COLOMBIA — Thirty-year-old pastor John used to persecute Christians after joining a paramilitary group to seek revenge for his father’s death. But it was while John was serving time in the Colombian prison that he met Jesus – and his whole life changed.
John – Colombia:
“When I was not a Christian, I was one of those who persecuted. My desire was always…it was to harm Christians. But now in Christ I see that I was an instrument of the enemy.”
The story of 30-year-old Colombian pastor John is about a man who used to persecute Christians finding faith in Christ. Growing up in poverty and seeking revenge for the death of his father. John joined one of the many paramilitary groups and began to rise through the ranks.
“I started as a normal worker committing homicides, collecting extortion money as everyone who enters begins. Later, because I was getting stronger I had a position as a neighbourhood commander. We persecuted the church because we always saw it as a threat. Right? As a threat. We didn’t want to see the kids changed because those are the targets you want to recruit to the group.
“You see the kids and you kind of look for a ways to recruit them. And then the pastor comes and takes them to church. I hated Christians and I used to slander them. I wanted to kill them. But somehow or other I think because of people’s prayers or God’s mercy I began to feel inside my heart a thirst. I had money, I had fame, I had weapons. I was a commander who was in front of almost 100 men. But I began to feel a need, an internal need, for a change.
“The second time I went to jail, they came to preach to me.”
John was serving a five-year prison sentence when he encountered the Gospel and came to faith in Jesus. He stopped persecuting others and began to experience persecution himself.
“Inside a prison yard there are all kinds of criminals. And they hate the way of the Lord and just hearing that you are a Christian – to them that’s a threat. We had to face drug traffickers who have control of the drugs inside the prisons. And for them it is not at all pleasant to see that there is suddenly someone preaching Christ inside the prison. Why? Because if two drug convert to Christ, the dealer loses money.
“Sometimes the guards would prevent us from going to the Bible studies. They took away our Bibles, they damaged them, sometimes they burned them. It’s very hard to be a Christian inside prison and there is no one to advocate for you.”
After his release John began ministering as a pastor and experienced opposition to the Gospel outside prisons too.
“There are times for example when the armed groups say, ‘We don’t want to see anyone in the street after 6pm or 7pm at night.’ It gets complicated for the churches to hold meetings. And in the rural areas, that is, the villages sometimes we cannot preach freely because of the armed groups and also the indigenous communities, because those who have not accepted Christ strongly resist and attack the Christians. Now recently – I don’t know if it was because of the work I do now or because of my past – we were fasting.
“Where we were staying at the back we had the door of the room open. And a boy arrived with a bullet in his mouth and in his waistband, he had, well I was from the world and I know when a person is armed right? The first thing that came to mind: ‘This guy is looking for me.’ But God worked in one way or another. God prevented something terrible from happening.”
John is determined to keep serving God, remembering all these Jesus has done in his life.
“I have seen Jesus Christ work in me I mean, change me, transform me so much that sometimes I meditate and say ‘Wow how does God transform me? How does He transform a person? There are no words to describe the greatness of Jesus.”
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About Open Doors UK
For over 60 years, Open Doors UK has worked in the world’s most oppressive countries, empowering Christians who are persecuted for their beliefs. Open Doors equips persecuted Christians in more than 60 countries through programs like Bible & Gospel Development, Women & Children Advancement, and Christian Community Restoration.
- Global News Alliance, Former Persecutor Finds Christ in Colombian Prison
- Open Doors UK, Official Website