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South America: prison outreach growth

An outreach programme to prisoners expects to reach more than 15,000 inmates in the next three years after expanding into Brazil and Uruguay ...

An outreach programme to prisoners expects to reach more than 15,000 inmates in the next three years after expanding into Brazil and Uruguay ...

Christianity Explored Ministries (CEM) and Prison Fellowship International (PFI) have announced that their new, three-strand evangelism programme The Prisoner's Journey (of which the Christianity Explored course is the central, core component) has been accepted into both the Brazilian and Uruguayan prison systems.

In Brazil the initiative is being funded by the national government, desperate for solutions for the world's fourth largest prison system, where conditions are some of the worst on earth. Over the next three years, nearly 11,000 prisoners will complete TPJ through Prison Fellowship Brazil.
 
In addition, TPJ is set to become the primary evangelistic programme for all 22 prisons in Uruguay. Local agency Vida Nueva (New Life) Uruguay expects that more than 40% of the total prison population will complete the course over the next three years – a total of 4,600 inmates.
 
PFI was founded in 1979. Its network of 45,000 volunteers currently undertakes ongoing prison ministry with two million inmates in 3,700 prisons in more than 125 countries. There are an estimated 10 million inmates in 22,000 prisons across the world. CEM and PFI aim to reach one million of these prisoners with the gospel by 2020.
 
Outside South America, Nigeria and South Africa successfully implemented TPJ during the prototype phase of the programme in 2014. In the first cycle, 5,000 prisoners were presented with the gospel and 2,500 graduated from the programme. Further pilot projects are set to take place in Bulgaria, Colombia, Chile, and Australia in 2015.
 
The Promotion phase of The Prisoner's Journey encourages participants to embark on a journey with Jesus Christ, emphasising that he, too, experienced much of what they feel now, including fear, loneliness, alienation, and abandonment.
 
Prisoners wanting to learn more are invited to join the second phase of the programme, The Course, where they go through the Christianity Explored materials in a group setting. This second phase is an eight-week course that simply lets the Gospel of Mark tell the Gospel of Jesus. It focuses on who Christ is (his identity), what he came to do (his mission) and our response to him (his call).
 
The final phase, Discipleship, seeks to engage prisoners with a real, personal relationship with Christ within the context of the Church.

Ian Roberts, Chief Executive of CEM, commented: “We are delighted at how quickly the TPJ Course, including Christianity Explored, has been taken up, both by volunteers looking to take the gospel into jails around the world and by governments – such as Brazil and Uruguay – anxious to solve the spiraling economic and social costs of crime.

"Local Christians and, increasingly, governments are starting to appreciate the power of the good news of Jesus Christ in people’s lives, in particular how it may turn often hardened criminals into law-abiding citizens.”

One such person is the future programme coordinator for Vida Nueva Uruguay, Amorin. He was once a convicted assassin serving 18 years. Now he returns to the prisons with the gospel. Who better to relay Christ’s message of hope and redemption than one who has embraced it so wholeheartedly in his own life?

Prison Fellowship Chief Executive Officer Frank Lofaro said, “We are thrilled to partner with Christianity Explored to reach more prisoners than ever before with the life-changing message of God’s love and redemption.”

More pfi.org/how-we-make-a-difference/spreading-the-gospel/

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