For the least of these
Sixteen years ago, I retired from a government job in Ponce, P.R., at age 57. My employer had offered me a new position, but I said, “it’s time for me to work for God.”
Today, I go to prisons to visit the sons and daughters of God. I remind them that Christ died for their sins.
On the first day of my new ministry at Carcel Las Cucharas, a correctional facility for violent offenders, I met a young man who had been listening attentively to me preach to a group of inmates. At the time, he appeared to be the same age as my son. When I finished preaching, he asked to pray with me. He told me he had accepted Christ in jail and in a few days would be free.
When he asked for a Bible, I gave him mine. He said he wanted to attend the Salvation Army corps with me when he got out, so I gave him my phone number to call when he was free.
A week passed, and I was still waiting to hear from him. I thought, did he lose my number? Had he been denied his freedom at the last minute? The following week when I returned to the prison, I learned that this young man had been released on Tuesday, but found dead on his couch the next Thursday.
For me, the experience was heartbreaking. It could have stopped my ministry. But in the midst of my sadness, I prayed to God and thanked Him for giving me a few minutes of prayer in that young man’s life. Behind bars, he had repented and found God, who had given him hope in his final days. Realizing this gave me strength to continue. It is souls like his who need our prayers the most.
Carcel Las Cucharas also has a psychiatric ward. Many of its 300 inmates suffer from mental illness and learning disabilities. They also grieve spiritually.
When I visit, I bring clothing, juices, toiletries, and pastries for the men and women. I must make sure I remove all plastic wrapping from the items. Two armed guards accompany me as I enter the jail. When the prisoners see me wearing my Salvation Army soldier’s uniform, they ask me to pray for their broken minds and weakened bodies.
The book of Matthew reminds me, whatever I do for the least of our brothers and sisters, I do it for Jesus Himself. I’m thankful to God for placing me in The Salvation Army, whose main focus is on outreach to the least of these.
One day, I ran into a woman who had prayed with me after hearing me preach in jail. She had been released, and was now a pastor in her church. Hearing this gave me an indescribable feeling. It was a reminder of God’s strength. He remains true to His promise to watch over us.
At 73, I feel as energized and invigorated to carry on my ministry as I did when I first started. I pray my mission can bring hope to every soul who needs it. Although they may be behind bars, God is with them every day of their lives.
—Iris Medina is a soldier at the Ponce, P.R., Corps.