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Maranguita Juvenile Detention Center
Lima, Peru

I wish I could fully describe their faces, as they stood in line waiting for their name to be called so they could approach the pool we had set up in the “San Martin” pavilion’s courtyard. 37 youth in total, none older then 18, that were there serving time for severe crimes. Many we were told hitmen contracted to kill people, others for drug related crimes, all of them standing in front of the remaining 113 inmates in their pavilion who sat in formation on the courtyard floor waiting to witness their declaration of faith.

I wish I could describe the spark in all their eyes as we met before the baptism service, with just the guys who would be entering the pool. We wanted to be sure they understood what was happening. We wanted them to know that Jesus was their savior, not the waters of an inflatable pool. We wanted them to know how powerful it was that they were making a public declaration of a reality they already had with Jesus as their savior.

They all understood they were forgiven by his blood. They all understood that old things had passed and all was being made new.

I wish I could describe the patio. Freshly painted by volunteers from our church Camino de Vida a few months earlier, after having been burned up by a mutiny carried out by a handful of the inmates back in July. They took control over that very pavilion and burned all the mattresses and busted their beds up to make metal weapons to confront the guards. That pavilion had been held for several days before order was restored.

And where once there were flames and ashes and smoke and chaos, there were now 37 youth ready to publicly declare the freedom Jesus had brought to their hearts.

One by one, they approached the pool, amidst cheers from our volunteers, and a mix of cheers and mocking from the inmates that sat there to watch.

And all 37 in our pavilion were baptized, joining with the same scene being played out in three other pavilions of the detention center. In total, across the 4 pavilions, 179 youth made a public declaration of their faith through the waters of baptism.

And among them was one of the guys from my Saturday morning breakfast small group. Renato, who has been faithfully serving in the prison ministry with another guy from our group. He had decided that he wanted his baptism to take place there too. So he stood in line, right with his friends that he shares the Gospel with weekly, and he too stepped into that same pool.

I am overwhelmed by what I saw. The men and women who faithfully serve in the prison ministry were so incredibly loving with these boys. They brought them toilet paper and toiletries being that the detention center only provides inmates with food. They brought them snacks and played games with them. They walked about as if they were in their own homes sitting with these kids. The baptism of these 179 boys was the fruit of the seeds this group of over 50 volunteers have been planting and diligently watering over the course of the last few years.

I wish I could describe how grateful I am to have been able to participate in that moment.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Danny Gutierrez
Web site: Danny Gutiererrez
The Gutierrez family has served together in Peru since 2011. Danny and Stephanie serve on the pastoral staff and executive team of Camino de Vida, a growing church with 5 campuses located in the capital city of Lima.

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