Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Will we love the ways of the world or the ways of God?

"Who Do You Love?"

1 John 2:15-17

Dr. Jorge Crespo de Toral was born into an aristocratic family in Ecuador. He was educated as a lawyer and it seemed that he was destined for a life of affluence and power. Instead, Jorge Crespo became a labor lawyer and took up the cause of the poor in a land where workers had no rights and were abused at every turn.

During Ecuador's tumultuous transition from military rule to democracy, Jorge Crespo was twice arrested and imprisoned. The democratic forces ultimately prevailed, and in the 1960's, Jorge was selected to help draft Ecuador's constitution. He also ran in the nation's first presidential election and finished a strong third.

Many years later, in 1984, at the age of 61, Jorge Crespo was sitting in church one Sunday with his wife listening to the preacher when she turned and whispered to her husband, "What if we really lived by what we say we believe?" Jorge smiled because he had been preoccupied of late with the same question. For the first time in his life he was convinced that his faith was not a private matter, but a framework for all of life.

His opportunity to live out his faith came in the same year when Javier Bustamante, the regional director of Prison Fellowship visited the worst prison in all Ecuador, Garcia Moreno Prison located in Quito. Bustamante challenged Jorge to begin a ministry in Garcia Moreno to bring Christ to prisoners and reform to the nightmarish prison.

Crespo felt God leading him to take the challenge and he began working within the national legislature for criminal justice reform. In Ecuador the saying was, "The wheels of justice grind slowly, and sometimes you have to lubricate them," meaning most detainees had to bribe the judges just to see their cases come to trial. The judges reasoned that because they were underpaid, they deserved such rewards. But the legislature, aware of the corruption, refused to vote the judiciary better salaries.

Fast forward fourteen years to 1998 and a time when Chuck Colson, the founder and President of Prison Fellowship traveled to Quito, Ecuador to visit Jorge Crespo and the Garcia Moreno Prison. Chuck has written about his visit in his new book, "How Now Should We Live?" Chuck writes,

The sights and smells are seared indelibly in my memory. The prison's white baroque bell tower hovers like an evil eye, while its heavy dome seems to be collapsing into the sprawling old building. Jorge Crespo elbowed his way through the rugged crowds clustered outside - families waiting in hope of a brief visit - and led us to the front entrance, a small doorway at the top of a few steps. On each side of the steps were huge mounds of garbage, decaying in the heat, and the putrid odor was nearly overpowering. The uneven steps were slippery in places, and the top step splattered with fresh blood. (pg. 4)

Even though they had permission for the visit from government officials, the guards refused to allow them inside because of how dangerous the prison had become. Jorge and Colson insisted and eventually they were allowed inside. Once inside Jorge showed Mr. Colson black, cell-like holes in the concrete walls. Some of these were the notorious torture chambers where prisoners were put into tanks of water until their skin began decaying and sloughing off the bone - a means of extracting confessions.

There was no plumbing in any of the cells. The small cells were inhabited by twelve prisoners each. The cells were so small that the prisoners had to take turns sleeping on the waste splattered floor. Drinking water was carried in buckets to the prisoners and then the same buckets were used to carry waste out of the cells. Hopelessness was everywhere. Men drug themselves along wearing only rags. Darkness seemed to pervade every square inch of the prison.

Mr. Colson noticed a group of garishly made-up women and asked what the women were doing in there? Jorge said, "There are no women in Garcia Moreno." Puzzled, Mr. Colson pointed to the women and said, "Over there." Jorge said, "Those aren't women. Those are transvestites and male prostitutes. They usually stay together for protection from the other inmates." Colson thought to himself, "This is truly a kingdom of evil."

While inside they were led a few yards beyond the Detainees Pavilion to Pavilion C which had been turned over to Prison Fellowship workers and volunteers. Colson says, "All at once we stepped out of the darkness and into a radiant burst of light." (p. 7)

At the far end of the corridor was what looked like an altar, with a huge cross silhouetted against a brightly painted concrete wall. Gathered in an open area before the altar were more than two hundred inmates, who rose up out of their seats, singing and applauding. Some were playing guitars. All were glowing with joy and enthusiasm. Within seconds, we were surrounded, and the prisoners began embracing us like long-separated brothers.

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