept Jesus as Lord and savior or reject him. That’s one of the goals of the Northwest Science Museum: to bring people to the point where they have to make a decision about God.”

The structure as proposed would cost $150 million and provides 350,000 square feet for the museum and offices.

Disney Channel Blocks God On Their Website

If you want to thank God, you can’t do it on the website for the Disney Channel.

A girl celebrating her 10th birthday went on the Disney Channel website and noticed they were asking their visitors for what they were thankful.  Lilly Anderson wrote that she was thankful for “God, my family, my church and my friends.”

When she tried to enter the message, a message in red letters said “Please be nice!”

Lilly called in her parents where mother Julie Anderson said they kept entering information until they removed God and the post was approved by the website.

“I’m not at all anti-Disney but to shame a ten-year-old, to tell her to ‘please be nice’ for thanking god and sharing her faith with others is what is upsetting to me as a mother,” she said.

“I want my daughter, and all children of faith, to know that it is OK to share God and Jesus with their peers,” Julie told me. “I want her to know that she doesn’t have to be silent about her faith. I want her to be strong and soldier on.”

Fox News correspondent Todd Starnes contacted Disney about their banning God from their website.

“Disney employs word filtering technology to prevent profanity from appearing on our websites,” Disney said in a statement.  “Unfortunately, because so many people attempt to abuse the system and use the word “God” in conjunction with profanity, in an abundance of caution our system is forced to catch and prevent any use of the word on our websites.  The company would have been happy to explain our filtering technology to the inquiring family had they contacted us.”

Florida State Student Says God Saved Him

A student who had been inside the main library at Florida State University when shots rang out says that God saved him.

21-year-old Jason Derfuss wrote about the incident in his Facebook page.

“The shooter targeted me first,” he wrote. “The shot I heard behind me I did not feel, nor did it hit me at all.  He was about 5 feet from me, but he hit my books.  Books one minute earlier I had checked out of the library, books that should not have stopped the bullet. But they did.”

Police killed the gunman when he refused to put down his weapon.  Three students were wounded including one that remains in critical condition.

“There is no way I should be alive,” Derfuss told NBC News. “It’s crazy: One minute I am checking out books, and the next I am crying on my bedroom floor thinking I shouldn’t be alive. Those books saved me, and God saved me.”

“The Florida State University community is extremely saddened by the shootings that took place early this morning at Strozier Library, in the very heart of campus, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of all those who have been affected,” university President John Thrasher wrote in a statement on Thursday. “The three students who have been injured are our highest priority followed by the needs of our greater university community. We will do everything possible to assist with their recovery.”