Revival in Argentina
by Edgardo Silvoso printed in The Evangelical Beacon
largest prison is located in the town of Olmos, less than 100 kilometers south
of Buenos Aires, the capital of the country. It is a maximum security facility
that houses nearly 3,000 inmates. One of the greatest and most dramatic miracles
in modern history has taken place inside the walls of that prison.
a few years ago, the prison was in total chaos. Crime was rampant. Riots, murders,
sexual abuse, extortion and male prostitution were commonplace. The prison was
so out of control that by default the authorities turned over the daily running
of the place to the mafia and drug dealers serving time there. These de facto
leaders chose to reside on the fourth of five floors, which came to be known as
the 'elephant's floor' since all the heavyweights lived there.
imagine what this place became when the worst inmates were given the run of it?
Even a Church of Satan was established on the premises and animal sacrifices were
offered regularly. Olmos - as the prison is commonly known - was so impregnable
that pastors from the nearby towns had great difficulty getting inside its perimeter.
There is a tunnel that connects the outside world with the prison. A local
pastor reported that as he tried to get inside the prison, halfway through that
tunnel he would become ill and had to be carried out. Some inmates reported being
tormented by demons which, according to those reports, literally materialized
in their cells. Satan was in control indeed.
However, it appears that the
evil one made a gross miscalculation that eventually did him in. This had to do
with grace. As you know, grace requires the pre-existence of sin and the greater
the sin, the greater the grace available to the repentant sinner. By those standards,
Olmos was more than qualified. This is how it came about.
In the nearby town of Laplata, a well-known pastor was caught committing a crime
and was sentenced to serve time -- at Olmos! At first it appeared that Satan had
won: his citadel remained impregnable and a church leader had been publicly disgraced.
But the pastor repented and cried out to God for a second chance. And God is indeed
the God of second chances. God forgave him and filled him with the Holy Spirit.
Now this pastor was determined to see God bring good out of terrible evil.
with a passion for the lost and overwhelmed with gratitude to God for his grace,
he became what I call 'a spiritual kamikaze'. In his attempt to preach the gospel
to everyone around, he thrust himself with gusto into the very pit of hell. He
witnessed to the mafia dons, gang leaders, drug dealers and even to the Church
of Satan priests! Like a kamikaze pilot, he gave up his life in order to cause
the most damage possible to the enemy.
Very soon a small group of believers
emerged. What Satan must have thought as an impregnable place, now hosted an emerging
Christian church. I believe that the anxiety he must have felt about this led
to his second miscalculation. A persecution against the Christians was unleashed.
If persecution can be brutal in the outside world where existing laws, the possibility
of help and refuge, and the availability of the media can somehow mitigate it,
imagine the persecution inside a maximum security prison run by the ruthless and
fearless. However, God, was in control and the Biblical principle that whatever
Satan plans for evil God turns around for good still held.
gave the Christian inmates legal grounds to request protection in the form of
their own cell block --- each cell block houses 42 inmates. The authorities reluctantly
agreed and granted the new Christians a cell block of their own on the worst floor.
The church was placed in the midst of his control and command center . . . aware
that their lives were at risk, the inmates organized themselves as a church.
first order of business was a 40 day fast. They also divided themselves into seven
teams of six people each. Each team was to stand guard every night from 11PM to
5AM, working in pairs they prayed, read the Bible and moved from bed to bed interceding
for each one of their sleeping Christian inmates. After two hours they rotate
tasks. This approach became highly effective, not only in protecting their own
perimeter but also in infiltrating Satan's perimeter inside the prison.
answer to those prayers, Miguel Zucarelli, a pastor in town, felt led to apply
for a job at the prison. Zucarelli was interviewed by several officials, and all
of them said, 'We do not want you here, we hate you. If you get the job, we may
even hurt you. Get lost!' But Zucarelli persevered and against all odds -- except
God's -- he got the job.
As he connected with the emerging prison church,
things began to happen. They prayed for and were given one and a half hours a
week on the prison radio station, which all inmates hear since the speaker can
not be turned down nor can the station be changed. Very soon the weekly Gospel
message began to make an impact on the prison population. This, coupled with intense
prayer activity in the Christian cell block, produced mass conversions. Today
44 percent of the inmates are born again.
As soon as 42 new converts are
admitted to the church, a cell block is made available for them to move in. A
resident pastor is appointed from among the inmates and the same routine of prayer,
fasting and night vigils is instituted. Since no money is allowed to circulate
inside the prison, the inmates tithe from the care packages they receive from
relatives. Last year a town in Central Argentina was devastated by floods and
the church in the prison was able to send relief by using the product of their
tithes. They fast twice a week and hold church services every day. There are 19
cell blocks that occupy the entire fourth floor and 80% of the third floor. Nearly
1,300 inmates have received Christ. Recent unconfirmed reports state that the
number of guards has been reduced from 300 to 30 as a result of behavior standards
of the Christians. Normally 50% of the inmates find themselves back in prison
following their release. Of the 604 released Christians, only three have returned
- less than half of one percent!
During an International Institute which
Harvest Evangelism holds in Argentina every fall, we (Army of Intercessors) organized
a trip to the prison to meet with the inmates. The prison chapel is too small
to accommodate the growing number of believers, so they have removed all the furniture.
More than 800 inmates stand shoulder to shoulder except when they kneel to pray.
Their vibrant singing is incredibly moving. One of the inmate pastors said to
your group, 'If you came to see prisoners, you have come to the wrong place. We
are free men, free indeed!' Even though their bodies are in prison, they roam
the heavenly places in prayer and intercession!'
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