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Prison Church

A story from the Middle East

David* awoke knowing that he needed to go to and pray over his fellow prisoner. But how? That man was crazy. The prison guards couldn’t even hold him down long enough to put clothes on him. All the other prisoners feared him. The prison guards were always jumpy around him.

David had already been in prison for several months with his wife and son. After coming to the Lord several years ago, he had matured in his faith. But he wanted to do more. Sure, the Middle East was a dangerous place in which to be a believer, but David felt a burden to share his faith more openly with the millions of lost souls around him. He just didn’t know how.

By God’s providence, David met an African missionary who told him about Live School, a portable video curriculum that teaches local believers how to be missionaries, disciple-makers, and church planters. David immediately went through the Live School courses in a matter of months and graduated with a fire and passion to evangelize to anyone, anywhere.

In fact, he now sat in prison because he had been such a compelling evangelist in this very closed country of the Middle East. But David didn’t really mind. After all, prison didn’t mean a halt on evangelism, it just meant having a new crowd to preach to, a crowd that couldn’t go anywhere else. In the last few months, David had already witnessed to many of his fellow prisoners, and most of them had come to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior!

But now God was telling him to go pray over this one prisoner. This prisoner had never even eaten dinner with the rest of the prisoners. He couldn’t be controlled, he couldn’t be dressed, he only yelled and ran around naked in his cell. But God was telling him, “Go.”

So David left his cell and hesitantly approached the other man’s cell. Prison guards stood before the door to block the man from getting out or anyone from getting in.

“Excuse me, can I pray over the man in there?” David asked.

The guards smirked. “You really want to go in there?” they asked.

“Yes,” David replied, “I would like to pray for him.”

“Well, you can try,” one of the guards replied as he unlocked the door. David entered the cell and the door shut with a thud behind him.

Immediately, the other prisoner ran at him, pulling his hair, and then began running in circles around him, yelling at the top of his lungs, jumping on his cot then off of it again, never stopping for a moment. It was all David could do not to put his hands over his ears and run out the door. But he had to pray.

David somehow managed to grab the man’s hand. He then prayed as loudly as he could over the yells of the other prisoner.

“Amen!” David said at the end of his prayer.

And suddenly, as if he had run into a wall, the other prisoner halted. He stood perfectly still. He was quiet. He looked at David and then sat down on the bed. He looked down at himself and started as if for the first time he realized he was naked.

David knocked on the door and the prison guards entered the cell.

“Clothe him,” David said. The guards, too amazed to realize that David was giving them directions, took a prison uniform and helped the prisoner dress.

Then, they led him out of the cell and took him down to the dining hall to eat with the other prisoners for the first time. David went back to his cell shaken but amazed at how God had healed the man.

A few minutes later, the head of the prison guard came to his cell.

“How did you do that?” the guard asked David. “How did you make that man stop?”

“I just prayed to God,” David answered honestly. “Jesus healed that man.”

David realized that this could get him into even more trouble. God called him to pray over the man but now would he be killed for doing it?

The guard stared at David for a long time. Finally he spoke.

“From now on, you can do whatever you want in this prison,” the guard said. “I will look past your earlier offenses of converting the other prisoners. Do whatever you’d like.”

And with that, the guard left.

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David started a church within the prison after that day. Every week, the believing prisoners freely meet to worship and hear the Word.

David also taught the believing prisoners who attend the church how to be missionaries themselves by using what he learned through Live School. He taught them how to study the Word, share their faith, and be conformed to the character of Jesus.

Recently, David and his family were released from the prison, and he has since gone into a different Middle Eastern country to continue preaching and starting Live Schools.

Here’s the amazing thing. One day, many of these believing men and women who attend the prison church will be released. Then, there will be numbers of ex-prisoners set free to travel the Middle East as missionaries, trained and equipped to share their faith with others. And should they be thrown in prison for preaching about Jesus, well, they may just rejoice. After all, prison was where they found Jesus.

*Name changed for security