Transformed to serve: Peru's prison ministry
By Christy Mast and Anna Sims (Church Mission Society) | Peru in South America
Laura at convent in Peru.
While in prison, Laura* became a regular at the English-speaking Bible study for women in Lima, Peru. She was a foreigner, lured there by a ‘too good to be true’ kind of offer, and trapped in an unfamiliar judicial system far away from her family, including two teenage sons and a toddler granddaughter.
Life in prison meant being subject to the whims of the guards as well as the gossip and cruelty of the other prisoners. Yet through the SIM Prison Ministry, Laura found friendship, honesty, and evidence of God's love for her.
Anna Sims, missionary with the Church Mission Society, along with SIM worker Mary Pinkston, gradually got to know Laura over her nearly seven-year sentence. They spent time chatting, eating food brought in for the small group (bacon sandwiches were a favourite treat!), praying and studying the Bible together. Other Peruvian believers also visited the group, even taking days off work to minister to the imprisoned women.
The prison ministry team brought small care packages to the women. When COVID-19 struck, visiting and bringing items into the prison became more difficult, but the team persevered. Bags of biscuits, teabags, books, and handwritten notes provided practical help and encouragement.
After being released from prison, Laura spent four months living in a convent before returning to her passport country. During that time, her personality and giftings, which had been noticed on the inside, were put to good use on the outside too.
She showed a heart for serving others as she prepared vegetables for the convent soup kitchen, which offered breakfast and lunch to hundreds of homeless and hungry people each day. She ministered to protesters near the convent gates, providing water and vinegar-soaked cloths to help combat the effects of teargas and pepper spray being used by the police. She spent her days repainting the communal areas, sealing new windows, mending broken electrical items and streamlining various practical services that the convent offered to Lima’s poor. The nuns loved her!
Amid all the demands on her time, she still had a thirst for God’s Word and asked to continue studying the Bible. She began listening to a daily audio devotional and shared how she felt compelled to get on her knees and pray.
Before leaving Peru, Laura said: “The [prison ministry] team have turned out to be my second family and I know I would never have made it without them. Even though I am out now, I still have them on call and they have been through everything with me. I have learned more about God and the Bible in this time with them than I ever would have without them.
“I have seen many people come and go over the years, but they have never left my side. Thank you for faithfully bringing me things to make life a little bit easier, and most of all thank you for showing me that there are God’s people out there that actually love and care for us.”
Laura was nervous and excited to return home after a seven-year absence. Saying goodbye at the airport, Anna gave Laura one last bacon sandwich, so that she would have something to eat in the mainly shut airport while waiting to board the plane.
The SIM Prison Ministry team has been in touch with Laura and are thankful for the work of the Spirit in her life. Our almighty God specialises in transforming the broken lives of people and using his children to be Jesus’ hands and feet, demonstrating his love with acts that are sometimes as simple as making someone a sandwich. Do you feel led to participate in this life changing work in Peru? To support the Peru Prison Ministry in providing for the emotional, spiritual and physical needs of women, give to project 91073 through our donation page.
Pray with us
• Pray for Laura and others like her who have returned to their passport countries.
• Praise God for technology so they can stay in contact with one another.