The Seventh-day Adventist Church (IASD) baptized 35 inmates belonging to a prison unit in the municipality of São Mateus, more than 200 km (124 miles) from Vitória, Espírito Santo, Brazil. This is a historic accomplishment for the city and also for the prison system, which until recently had not assisted a significant number of people. The baptism ceremony took place on the 23rd of September and was attended by the region’s Adventist Church's leadership.
Monitoring is done through the local pastor, Moabi Novaes who started the initiative together with Pastor Deomiro. In 2019, 23 people were baptized in response to the project.
“The following year, we had the pandemic so the jobs were more restricted. Even so, we continued so that the [inmates] would not be left unattended”, recalls Novaes.
The prison system works on the process of resocializing the inmates and growing spirituality is part of this process. In this context, the Seventh-day Adventist Church saw the opportunity to strengthen ties with the system and, today, Novaes guarantees that there is a relationship of trust between the two institutions.
The work requires strategy and consistency, but the humanization in the relationships between the pastor and the group is the pillar. In the corridors, Novaes talks, listens, and welcomes the prisoners. “I always act [from] my heart,” he stresses. Looking beyond the condition they find themselves in is key. When the pandemic prevented physical contact, the pastor recorded sermons and sent them to the prison for the inmates to watch on TV.
The Church distributed 200 Bibles with the Hearing the Voice of God study guide built-in. A weekly Bible class was formed to review the study together and answer any questions or doubts. With the pandemic, the pastor began to preach in the hallway, and they watched through their cell window.
“We also carry out work not only with detainees but with local agents. And so the unit opens the doors for the work to be done with everyone”, he adds.
Novaes recalls that at Christmas one of the inmates wanted chocolate candies and a biscuit. Bureaucratic issues made it impossible to release the boy's request. However, the Church not only responded to the boy's request but also distributed it to the other inmates and even decorated the unit.
Now that vaccinations are available, Pastor Novaes is able to resume weekly visits. Between two and three times a week, he visits the prison, listens to inmates, and studies the Bible with the group. This year, during the Spring Baptism, 35 people were baptized.
For this, it took three swimming pools and the presence of six pastors to carry out the ceremony; among them were Pastor Carlos Eduardo Petter, Leader of the Pathfinders and Coordinator of the Spring Baptism in Espírito Santo; Lucas Viana, Evangelism Leader and responsible for the Week of Hope, and Paulo Zahn, Home and Family Leader for the Central and Northern region of Espírito Santo.
The baptized will now be referred to a group of new converts within the prison to continue studying and congregating. The site currently has 700 people in the men's wing and 80 in the women's wing.