March 22, 2024

Prison Ministries Offers Psychological, Spiritual Support to Prison Guards

Adventist Church in Brazil increases assistance to law enforcement agents.

Gabriela Porto, South American Division, and Adventist Review
The Adventist community, through its prison ministry, offers emotional and spiritual support to prison officers, strengthening and encouraging law enforcement agents amid the challenges they face every day. [Photo: South Espírito Santo Conference Media Center]

Through its prison ministry, the Seventh-day Adventist community in Santo Espírito, Brazil, has been providing increasing opportunities for fellowship and emotional support for prison guards. Adventist teams have been offering services from breakfasts to psychological and spiritual assistance, ministry leaders reported. These initiatives are helping to strengthen the mental health of prison law enforcement agents, providing them with moments of relaxation and fellowship in the midst of adversity.

“We recognize the challenges they face on a daily basis,” Alex Fonseca, evangelism director for the Espírito Santo Conference of the Adventist Church, said. “We are here to offer our emotional and spiritual support. Our goal is to provide moments of reflection and fellowship to strengthen them in their mission.”

Adventist Empathy and Solidarity

The Adventist-sponsored initiatives highlight the importance the Adventist Church gives to those who serve the community, regional Adventist leaders said. In the Brazilian prison system, the Prison Police law enforcement body plays a crucial role. Responsible for maintaining order and security in prisons, agents face daily challenges and even risk their lives in the line of duty, Adventist leaders explained.

According to the Public Safety Report of the Ministry of Justice and Public Safety, in 2023, Brazil recorded the lowest number of violent crimes since 2010. This achievement is largely attributed to the work of law enforcement forces, including the Penal Police.

Despite these encouraging trends, law enforcement agents face constant threats and risks in the line of duty. According to data compiled by the Yearbook of the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety, the number of police officers murdered in Brazil increased in 2023. Prison law enforcement agents face violence not only inside prisons but also threats from criminal organizations outside of them, which makes their service even more challenging and dangerous.

Recognition for Officers and Chaplains

The initiative to benefit law enforcement agents in Espírito Santo is the latest of several projects to support those who serve society. But the Adventist Church in Brazil is also supporting those Adventists who wish to serve in this prison ministry. In late 2023, the 6th Adventist Prison Ministry (APM) Congress brought together chaplains, counselors, pastors, and members of Adventist congregations in Brasilia and the surrounding region.

The annual regional event highlighted the initiatives of the ministry and shared some of the results.

For APM leader Paulo Prazeres, the event was an opportunity to show “the great work the ministry does with prisoners and their families.” He added, “This is a celebration of everything we’ve done during the year and a motivation for them to keep moving forward without getting discouraged.”

During the regional APM congress, prison system officers and prison directors attended as guests and received awards for their prison management and for allowing APM to continue serving within their facilities.

Adventist leaders also gave special recognition to chaplains and district chaplain leaders, with certificates attesting to their leadership and engagement in local churches. Counselors received medals.

Baptisms and Testimonies

As part of the convention, four people were baptized.

“These baptisms are the result of a Bible class held in the home of a former inmate, who was imprisoned for 18 years,” APM coordinator Joymir Guimarães said. “He was reached by the [prison] ministry, and now he is a spiritual leader where he lives.”

Personal testimonies also moved convention participants as they witnessed once more how the gospel has power to transform lives.

The four baptisms at the convention added to a total of 249 baptisms of inmates and former inmates throughout 2023. “During 2023, we were engaged with local churches more than ever,” Guimarães said. “We strengthened our discipleship network. That’s the core of our mission at APM.”

The original version of this story was posted on the South American Division Portuguese-language news site. Maita Tôrres and José Carlos contributed to this report.