February 20, 2014

​Monteiro Visits GC Headquarters to Thank Church for Support

BY CLAUDE RICHLI [Photo of Monteiro Family: ANN]

Adventist pastor Antonio Monteiro, recently
acquitted and released from a Togo prison, thanked the Adventist World
Headquarters staff and world church members for their support while speaking at
the General Conference worship service on February 18 in Silver Spring,
Maryland. The worship program was part of a weeklong visit to the area for
Monteiro, his wife, Madalena, and their sons, Anderson and Alessandro. During
their stay, February 12-19, they also attended the Global Adventist Internet
Network (GAiN) meetings in Baltimore.

The Monteiro family with Ted and Nancy Wilson. In an interview with Adventist Review, Monteiro, who was released
from prison in January after 22 months behind bars, explained how he sees
similarities between his experience and the Biblical story of Joseph: “Never
would I have thought that I would leave my prison cell to end up visiting the
General Conference. After the struggle comes the crown,” he said.

His plans for the future are still
wide open since returning to his native island of Cape Verde on January 19 (see the story here). One thing emerges already, however:
his life and that of dozens of individuals, indeed of the whole church in Togo,
will never be the same again.

When he first came to Togo as a
missionary, Monteiro said he felt a burden to help the church to be better
known in the country. His initial ideas of visiting government officials to
acquaint them with the church, unfortunately, went nowhere. But now, after two
years during which his plight attracted national media attention, he says he recognizes
that God used these circumstances to completely change the perception of the
church in the country.

Even in Cape Verde, Monteiro’s case
received top-level attention. As a result, he was able to visit the country’s
president, justice minister, and other cabinet ministers who intervened on his
behalf, thank them for their help, and introduce them to some church teachings.

While in prison, Monteiro did not
remain idle. He recognized that God had brought him there for a reason, and
that the prison population was actually his congregation—the biggest he had
ever had. Twice a week, he held prayer meetings and gave Bible studies to a
group of 15-20 people. This led to the baptism of nine other inmates. With funding
from the General Conference, the prison baptistery was renovated, as well as
the overhang that serves as the church for an Adventist congregation of 60-70
people. He also organized an official day of prayer inside the prison on behalf
of the Togo government. Christian and Muslim leaders from various denominations
were invited to participate, as well as all the prison officials, and even the
minister of justice. The special event made headlines throughout Togo.

During his time in prison, Monteiro
distributed 30 Bibles, as well as dozens of Adventist
magazines, which found avid readers. One man, a Buddhist, asked for a
Bible. As a result of his association with Monteiro, he came to realize that
far from being a cruel God, the God worshipped by Christians is a loving God.
The Buddhist inmate now spends his time encouraging fellow prisoners by
distributing psalms and other literature in the prison. “I am a Buddhist, but I
am a Christian also,” he says.

When he left prison, “Pastor
Maranatha”—as he came to be known—left behind many lives that had been
transformed through his ministry and the power of the Holy Spirit, as well as
hundreds of prisoners who will never forget him for his courage, witness, and
ministry of encouragement.