Reaching the Heights - An Impact of Revival: Prison Transformation

An Impact of Revival: Prison Transformation

In October 1995, Susan and I visited Argentina, with a group from Northern England, at the invitation of Ed Silvoso of Harvest Evangelism. The purpose of the visit was to witness the revival that had been running there for more than 10 years. I had read a lot about Revivals in Church History and wanted to see one first-hand.

We visited the largest maximum security prison in Argentina, Olmos. It is located just outside of the city of La Plata and is the feeder prison for 19 others in the province of Buenos Aries.

As we approached the imposing, but run-down looking 5-story concrete and steel structure, we could see that there were no windows and some of the prisoners had their arms dangling through the bars. We were ushered into the building via three large steel doors, each dead-bolted and embedded in 4-feet thick walls. The last door opened into a large cavernous hall of cathedral-like proportions. Our small group was seated on plain wooden forms, cordoned off by a single rope barrier.

We were introduced to the prison church pastor. Ramon had served 15 years of a 25 year sentence for murder and rape. He told us a little of his history. He had been a warlock and was physically deformed. He had been a problem to prison staff ever since arriving in Olmos. He would beat up other prisoners, and staff found him impossible to handle. Eventually the head warder of the non-Christian Cell Blocks asked the Christian brothers if they could do anything with him. They took him to the prison church. He got delivered and saved. He was healed of his deformity and now stands straight. He exhibits a gentle authority and is respected by the other prisoners. He prayed for each of the visitors and many were profoundly affected by his anointing with Holy Spirit presence.

Soon, the prisoners began to file into the auditorium. They quickly surrounded us, about 1,000 of them. A scarier bunch you could not imagine. Their faces were mostly young-looking, but they bore the marks and looks of tough, violent backgrounds. Then they began to worship. The faces transformed. There was smiling and joy on almost all of them. The worship was in Spanish, so we could not understand, but the passion and power was evident. They were right in it, heart and soul. It was emotionally and spiritually very moving. We watched in amazement the high praises and heart-felt expressions of the prisoners. I have not heard worship like it before or since. It was stunning and inspirational, and there was not a single prison guard in the room!

Such was the trust that these men and their leaders had formed with the prison authorities that the number of guards had been reduced from 300 to as low as 30. This had been achieved over an 11-year period and has been a major impact in the Argentine Revival.

There was a daily expectation of miracles of healing, deliverance and breakthrough in this prison, and all under the most difficult, almost primitive conditions. The atmosphere was electric with Presence, faith and anticipation. It had a profound effect on me. Prisoners being born again and filled with the Holy Spirit was virtually a daily occurrence. The presence of God was palpable.

Each year, about one third of the Olmos inmates completes his sentence or is transferred to another prison. This means that about one third of the Christian inmates leave. In spite of this the church has increased in number every year. The church population was 1,200 at the time of our visit, 40% of the inmates. This means there has been a conversion rate of new believers of 10% per year for 11 years. Actually more than 50% of the 3,000 Olmos inmates confess Jesus as Lord, but not all belong to the prison church.

The re-offending rate for Christian inmates released from Olmos is less than 1%. Apparently a favourite saying amongst the Christian prisoners is, “Neither my mother, nor electric shock torture, nor beatings by the Police could change my life. Only Jesus could do that!”

I was so impressed with this place, or should I say the prison population and what has been achieved over the 11 years. It was so evident that faith, commitment and worship were real and lasting. It was so evidently and genuine move of God. It’s the nearest thing I’ve seen to sustained revival.

Great faith is the product of great fights. Great testimonies are the outcome of great tests. Great triumphs can only come out of great trials. Smith Wigglesworth
In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. Eric Hoffer
Take what bothers you most as an invitation by God to work at solving that problem. Lance Wallnau
Without grace, life is filled with struggle, it is not a life we enjoy; but with his grace, we can enter the rest (peace) of the Lord and experience joy unspeakable and full of glory. Joyce Meyer
You never lose; you win or you learn. Nelson Mandela
Your behaviour won't change until your thoughts change. As long as you think, "I can't do this", you are never going to be able to do it! Joyce Meyer
I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am only moved by what I believe. Smith Wigglesworth
Leadership is not about titles, positions or flow charts. It's about one life influencing another. John Maxwell
If God is enthroned on my praise, who is enthroned on my complaining? If I enter his gates with praise, who's gates am I entering when I complain? Bill Johnson
When we believe in God's sovereignty, and not our own understanding, we'll see how our problems will never outweigh what God has promised us (Prov. 3:5 NIV) T D Jakes
Success is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well. Jim Rhon
If I give up my right to understand, He will give me the peace that passes understanding. Bill Johnson
Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts. Winston Churchill
You can't change your life, but if you change your mind, God will transform your life. Kris Vallotton
In prayer we bring our spiritual enemies into the presence of God. Jarrod Cooper
Once in a while we manage to stumble on the truth, but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened. Winston Churchill
The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter. Winston Churchill
When the Lord says, "Do something", the favour needed to do it is already attached to the command. David Forster
Being powerful is like being a lady, if you have to tell people you are, then you aren't. Margaret Thatcher
The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but God will make us good because he loves us. C S Lewis
Fear is misplaced faith. Kris Vallotton
God has already seen every mistake, every failure and every weakness, and the good news is he's already forgiven you. He is not holding it against you. Joel Osteen
God is not nearly so interested in changing your circumstances as he is in changing you. Joyce Meyer
Pray, and let God worry Martin Luther
Those who never change their mind never change anything. Winston Churchill
What you do (for a living) is not who you are.  Celia Apeagyei-Collins 
 People who write you off when you fail know nothing about history and even less about life. No person ever fully succeeds until they fully fail. Lance Wallnau 
There is no uncreated being except God. God has no opposite. Satan, the leader or dictator of devils, is the opposite, not of God, but of Michael.  C S Lewis
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. Jim Elliot
You never know how much you really believe anything until it's truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life or death to you. C S Lewis
If you know you are loved, faith is easy. It's easy to trust someone you know loves you. David Forster
Every moment that you spend upset, despaired, anguished, angry, afraid or hurt, because of the behaviour of someone else in your life, is a moment in which you have given up control of your life. Unknown
Remember, you do not have to live today by how you feel, nor by what you think about yourself, nor by what someone else thinks about you. The person who created you thinks you are wonderful, and he waits with open arms for you to agree with him. David Forster
Shift gears from doing something in God's presence to simply being in God's presence. Lance Wallnau
Your future doesn't depend on what is in front of you, it depends on who is in you. Lance Wallnau
Did you know that you are utterly and completely loved by God, without doing a single thing, good or bad. David Forster
no one knows how bad they are until they have tried very hard to be good.. C S Lewis
If we are living daily by faith, we will be constantly over our head; Beyond our ability to do this our that. We should all be in that place in some area of our life. If we are not, we will be like an old wineskin; too rigid and inflexible to receive the Lord's new wine. Rick Joyner
For a believer intimacy with God is not an option, it's a necessity. Guidance and direction depend on this intimacy and sensitivity to Holy Spirit. There is no substitute for the latter. Graham Cooke
Jesus reveals the Father to us. He gives us peace and rest. He is not a hard taskmaster. David Forster
The God who creates everything, pursues you. Don't let anyone tell you you're are worth less than that. Louie Giglio
In the kingdom, physical obedience brings spiritual release. Bill Johnson
Don't be surprised if you pray for nearness to God and he sends a trial. Nearness always requires dependence.
Our corporate worship doesn't meet a need in God, it meets a need in us. Sam Storms
How you feel is not who you are. Feelings are great servants and terrible masters. Kris Vallotton
There is a lot that is good in your life. Don't take it for granted. Don't get so focused on the struggle that you mis the gift of today. Joel Osteen
The enemy commits identity theft when you believe you must earn what God freely gives. Alison Brown
If you agree with your creator and receive what he freely gives, you will have serenity in your identity and confidence in your countenance. David Forster
If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got. David Forster
A satisfying and exciting life organises around an identity focused on Jesus, not the church..  Graham Cooke
Satan cannot impose his will on anyone, he has to have our agreement.  Graham Cooke
Every day adjust yourself to where God is taking you, that is, toward the prophetic vision he has given you. Lance Wallnau
Real faith is not faith in an outcome (of a particular situation or circumstance), it's faith in a person. David Forster
Be in no doubt that God will redeem the losses and mistakes of your past life. David Forster
God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from himself, because there is simply no such thing. C S Lewis
Wealth, women and status; these are the major temptations that can draw a man away from God. Each is morally neutral; yet given the appropriate significance, each can control us. David Forster
The devil's finest trick is to persuade you that he doesn't exist. Anon
Fear is the enemy of love. The two cannot exist together. We have to choose daily: Fear or Love. David Forster
You are not saved because of the quality of your faith. You are saved because of the object of your faith; The Redeemer! Tim Keller
Revival goes from the bottom up; Reformation goes from the top down. Therefore reformation is institutional and revival is personal. Lance Wallnau
Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. Albert Einstein
Inner peace is key to experiencing God's presence. Rest is a weapon against the enemy Graham Cooke
Fairy tales don't tell children that dragons exist. Children know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed. G K Chesterton
When you are at peace with God, you will be at peace with yourself and with other people. David Forster
You can believe in Christianity in the same way you believe that the sun has risen; Firstly, because you see it and secondly because by it you see everything else. C S Lewis
A little while ago I became old enough to start believing in fairy tales again. This means there are far better things ahead of me then what I have left behind. C S Lewis
Your unfinished destiny is your most potent argument with death. Graham Cooke
I am not focused on what I am not, I am focused on what he is for me. David Forster
Reaching the Heights