When the Spirit of God Moves, Even the Toughest of Prisoners Cannot Stand in His Way
When Danny Gonzales began following Christ, he knew he wanted to serve God. But he'd never thought about prison ministry before. Prison, in general, rarely crossed his mind.
Then one Easter a friend invited him to a local juvenile detention center to participate in a drama production. Danny played the part of a Roman soldier guarding the tomb where Jesus' body lay. This depiction of the Easter story—the Lord's life, death, burial, and resurrection—made an impact on the audience. When Danny saw their reactions, it moved him as well.
Soon Danny felt God calling him to prison ministry.
A PICTURE OF HOPE
Since the 1990s, prison ministry has taken Danny from juvenile centers and group homes to adult prisons. He has volunteered as a facilitator for The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI), an intensive biblical studies program facilitated by Prison Fellowship in coordination with World Impact. He has also taught classes on subjects like anger management and forgiveness.
More recently, he served behind the high-security walls of California Institution for Men (CIM) at a Prison Fellowship Hope Event™. Volunteers like Danny joined actor Scott William Winters, musician Nehemiah, and a local worship band to share the Gospel and invite new believers into Christian community.
There's a striking photo from that afternoon. Danny, in a black Prison Fellowship® polo, stands praying over an incarcerated man in light blue. The prisoner, front and center, looks overcome with emotion—head slanted, brow furrowed, like he is on the cusp of a life-changing decision. And Danny will never forget the story behind that image.
He was standing in a row of volunteers when the speaker began to give the altar call. Then he went to stand in the crowd next to Jared*, the man in the photo.
During that altar call, Jared broke down in tears—a brave thing to do in prison. But the Holy Spirit had moved him deeply.
"I've done so many things wrong in my life—made so many wrong turns," Jared confessed to Danny. "But I know that God's real. I want more of Jesus, more of His presence."
Danny told Jared that God is real, and that God's love for Jared is unconditional. They prayed together that Jared would find a new beginning in Christ and experience spiritual freedom, even behind bars.
The presence of God felt evident throughout the event, and not just for the prisoners.
"The volunteers were congregated behind the stage backdrop, and they just started weeping," Danny remembers. "Scripture says that when we visit those in prison, we are visiting Christ."
Danny knows the Gospel bears fruit in prison in miraculous ways. That Hope Event at CIM could have been one seed. He prays that Prison Fellowship and many more volunteers will come back, continue watering the seed, and see it grow.
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