Creating a World

In twenty-three years of prison ministry, I've visited hundreds of prisons around the world, but I've never seen one quite as wretched as Garcia Moreno Prison in Quito, Ecuador. By the same token, I've never seen one so dramatically transformed into a place of peace—all due to the efforts of one committed Christian. That man is Jorge Crespo, once a celebrated lawyer, now chairman of Prison Fellowship in Ecuador. In my first visit to the prison, we climbed up steps slippery with blood. A routine beating, Crespo said grimly. The cells were dim, dungeon-like holes, thick with grime and spilled sewage. When I went out to the courtyard, where I was scheduled to speak to the inmates, I was shocked by the Dickensian scene. Several of the inmates were limping; others had scarves covering their faces, perhaps to hide disfigurements. Right in front was a man with an empty eye socket, his face spotted with open sores. Speaking to this tattered crowd, I thought of Jesus' words to John the Baptist: Tell him "the blind see, the lame walk... and the Good News is being preached to the poor." But afterward, Crespo took me down a dark corridor to a stunning contrast: a huge cellblock flooded with radiant light. At one end was an altar, with a huge cross, surrounded by two hundred inmates gathered for a worship service. This division of the prison was run by Prison Fellowship, providing inmates with rigorous instruction in the Christian faith. Yet even this was only a training ground for another division of the prison—a place where fully committed Christian inmates lived and ministered to the other inmates. Affectionately called "the Home," the area was spotless, with tiled floors and wooden bunks built by the inmates themselves. A small prayer closet tucked under a stairway was in use throughout the day. As I listened to the testimonies of the inmates in "the Home," it struck me that I was seeing a metaphor for the Christian life. The contrast between the hellish chaos of the main prison and the white-washed brilliance of "the Home" was a reminder of the way our own moral and spiritual choices are realized in the world. In every action we take, we are either helping to create a hell on earth, or helping to bring down a foretaste of heaven. We are either contributing to the broken condition of the world, or participating with God in transforming the world. Being a Christian does not end with personal salvation. After being redeemed, we are called to build a world that reflects God's righteousness. Our faith is meant to be a comprehensive WORLDview, giving us a blueprint for every area of life—principles for building an entire society embodying principles of justice and mercy. The story of the Ecuador prison opens my latest book, "How Now Shall We Live?," coauthored by the executive editor of "BreakPoint," Nancy Pearcey. In it, we talk about the importance of crafting a Christian worldview in every area of life, every sphere of activity. As we face a new millennium, Christians need to work together to transform our own world from a "prison" into a "Home."


Chuck Colson



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