December, 05 2019

Prison Ministry of Church of Praise, Kyrgyzstan

Introduction

    We had begun ministry in the prisons in 2003 but due to a change in the leadership of the ministry, riots in the prison in the fall of 2005 and subsequent unrest in the fall of 2006 which caused the authorities to close the institutions to most if not all ministry from outside, the minsitry inside the prisons stopped.  
    The rehabilitation side continued with released prisoners finding a place of safty, restoration and transition.  
    Since January of this year, the ministry has begun again under the leadership of Jan and with funding from KCM Europe.  Jan was able to gain permission to enter all 36 prisons in the system and has opened ministry in five prisons close to Bishkek.  He not only has persmission but some degree of favor with the officials and with the prisoners.  He has gained favor with the officials by personal contact and has large favor with the prisoners having been incarcerated for a period of his own life.  He also has deep roots in the Church of Praise having been through the rehab center and then having helped run the center.

    We also spent an hour with  Tursonbek Toktosunov and his assitant Alexander who are in charge of training for the Kyrgyze prison system.  They presented us with a project for setting up  facilities in four prisons to train the inmates in electrical, plumbing, masonary and welding skills so they could be employed in the construction industry upon their release.  I was thinking in the tens of thousands of dollars but their budget for four prisons was $12,050!  They said that if I wanted they would itemize the proposal further but I said that would not be necessary.  The proposal is in Russian so I am waiting for the English translation.
    
    Thank you for your help!  Below are some pictures and comments so that you can get a better appreciation of the people involved!

Your brother in Christ
Steve

Prison Report

Jan (on left) with Sweta his wife (in the red T-Shirt) with Sveta's father & sister.  Jan & Sveta's children from left to right are Igor, Paulina & Gregory.

         Jan & Sveta live with her parents after they sold their village house for $4,000 to settle debts some of which were incurred trying to launch the prison ministry during the final months of 2006. 

Marilyn and I outside prison #3 with Sasha.  He was an inmate there for most of his adult life and it is where he came to Christ.  For the last two years of his being there he was the pastor of the prison church.  That church was given a place to fix up for meetings, some dorm area for members and some land for gardens.  
    This is not a prison with cells but it was designed as a factory with community living quarters.  Now the prison mafia & their slaves have the best  quarters while the rest literally live as if on the street.  
    Sasha was in the rehab for one year but now lives with his parents, works a small car repair business and visits his old church once per week!

These are the leading brothers from the church in prison #3.  Valery (standing  third from right) and Dima (kneeling first from left) are the leaders.  They are both scheduled for release this September and plan to enter the rehab center.  
    Two years ago when we were inside the church was around 100 members out of a prison population of 1200 but increasing disorder in the prison and increasing prison mafia rule has made it more difficult to stand for Jesus.  Now the church is just over 20 men.
    The church has lost some of its living area and gardens.

The renovated factory that is the church & dorm area in prison #3.  When we first went there the inside area where the group pictures were taken was full of industrial garbage and twisted metal.
    One area is used to raise rabbits for meat.  The prison food budget works out to about  33 cents per day per man so growing your own food is important!  Unless an inmate has family or relatives bringing food, many do not survive a long term sentence.  Disease such at TB is an ever present problem.

Ladies from Women's Prison #2 who are confined to the TB isolation unit.
     We prayed for them and when Marilyn assured them that they are not forgotten one lady (on the right of the photo) who is a believer said, “Just this morning Iwas asking the Lord if anyone remembers us!”
    Conditions in this prison have improved since our first visit two years ago.  Then the main request at the canteen was for food.  Now it is for cosmetics!

The church in Women's #2! The meeting hall was being rennovated so the warden invited us to meet in his office!

The young lady on the left is Lilly, our translator and secret weapon. Her father is high up in the military and the prison wardens recognized her name and her! Because of that we were able to get into two prisons since our papers were technicallly not in order!

About a third of the women are in for being drug mules, a third for murder & a third for robbery.

The church is about 20 women out of a total population of 500. There are also other ministries that have churches in this prison.

The warden was glad to help us since the Christian women are happier & do not create problems!

 

Rustom leads the church in prison #27 where there is a “hospital” to which mostly TB patients are sent until they die.

He came to Christ in the prison after 9 years of drug addiction. He immediately felt free but wondered how he would feel in the morning. When he woke up, he had no cravings and nor withdrawal symptoms! Free!

He confessed, “By His stripes I am healed!” for two months and when he had a chest xray, the doctors proclaimed him totally healed of advanced TB!

Rustom is seated in front of the churches summer meeting area!

 

The church in prison #27! All came to Christ in the prison.

There are only bibles for about one in five members in the prison churches but we are working on that!

This church is based on discipleship, small groups and regular corporate gatherings.

Jan has a very clear vision of making and multiplying disciples.

Jan with Rustom and a brother who leads the simple church in the hospital of prison #27.

They have led several to Christ who afterwards died in their arms.

 

Outside prison #14 which has some cells for women awaiting trial but is mostly a youth prison.

From the left is Jan, myself, Zhenia and Davlet. Zhenia is the director of the rehab and the overall ministry administrator. Davlet was an inmate in #14 for 6 years from 14- 20 and led to Christ by Zhenia who met him in Osh. Davlet is now married and managing a construction business.

We visited in the prison but were not allowed to take pictures.

The Warden asked for practical help from getting doctors to flat ware for the tables! The operating capital for the prison system for this year is about 60% of budget!

 

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