ASUNCION, Paraguay - All kinds of women show up at the Good Shepherd Prison in Paraguay for crimes from drug trafficking to murder and robbery.
But for Hugo Emilio, a Christian missionary who's been preaching the gospel to the prisoners for four years, there's nothing more gratifying than bringing the word of God to those who need it the most.
"When we help people who have lost their freedom, those people who are sick, we find Jesus," Emilio said.
Since Emilio began the prison ministry, "Roads to Freedom," dozens of prisoners have given their lives to the Lord.
They've been baptized and they've become evangelists within the prison walls. And those who have been released, have seen their lives and their families' lives transformed.
One of the most difficult cases Emilio and the group of missionaries had to deal with Teresa-- a young drug addict who had been involved in drug dealing and murder.
A Changed Life
According to her own testimony, she was in the deepest hole a human being can fall into, but something changed in her life that not only made her quit drugs, but also made her a happy person, and an instrument of God.
"I was a slave to drugs. A slave to many things. I was a prisoner at the same time. So I couldn't find rest anywhere," she recalled. "I feel in my heart that the Lord said, 'Well, we'll have to send you there so you'll know I love you and that I want to change your life.'"
Teresa's life has not only changed completely, but she's also become a tireless evangelist, both in prison and the outside world. She writes letters to people who are lost.
It began when she decided to share the gospel of Jesus with a well-known drug dealer.
"God gave me the opportunity, like Paul, to write letters. So he was reading and reading, until one day he gave his heart to Christ, after reading my letter," Teresa explained.
Blessed by Prison
Still, the drug dealer did not leave the mafia he was involved with right away, and he ended up in prison for 11 months. During that time Teresa sent him Bible studies by mail.
When he completed his sentence, he went to visit her and asked to be baptized inside the women's prison, next to the young woman who had been brave enough to lead him to Christ and to salvation.
"This place is blessed," Teresa said. "Because of the sentence God allowed me to have, I wouldn't be the person (I am) or (have) this heart."
Roads to Freedom needs more support from the Christian community, the commitment of more missionaries and donations like books and clothing for the prisoners and their young children who live there with them.
But most of all, they need society to give them a second chance, just as Christ has given them.
*Originally published March 29, 2009