Previous Newsletters

July/August, 2017

 PIM 6th Anniversary

It was hard to imagine, 6 years ago, what PIM would be like now. In the beginning all I had was the certainty that God was calling me to a new ministry. And then some people from the Presbytery of Southern New England began to share the vision. Some of them joined with me to form the Steering Committee which helped to organize this ministry and to find the resources we needed to make the ministry possible. Others who shared the vision started pledging donations – both individuals and congregations. We received support from the PCUSA, the GA, the Synod of Northeast, and even from congregations outside of the PCUSA. Our first newsletter was issued in June 2011. One thing came to my attention as I re-read it. As I was about to start full time in this ministry, the money we had in PIM’s budget was less than what we needed. I wrote then that this would not prevent me from starting to serve full time in this ministry, because I was convinced that God would provide whatever we needed. Six years passed, and I saw God providing everything we needed to accomplish what He had called me to do.

Thinking about those six years, I recall the dozens of letters which I received from the prisoners. These letters helped me to share the inmates’ stories and testimonies through the PIM newsletters. I recall the more than one hundred Bibles which were delivered to the prisons, most of them in Spanish and Portuguese. But Bibles in French, Chinese and Ukrainian were also delivered. The Ukrainian Bible was donated by a Ukrainian Catholic Church in Boston. As if it were yesterday, I recall the emotional reaction of the Ukrainian man when he received the Bible. It was a priceless experience for me.

Seeing people becoming Christians, finding reconciliation with God, having their lives transformed, and seeing the comfort provided by power of the Word of God – all these experiences strengthened my certainty that God was guiding me.

In addition to all this, I witnessed the presence of the Church of Christ among the prisoners. I saw the presence of the Church during the Communion, even when celebrated with cranberry juice; I saw the presence of the Church in the spirit of evangelization among some inmates who were always looking for more people to bring to Christ; I saw the presence of the Church in the care that the inmates expressed for each other, such as the time a man who suffered discrimination because of his sexual orientation told me that he found a safe environment among the Christians in his unit.

Many good things to recall! I have no words to express my gratitude to God for allowing me to be part of this ministry. I have no words to express my gratitude to all those, individuals and congregations, for the support which I have received. I thank the Presbytery of Southern New England, the Synod of Northeast, and the PCUSA General Assembly for their support.

New Bible Study Group – A week ago I was told that the prison in Plymouth has a new ICE unit. Here is what the chaplain of that prison wrote to me: “Gerson, do you know the C-3 are an ICE unit also? I think there is potential for a good size Bible study for a Spanish speaking pastor.” This week I will start visiting this unit to study the Bible with those who are interested. Altogether there will be 9 groups of Bible studies per week.

Donations Received (May/June):

– Bethel Presbyterian Church (2X)

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston (2X)

– Providence Presbyterian Church – RI

– Christ the King Presbyterian Church – Cambridge, MA

– First Presbyterian Church – New Haven, CT

– First Presbyterian Church – Stamford, CT

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Donate online through our website: www.presbim.com

Click on support and ways to give

Visiting another Prison –In the beginning of August I received an email from the Rev Eric Markman, pastor at Hartford Street Presbyterian Church in Natick, MA. He told me about a member of his church, a Brazilian man, who would need my help. I gave him permission to share my phone number with this person. A few days after that, I received a call from him. He told me about his friend, also a Brazilian, whose brother was sentenced and is in prison in Norfolk, MA. He asked me if I could visit his friend. On August 10th I visited this prisoner. He was very surprised to receive a visit. He told me that, since he was imprisoned at the beginning of 2014, I was the only person to visit him. His brothers and friends are afraid to visit him because they are not documented. I spent almost one hour with him, listening to him, reading the Bible with him, and praying for him. I will try to visit him again.

July/August – Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
07/04 Bristol Holiday
07/04 Boston Holiday
07/06 Plymouth 25
07/11 Bristol 25
07/11 Boston 24
07/13 Plymouth 23
07/18 Bristol 27
07/18 Boston 34
07/20 Plymouth 19
07/25 Bristol 18
07/25 Boston 37
07/27 Plymouth 18
08/08 Bristol 19
08/08 Bostonl 31
08/11 Plymouth 25
08/15 Bristol 27
08/15 Boston 29
08/18 Plymouth 18
08/22 Bristol 25
08/22 Boston 30
08/25 Plymouth 27
08/29 Bristol 28
08/29 Boston 32

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May/June, 2017

Bibles

Unfortunately the number of immigrants in prison still is high. Because of that, the prison officers asked me to provide Bibles in Spanish and in Portuguese. Immigrant churches which have supported PIM donated four boxes of Portuguese Bibles and two of Spanish Bibles. These were sent to the three prisons where PIM is serving. Bibles are the most important tool for our ministry. During the Bible studies most of the inmates write notes to help them to continue studying individually or in groups during the week. Many times I have spent several minutes helping to clarify questions raised during their personal meditation.

Among the inmates there are some who already were part of a church, and others who never had attended a church before. Of course, those who had attended a church are more familiar with the Scriptures and can help the others to find verses in the Bible. Also, they can recall important verses, helping to deepen our Bible studies.

I give thanks to God who has provided support through churches and individuals who, since the beginning of this ministry, have donated Bibles, which are fundamental to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus among the prisoners. The churches which donated the Bibles are: Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana de Boston, Bethel Presbyterian Church – Marlborough, MA, Christ the King Presbyterian Church – Cambridge, MA, and Revival Church for the Nations – Fall River, MA.

Schedule Change – As reported in our previous newsletter, I finished my third unit of CPE. I have now re-scheduled the Bible studies at the prisons for mornings and afternoons – no longer at night. Since I know that many of the inmates are still sleeping until 9:00 am, I start the Bible studies after this hour. The attendance is about the same. One of the three groups at Plymouth prison is not meeting yet. Together with the chaplain of that facility, I’m working to find the best hour to meet with them. It is one of the biggest groups, formed by inmates on trial.

This is the new Bible studies schedule:

– Tuesday mornings: Bristol County Sheriff’s Prison, in Dartmouth.

– Tuesday afternoons – Suffolk County Sheriff’s Prison, in Boston.

– Thursday mornings and afternoons – Plymouth County Correctional Facility, in Plymouth.

Reading the Bible, Learning Spanish – As I wrote above, the group of inmates on trial is not meeting yet due to the fact that the schedule was changed. But one of those inmates, an Englishman, continues coming because he wants to learn Spanish. I have met with him during the last three weeks. Since it is just the two of us, we have spent time reading the Spanish bible, and while we discuss the text I help him with pronunciation, translation, and understanding Spanish.

Donations Received (May/June):

– Bethel Presbyterian Church (2X)

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston (2X)

– First Presbyterian Church – Stamford, CT

– Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana de Boston

– Calvary United Presbyterian Church – Fall River, MA

– Greenwood Community Church, Warwick, RI

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Donate online through our website: www.presbim.com

Click on support and ways to give.

Prayer and Bible Reading as Sources of Strength – I have received many phone calls from immigrants asking me about their loved ones in prison. A few days ago a Brazilian woman, who attend one of the immigrant churches which supports PIM, called to ask me to find her husband who had been arrested. I met him at one of the prisons that I visit. He told me that he had not been attending a church regularly as his wife does, but since he arrived at that prison he has spent his time reading the Bible and praying. “Through Bible reading and prayers, God has kept me emotionally and spiritually sane,” he said. Prayer and Bible reading are powerful sources of strength and hope for those who are in prison. Many of them have said that they regret that it is only now that they spend time praying and reading the Bible, which they didn’t do before they were in jail.

March/April – Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
05/01 Bristol
05/02 Plymouth 40
05/04 Boston 25
05/08 Bristol 30
05/09 Plymouth 35
05/11 Boston 30
05/15 Bristol 29
05/16 Plymouth 33
05/18 Boston 31
05/22 Boston
05/23 Plymouth 32
05/25 Boston 36
05/29 Bristol
05/30 Bristol
06/01 Plymouth 30
06/06 Boston 25
06/06 Bristol 26
06/08 Plymouth 29
06/13 Boston 27
06/13 Bristol 30
06/15 Plymouth 25
06/20 Boston 24
06/20 Bristol 27
06/22 Plymouth 31
06/27 Boston
06/27 Bristol
06/29 Plymouth 27

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March/April, 2017

Make Hope Great Again

I have served PIM since 2011. I’m grateful to God for the privilege of launching a new ministry and serve him for all these years. I am totally convinced that this was possible only because of brothers and sisters who acquired the vision to reach immigrants in prisons. I thank God for the lives of those who served as members of the steering committee, the members of the advisory committee, and those who donated, either individually or through a congregation. I want also to acknowledge the importance of our Presbytery, our Synod, and the PCUSA General Assembly in supporting PIM.

I feel that PIM’s ministry is as important now as it was in the past. When PIM started, the expectation among immigrants was that their lives might improve. There was an expectation that our lawmakers would reform the immigration system; there was expectation that the residents of the White House would do something new and good for immigrants. President Obama, despite increasing deportation orders, at least gave the opportunity for Dreamers to fulfill some of their dreams. However, after the last election, these expectations changed dramatically. As I have witnessed in the prisons, or heard from other immigrants, hope was replaced by fear. The immigrants’ expectation today is that hopefully things do not worsen.

As I wrote above, I’m thankful for all support that PIM has received all these years. But I want to encourage you who have supported PIM, to continue walking side-by-side with us, helping us with prayers and donations, and so, we will be able to continue fulfilling our mission. Fear cannot prevail! Let’s make Hope great again!

We are late – This issue of our Newsletter is late because I’m finishing my third unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education), and the accompanying course work. As I finish one more CPE unit, I want to express my gratitude for PIM’s Steering Committee members for their support. I have no doubt that the three units I took improved my ministerial skills.

Chinese Bible – A few weeks ago, I was waiting to begin one more Bible study at a unit in Boston. While I was waiting, a young Chinese inmate came to me and asked if I was a Christian. I answered yes, and he asked me for a Bible in Chinese. I invited him to stay to attend our meeting, saying that someone or I would be glad to translate to him in English. Then he told me that he couldn’t understand English very well. I found and contacted the Chinese Christian Church of Rhode Island, East Providence, and one of its pastors, promptly brought me a Bible which I delivered to him in the following week. It was very rewarding seeing the face of satisfaction of that young man when I gave him the Bible. I want to express my gratitude to CCCRI for its support.

Donations Received:

– Bethel Presbyterian Church

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston

– First Presbyterian Church of Newport

– Anonymous

– Stamford: First

– New Haven: First

– Jeffrey Wood

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Donate online through our website: www.presbim.com

Click on support and ways to give.

Other Issues Related to the Inmates – Most of the immigrants have issues related to finance. Some do not have anyone to feed their account in prison in order to buy goods or for phone calls to their relatives. Also, sometimes, there are those who received the benefit of leaving prison by paying a bond while waiting for a final decision on their cases, but they cannot afford to pay it.

First Presbyterian Church of New Haven Initiative – At its last meeting, the Presbytery of Southern New England (PSNE) approved an overture from the First Presbyterian Church of New Haven. This Church in New Haven has been one of the PIM’s most constant supporters and, through this overture, its members are demonstrating that they want to go further their efforts to support immigrants, encouraging our congregations to join the actions of other churches or organizations to provide justice to immigrants, including considering to adopt the New Sanctuary Movement pledge. This is an opportunity for PIM and its supporters to expand this ministry by creating some kind of advocacy support/partnership with congregations/organizations.

March/April – Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
03/02 Boston 42
03/06 Bristol
03/07 Plymouth 44
03/09 Boston 28
03/13 Bristol 39
03/14 Plymouth 40
03/16 Boston 32
03/20 Bristol 35
03/21 Plymouth 59
03/23 Boston 30
03/27 Bristol 38
03/28 Plymouth 61
03/30 Boston 31
04/03 Bristol 32
04/04 Plymouth 49
04/06 Boston 35
04/10 Bristol 39
04/11 Plymouth 66
04/13 Boston
04/17 Bristol
04/18 Plymouth 51
04/20 Boston 27
04/24 Bristol 37
04/25 Plymouth 52
04/27 Boston 31

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January/February, 2017

Immigrant’s Creed: (By Rev. Jose Luis Casal)

I believe in Almighty God, who guided the people in exile and in exodus, the God of Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon, the God of foreigners and immigrants.

I believe in Jesus Christ, a displaced Galilean, who was born away from his people and his home, who fled his country with his parents when his life was in danger. When he returned to his own country he suffered under the oppression of Pontius Pilate, the servant of a foreign power. Jesus was persecuted, beaten, tortured, and unjustly condemned to death. But on the third day Jesus rose from the dead, not as a scorned foreigner but to offer us citizenship in God’s kingdom.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the eternal immigrant from God’s kingdom among us, who speaks all languages, lives in all countries, and reunites all races.

I believe that the Church is the secure home for foreigners and for all believers.

I believe that the communion of saints begins when we embrace all God’s people in all their diversity. I believe in forgiveness, which makes us all equal before God, and in reconciliation, which heals our brokenness.

I believe that in the Resurrection God will unite us as one people in which all are distinct and all are alike at the same time.

I believe in life eternal, in which no one will be foreigner but all will be citizens of the kingdom where God reigns forever and ever. Amen.

Communion in Prison 2 – In our previous newsletter we discussed the Communion which we celebrated with inmates on one the units in which PIM serves. A few days ago PIM received a letter from inmates of another unit, signed by 28 persons, expressing their gratitude for PIM’s ministry and especially for the Communion which was celebrated among them. Here is a translation of some excerpts of this letter, which was written in Spanish:

“We are the Christian Church, ‘Follower of Jesus’. Actually, when God gives me (the writer) the opportunity to preach to the others, I say to my brothers that our church is ‘A Christian Educational Centre’ which is the right place to hear God’s voice. Because of our disobedience our ears and eyes were closed, so that we didn’t find the Way, nor were we able to hear God’s voice. But here, at the Christian Educational Centre, ‘Followers of Christ’, God is speaking to us and blessing us every day. Glory and Honor only to Him.

The reason for this letter is to thank you, as one chosen by God, for bringing His word to us, a message of salvation. Also we want to express our gratitude to you for making us participants, more than once, at the Table of Communion, a time at which we were very blessed. Thank you very much!

We wish many blessings on the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry. We believe that God not only has a perfect plan, but he also has perfect timing. So we will be here until the time God decides to reunite us with our respective families, according to His will.

Donations Received:

– Megan & Jeff Ritchie

– Ralph Jones

– Joan Priest

– Glenn & Nancy Ramsey

– Linda Sanders

– Brendon & Jean Bass

– H. Anderson & Brenda Anderson

– First Presbyterian Church – new Haven, CT

– Bethel Presbyterian Church, Marlboro, MA (2X)

– Valley Presbyterian Church, CT

– Andrew Presbyterian Church, CT

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston, MA (2X)

– First Presbyterian of Stamford, CT (2X)

– First Presbyterian Church of Newport, RI

– Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana de Boston,

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Donate online through our website: www.presbim.com

Click on support and ways to give.

Rev. Gerson & Sandra’s grandson: Rev. Gerson and Sandra gladly announce the arrival of their first grandchild, Simon Anthony Caputo, born to Heloisa and Peter Caputo on January 4th, 2017.

Note from a donor: Together with a donation, we received a lovely note written by a dear sister in Christ from Pittsburg, PA. Here is what she wrote:

“Dear Rev. Gerson Annunciacao,

I trust that your ministry continues to meet the multitude of community needs which I’m sure are many. Please accept this gift in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ who renews and sustains us. All glory goes to Him.

Most sincerely, Linda Sanders”

Vacation: From January 11 to March 1st, the Rev. Gerson was on vacation.

Jan/Feb – Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
01/03 Plymouth 42
01/05 Boston 31
01/09 Bristol 47
01/10 Plymouth 35
02/02 Boston 29
02/06 Bristol 46
02/07 Plymouth 48
02/09 Boston storm
02/13 Bristol 47
02/14 Plymouth 42
02/16 Boston 28
02/20 Bristol 44
02/21 Plymouth 47
02/23 Boston 22
02/27 Bristol 52
02/28 Plymouth 41

 

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November/December, 2016

Merry Christmas Another year is ending. Reflecting upon 2016, the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry is grateful to God for the work He’s done in our ministry. Our message in prisons relates to the same message the angels brought the shepherds years ago. The Good News continues to be preached, and PIM can only do it with the support of congregations and people like you.

As the year ends, we want to thank you for your support, friendship, and prayers. Our renewed hope is that we will continue this partnership bringing Good News of Great Joy to those who are in prisons.

The Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry wishes you

Merry Christmas and Blessed 2017!

Communion in Prison – Some weeks ago we celebrated the Holy Communion among the immigrants at Bristol County Prison. Last week I received a letter from those inmates testifying their experience participating in that celebration. Below is the translation of that letter which was written in Spanish:

“Dear Pastor Gerson,

We are sending our greetings and blessings to you from Bristol County Prison (House of Restoration Church). We thank our Lord Jesus Christ for having pastor Gerson among our congregation to bless us with his teachings and his presence. Two Mondays ago we celebrated the Holy Communion, and on behalf of the prisoners of Immigration we want to say that it was a great blessing to remember and to partake of the table, which represent the Sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Many of us were taken in spirit to that wonderful day as we were sitting with the Lord Jesus. It was beautiful and extraordinary feeling this sensation. Many came back to the “first love”, and others repented from their sinful paths. In one way or another, we were all blessed. We’d like to celebrate the communion again. Thanks to the Lord Jesus and our Heavenly Father we had the privilege to participate of the Holy Table. All glory be to our Lord Jesus Christ. We’d like to have pastor Gerson more frequently with us, maybe 2 or 3 days a week, but we know that there are other souls who need the spiritual bread and who need to receive the encouragement from the God’s Word as we have received. May God continue to bless this ministry´.

(From the prisoners of Immigration at Bristol County Prison – House of Restauration Church)

Donations Received:

– Shirley Dudley

– Patricia Wales

– Edeildo Campos Maciel

– Dana Lindsley

– Wayne Parrish

– David G. Watermulder

– Bethel Presbyterian Church, Marlboro, MA

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston, MA

– First Presbyterian of Stamford, CT (2X)

– Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana de Boston,

– Synod of Northeast

– General Assembly – 1001 Worshiping Communities

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Donate online through our website: www.presbim.com

Click on support and ways to give.

Emails received:

“Dear brother: I was touched about the story of the Communion in prison. You know why?? Because I had the same experience when I celebrated it for the first time in the prison I am serving. It is a hard place because in that place they are inmates who are living with HIV/ AIDS and committed some crime so they are double marked. We had bread and some juice (no wine, it is prohibited) and the spirit was so strong there. When I was talking about this in one Church, one “so pure” person told me: “And how those inmates had communion?” Maybe he wanted to say that they were not so good people to do that. My answer was: “Using their mouth like everyone”.  So I am really happy to hear your story because I had (this experience) and it is a real joy to do that. Blessings.” (Edelberto Valdés – Presbyterian Church of Cuba)

“Hi little Brother Gerson! I have followed your Ministry in prayer every day. I’m happy for the results achieved, which to us may seem small, but when it comes to human beings, it’s very valuable – according to the Scriptures. I was especially heartened by the adventure in which you searched the celebration of the Lord’s Supper; and also by the testimony of the homosexual young man.  In my professional life, especially at the University, I met several homosexual colleagues also, but I always had the grace of God to live with them giving full support and respect, without any prejudice- after all, they suffer like us the fact that they are also exiled from Eden, and only the Creator can understand the whole process of total degeneration of the human race. Many of them consider me their friends and gladly accept my words of the gospel, but the results of (my preaching) we will know only in the Eternity.” (Professor Paulo Eugenio Anunciaçao – Gerson’s brother) Translated from Portuguese

Nov/Dec – Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
11/01 Plymouth 28
11/03 Boston 39
11/07 Bristol 51
11/08 Plymouth 35
11/10 Boston 45
11/14 Bristol 48
11/15 Plymouth 47
11/17 Boston 42
11/21 Bristol 52
11/22 Plymouth 57
11/24 Boston Thanksgiving
11/28 Bristol 28
11/29 Plymouth Locked down
12/01 Boston 35
12/05 Bristol 49
12/06 Plymouth 41
12/08 Boston 39
12/12 Bristol 47
12/13 Plymouth 55
12/15 Boston 43

** This edition was closed on December 17th, 2016

 

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September/October, 2016

Communion in Prison – In the past I was authorized to celebrate Holy Communion with the prisoners at one prison. As I cannot bring anything from outside of the prison, I had to rely on the people in the chaplain’s office of that prison. But often they forgot to provide what we needed. So I stopped doing communion at that prison, discouraged because I didn’t want to create false expectations for the inmates.  However, at their last meeting, the PIM Steering Committee challenged me find creative ways to try again.  The first idea that occurred to me was to share this challenge with the prisoners at the prison in Dartmouth, MA. To my surprise, they came up with a possible solution. They said: “You do not need to bring bread. We have it right here because we can buy it from the canteen. We cannot provide grape juice or wine, but if it is fine with you, we can provide cranberry juice.”  Immediately we held an “administrative meeting.” Some people volunteered to get everything ready for the next week, while I was in charge of getting permission from the prison officers.  Unfortunately, by the following week I had not succeeded in getting the authorization. I tried, but the first person I talked to asked me to talk with another person. This person didn’t answer my calls for some days. When I arrived at the prison the next Monday, the prisoners were excited, with everything ready. They had brought bread, cranberry juice (powdered, to be mixed with water), the small cups that they use to take medicine, and also a new white bedsheet to use as a tablecloth.  When I told them that I didn’t have the authorization yet, they became frustrated. But we decided do not give up.

Finally, a few days later, I received the authorization. Then, on Monday, October 14th, we had our Holy Communion together in one of the ICE units at the prison in Dartmouth. This coming Monday we will celebrate Communion in the other unit where I also do bible study, in the same prison facility.

I’ll never forget their reaction as they were taking the bread and the “wine.” Many were emotional. There were a few who didn’t participate because they “were not prepared,” as they said. But it was their decision. One of them came to me asking me to pray for him, because he wanted to take a decision for Christ.

We are going to celebrate Holy Communion once a month in Dartmouth, and I’m waiting for authorization to do it also in Plymouth and Boston.

Donations Received:

– Jovelino & Jaon Ramos

– Bethel Presbyterian Church, Marlboro, MA (2X)

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston, MA (2X)

– First Presbyterian of Stamford, CT (2X)

– First Presbyterian Church, Newport, RI

– First Presbyterian Church, Fairfield, CT

– First Presbyterian Church, Hartford, CT

-Providence Presbyterian Church – RI (2X)

– Roland & Ruth Ann Chase

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Donate online through our website: www.presbim.com

Click on support and ways to give.

A Safe Place – The community of inmates is a reflection of our community outside of the prison. There are individuals from different religious, cultural, and social backgrounds. Usually I don’t ask particular questions of them, even though I’m always open to talking to them and listening to their stories. For several months there was at one of the prisons a young Brazilian man who attended all the bible studies. He left the prison at the beginning of September, and I have talked with him and visited him at the restaurant where he works as a chef. I learned that he is homosexual, and because of this he has suffered prejudice on many occasions, including false accusations that twice brought him to solitary confinement. The only people who stood up for him were the Christians who are part of the Bible studies. “They never judged me, and among them I found a safe place for myself,” he said. I know that many of the prisoners who are Christians cannot understand the complexity of human sexuality. But even without understanding it, they decided to live in justice, expressing the God’s love.

Set/Oct Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
09/01 Boston 29
09/05 Bristol 31
09/06 Plymouth 55
09/08 Boston 32
09/12 Bristol 24
09/13 Plymouth 58
09/15 Boston 35
09/19 Bristol
09/20 Plymouth 60
09/22 Boston 43
09/26 Bristol 24
09/27 Plymouth 57
09/29 Boston 33
10/03 Bristol 29
10/04 Plymouth 57
10/06 Boston
10/10 Bristol 31
10/11 Plymouth 53
10/13 Boston 33
10/17 Bristol 29
10/18 Plymouth 51
10/20 Boston
10/24 Bristol
10/25 Plymouth 47
10/27 Boston 30
10/31 Plymouth 49

 

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July/August, 2016

5 AniversarioPIM 5th Anniversary – Five years have passed. In August of 2011 I started a new stage of my Ministry here in the United States. I came to this country in 2001 to organize a Portuguese-speaking Presbyterian Church in the city of Fall River, and in June 2005 the Christ is Life Presbyterian Church was organized. That same year, I started visiting Brazilian immigrants who were waiting for deportation in prisons in the state of Massachusetts. I couldn’t have imagined that in those first visits to prisons I was laying the basis for a more comprehensive Ministry.

Because of the need to serve other immigrants, in August 2011, supported by the Presbytery of Southern New England of the PC(USA), I started a new ministry, the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry (PIM). Its main task was to provide weekly Bible studies among immigrants in two Massachusetts prisons, in Plymouth and Dartmouth. Later, at the beginning of 2012, this ministry was extended to include a prison in the city of Boston.

During these 5 years, I have met every week with about 90 people in 8 different groups. Sometimes there were more than 100 people, and over the last few months I’ve been meeting with approximately 120 immigrants each week (see the frequency table). Immigrants from more than 30 different countries have participated in the Bible studies. Most of them have gone back to their respective countries taking the Word of God in their hearts.

If we have come this far, it is because God has given us the conditions for this ministry. It was He who provided supporters – congregations and people who, having understood the importance of this ministry, became my partners in this journey. I thank all these congregations and all these people for the support that I have received.

A relative of a former inmate –A few weeks ago I was doing a Bible study in the prison in Boston. One of the prisoners, who always attended the studies, arrived a little late because he had been talking with family members by telephone. Upon entering the classroom he put his identity card on the table, and his last name caught my attention. Though not common, the name was familiar. In conversation with him we realized that he is a relative of a young Brazilian who, in 2005, had been part of a Bible studies group that I had started in the prison in Plymouth.

Because of this I got in contact by phone with Daniel, the young man I met in 2005, who is now living in Brazil. During this call, Daniel and I remembered the last conversation we had before he was deported. He had faced a long battle against being deported, as he thought he could not keep the same quality of life he had here in the USA while living in Brazil. I remember him telling me, in 2005: “I don’t understand why God is allowing this to happen.” In remembering this, he told me: “I do not think God could give me a better life than the one I have had here in my own country.”

It’s interesting how everything happened. Upon arriving in Brazil Daniel sought a job. He applied for any level of work at a resort hotel. In his application Daniel wrote that he speaks, in addition to Portuguese, the English he learned in the United States and the Spanish he learned in prison. This opened the door for a position far above the one he sought at that hotel, and he became Manager of Recreation for that mineral water resort. After a few years Daniel started his own business selling motorcycles, and more recently he opened a store to sell mattresses. But more importantly: despite some setbacks he had in his spiritual life, Daniel remains steadfast in his faith in Jesus Christ.

 Donations Received:

– Bethel Presbyterian Church, Marlboro, MA

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston, MA

– First Presbyterian of Stamford, CT

– John & Penny Webster

– Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana, Boston, MA

– First Presbyterian Church, Newport, RI

-Providence Presbyterian Church – RI

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Donate online through our website: www.presbim.com

Click on support and ways to give.

 Telling the Truth – A few weeks ago, at the end of the Bible study in one of the units in Boston, a young man asked to have a conversation with me. He was to have a hearing in an immigration court, at which he would have the opportunity to confirm a story he had invented to try to stay here in the United States. But he was visibly in conflict. He told me that he had invented that story before he began to study the Bible and before becoming Christian. He said that if he confirmed the story he had invented, he would have a chance to fulfill his dream to remain here legally. “But now that I know the truth, I can’t go on with this story,” he said. I confirmed this, saying that in any situation the truth is always the best way. In tears, he declared that he would confess his lie in front of the judge, even if he paid the price of going back to his country, because he was convinced that the best thing was to do the will of God. After a few weeks he was deported. This is another example of how the Word of God has power to transform lives.

July/August Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
07/04 Bristol
07/05 Plymouth 40
07/07 Boston 33
07/11 Bristol 52
07/12 Plymouth 42
07/14 Boston 33
07/18 Bristol 49
07/19 Plymouth 44
07/21 Boston 30
07/25 Bristol 45
07/26 Plymouth 49
07/28 Boston 27
08/01 Bristol 31
08/02 Plymouth 46
08/04 Boston 27
08/08 Bristol 39
08/09 Plymouth 47
08/11 Boston 25
08/15 Bristol 31
08/16 Plymouth 42
08/18 Boston 24
08/22 Bristol 30
08/23 Plymouth 62
08/25 Boston 25
08/30 Bristol 35
08/31 Plymouth 49

May/June, 2016

criancas-biblia

Bibles for Children – A few months ago the First Presbyterian Church of Newport, RI, asked me to ask the immigrants in prison for the names and addresses of their small children, because they wanted to send children’s Bibles to them. I did as I was asked, and in April I gave to that Church 41 names and addresses. Twenty-two Bibles in Spanish, 16 in English and 2 in Portuguese were requested and sent. Most of the addresses were right here in the United States, and five in other countries. Since April many have left prison, some remaining in this country but most deported. A few weeks ago, during the weekly bible studies, two prisoners – one in each of two prisons – asked me to express their gratitude to the Church in Newport. “My son was very happy to receive this precious gift,” said one of them. I also would like to express my gratitude to the First Presbyterian Church of Newport for this initiative and for the general support that they have given me, from the time I arrived here in the United States.

Chaplaincy in Hospital – Since the end of May I have been participating in hospital chaplaincy training – in the CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) program at the Chaplaincy Center in Providence, RI. This is an intensive course which will be completed during the summer. Intensive, practical and theoretical lessons are held from Monday to Friday, from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm, in addition to “on calls” during some evenings and some Saturdays or Sundays. The practical training takes place at Rhode Island Hospital, a hospital with about 700 beds. While on “on call” I can be called not only to this hospital but also to two others in Providence: Women and Infants and Miriam. Most hospitals in the United States require CPE of those who want to dedicate themselves to this ministerial field. There are two purposes that led me to attend this training: First, it is a way to be better prepared for the ministry I am already doing in the prisons. Second, it is a tool that that will enable me to extend my ministry to the hospital field.

To be able to participate in the intensive training, I had to change the prison Bible studies to a night schedule, starting after the CPE, from 6:00 until 9:30 pm. Also, the days of the week for the Bible studies have changed: Mondays at Bristol; Tuesdays at Plymouth; Thursdays at Boston. Surprisingly, the number of participants in the prison Bible studies has increased, as can be seen on the attendance worksheet below. The reason for this growth is simple: most of the prisoners, after breakfast at around 5 am, go back to bed and sleep until later. As a result, they’re more available during the evenings. This leads me to consider continuing to do the Bible studies in prisons during the night hours, even after completing the CPE on August 5th.

I would like to express my gratitude to the Steering Committee of PIM for giving me this opportunity. I confess that on the days when I visit the prisons I feel tired coming home around 10:30 pm. But the tiredness is not, in any way, greater than the feeling of gratitude to God for the opportunity to serve people in situations of suffering, whether in prisons or in hospitals.

Donations Received:

– Paulo Barbosa – (pledge at the fundraising dinner)

– Bethel Presbyterian Church (2X)

– First Presbyterian Church of New Haven

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston (2X)

– Valley Presbyterian Church

– Woodbury Union Church, Warwick

– Christine Foster – (pledge at the fundraising dinner)

– First Presbyterian Church of Newport

– Richard Price

– First Presbyterian of Stamford (3X)

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Donate Online through our website: www.presbim.com

Click on support and ways to give.

 

Brazilian Times – The Brazilian Times is a periodical aimed at Brazilians living in the United States. In one of the latest editions there is an article in Portuguese about the Ministry of PIM amongst the immigrants in prisons. At the end the article is the address for one of the PIM videos on YouTube. If you want to read the article click on the following website:

http://www.braziliantimes.com/noticia/13977,imigracao,MINISTERIO-PRESBIM-AUXILIA-IMIGRANTES-PRESOS-EM-MA

May/June Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
04/05 Boston 19
05/05 Plymouth 08   *
06/05 Bristol –     **
11/05 Boston –     **
12/05 Plymouth –     **
13/05 Bristol –     **
18/05 Boston 20
19/05 Plymouth 26
20/05 Bristol 19
24/05 Plymouth 32 ***
26/05 Boston – ****
30/05 Bristol – ****
31/05 Plymouth 33
02/06 Boston 33
06/06 Bristol 51
07/06 Plymouth 40
09/06 Boston 31
13/06 Bristol 53
14/06 Plymouth 29
16/06 Boston 35
20/06 Bristol 48
21/06 Plymouth 42
23/06 Boston 27
27/06 Bristol 52
28/06 Plymouth 35
30/06 Boston 30

* The prisoners waiting for trial could not come to the chapel.

** I was traveling.

*** Starting the new schedule for the Bible studies (nighttime)

**** The prison’s computer system had not yet registered the new schedule for the Bible studies, so I could not carry them out.

March/April, 2016

IMG_6497

Fundraising Dinner –On April 29th, PIM held its first fundraising dinner (picture 1) since its beginning in 2011. Since 2011 PIM has always been looking for financial support to continue its ministry among immigrants in prisons. In these almost 5 years of continuing ministry, PIM has received substantial financial support from individuals and congregations. IMG_6496aAlso, PIM has received grants from the three levels of the PCUSA: the General Assembly, the Synod, and the Presbytery. At the level of the General Assembly all the grants are one-time-only, and PIM must look ahead to find ways to fund its ministry. The idea of having a fundraising dinner was discussed many times, but only this year PIM decided to put it in practice.

IMG_6483aAs a beginner in organizing a fundraising dinner, I was afraid there would not be enough people interested in attending it. The dinner was set to take place at a Brazilian restaurant in North Dartmouth, MA. IMG_6485aThe distance from many of the Presbytery congregations made attendance more difficult. The restaurant offered one of the two rooms they have available for such events, one with accommodations for 60 and the other for 80/90 persons. I thought that even the smaller room would be difficult to fill. But, in short, God surprised me! One week before the dinner we had more than 100 persons registered. Paid attendance at the dinner was 116 people (including two children). And I had to turn down some later registrations.

As part of the program the missionaries, Katia Cunha and me, said a few words about the ministry (picture 2). IMG_6498Katia’s ministry is among immigrant women at a prison in Boston. Mine is among immigrant men in prisons in Boston, Plymouth and Dartmouth, all in Massachusetts. Also, the program included the testimony of two former inmates and the wife of one of them. Andre and Claudio (pictures 3 and 4) spoke about the importance of the Bible studies for their lives during the time they spent in prison. Claudio, whose talk was translated by Natalia Johnson (picture 3), continues attending Bible studies at my home every other week. Nelia, Claudio’s wife (picture 5), spoke about the support she received from PIM as well, and about the struggles the inmates’ families usually face when their loved ones are in prison. Those who gave their testimonies were in prison because of their immigration status.

Only two members of the PIM steering committee did not attend. They would have liked to be there, but they couldn’t make it because they live far away from North Dartmouth. Most of the people who attended were members of our Presbytery’s congregations: First Presbyterian Church of Newport, Providence Presbyterian Church, Woodbury Union Church (Warwick), and Greenwood Community Church (Warwick). Also attending were some members of the Christ the King Presbyterian Church (a congregation in Fall River, MA), who had been members of the former Christ is Life Presbyterian Church. Members of the Brazilian Catholic Community in Fall River were also were there, along with others.

According to their comments, everyone liked this experience. The Brazilian Grill Restaurant did an amazing job, and was outstanding in its service. Here are quotations from two persons who attend the dinner:

“Indeed a wonderful time, thanks. Damaris and I had to depart rather early so maybe I missed something. . . I thought the service was incredible!”  (John Mangold)

“It was a great evening. We enjoyed it very much.” (Don and Sue Fennessey)

PIM would like to thank everyone who gave us support by attending the event. As I said, it was not just about enjoying a delicious Brazilian meal. It was about helping PIM to feed many people with the Bread of Life – Jesus Christ.

(by Rev. Gerson – Pictures by Alan Neff)

 

Donations received:

– Bethel Community Church, Marlborough – MA

– First Presbyterian Church of Newport – RI

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston – MA

– First Presbyterian of Stamford – CT

– Calvary Presbyterian Church, Enfield – CT

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Donate Online through our website: www.presbim.com

Click on support and ways to give.

March/April Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
03/02 Boston 36
03/03 Plymouth 35
03/04 Bristol 12
03/09 Boston 32
03/10 Plymouth 10
03/11 Bristol 15
03/16 Boston 36
03/17 Plymouth 36
03/18 Bristol 12
03/23 Boston 24
03/24 Plymouth 37
03/25 Bristol No program
03/30 Boston 32
03/31 Plymouth 25
04/01 Bristol 21
04/06 Boston 18
04/07 Plymouth 29
04/08 Bristol 16
04/13 Boston 25
04/14 Plymouth 33
04/15 Briston 17
04/20 Boston 18
04/21 Plymouth 35
04/22 Bristol 20
04/27 Boston 22
04/28 Plymouth 33
04/29 Brsitol 22

Livro SandraNew Book – Written by the Brazilian/American psychologist, Sandra Ferreira, this book is a holistic analysis of immigration and its archeological, sociological, psychological, economical and political contexts. The Rev. Gerson was interviewed by the author for informational purposes.

January/February, 2016

Chinese bible

Chinese Bibles -The Bible is a very important instrument in my Ministry, as well as for any Christian Ministry. That’s why I always try to provide Bibles for the imprisoned, not only in order for them to follow the Bible studies, but also so that they can devote themselves to bible reading during other periods while they are in prison. As they often say, “Time is what we have plenty of here.” Normally I have taken Bibles in Portuguese and in Spanish to the prisons where I serve, since the vast majority of those who attend the studies speak one of these two languages. But sometimes I have been asked to provide Bibles in other languages, such as French and Ukrainian. Earlier this year one of the Brazilian inmates spoke to me about two young Chinese who are in jail in Boston. Only one of them speaks a little English, enough to communicate to the Brazilian, who also speaks very little English. They needed some literature in Chinese to help them pass the time. There is a TV set in each unit, but the programming is all in English. The Brazilian prisoner, who assiduously attends the Bible studies, asked me if I could provide Bibles in Chinese for them, “preferably bilingual Bibles, so that while they are reading in their own language, they can learn a little English.” This suggestion made me very happy for three reasons. The first, of course, was to be able to give Bibles to those young people, sharing with them the Word of God. The second reason for my happiness was to see the concern the Brazilian inmate had for the other prisoners. I have always encouraged those who are part of the Bible study group to put their lives in the hands of God to reach out to others with the Gospel. The Brazilian was, no doubt, doing this. The third reason for my happiness occurred when I shared the need for Bibles in Chinese with one of the former detainees with whom I try to keep in touch. He immediately set out to buy the Bibles on the internet, and sent them to my address. “I’ve been there and know the importance of the Word of God in the life of a person who is in prison,” said the former inmate.

Three weeks ago I delivered the Bibles. One of the young Chinese, visibly moved, received it from my hands and pressed it close to his heart, thanking me. They may never participate in any of the Bible studies, for the obvious reason. They do not speak or understand Spanish or Portuguese, the languages that I use in the studies. But I believe that the Word of God, together with the interest shown by the Brazilian prisoner for those young people, is itself enough to communicate God’s love to them.

Donations received:

– Bethel Community Church, Marlborough MA

– Bethel Presbyterian Church

– First Presbyterian Church of Newport

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston

– Glen Ransey

– First Presbyterian of Stamford, Stamford CT

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Donate Online through our website: www.presbim.com

Click on support and ways to give.

 

January/February Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
01/06 Boston 47
01/07 Plymouth 28
01/08 Bristol 15
01/13 Boston Locked down
01/14 Plymouth 44
01/15 Bristol 16
01/20 Boston 35
01/21 Plymouth 45
01/22 Bristol 16
01/27 Boston 36
01/28 Plymouth 38
01/29 Bristol
02/03 Boston 38
02/04 Plymouth 37
02/05 Bristol 14
02/10 Boston 33
02/11 Plymouth 36
02/12 Bristol 13
02/17 Boston 36
02/18 Plymouth 36
02/19 Briston 12
02/24 Boston 33
02/25 Plymouth 41
02/26 Bristol 15

A Christian Israeli – There are many nationalities among the people that I have met in the prisons. About a month ago, a man in his 50’s came to the Bible study. He told me he is Israeli. He had spent a few years in another prison because of bad choices he had made. In that prison he became a Christian. “Through my encounter with Yeshua (Jesus), my life changed and the words of the Bible began to make sense to me,” he said. He also told me that his conversion was the beginning of a process of the plan of God for his whole family. Others had become Christians.

Two weeks ago I got a letter from that man. Read a few lines of this letter:

“Firstly I would like to express my gratitude for the support you give to this community [of prisoners]. Since 2012 I started my journey with Yeshua as a priority, and I do not allow anything to interfere with this intimate relationship I develop with God. I am a living example of a man who was saved by His grace. Ransomed men no longer pause in fear to enter the Holy of Holies. Yeshua wills that we should push on into His presence and live our whole life there.”

Highlights of the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry Open Space, Feb 6, 2016

Presbyterian Immigrant Ministries (PIM) was the topic of an Open Space session at the PSNE meeting on February 6. It was led by PIM’s pastor, Rev. Gerson Annunciação, along with Claudio, a former inmate from Brazil, and his wife Nelia, an American citizen.  Claudio opened the discussion with his story. He was in jail for 19 months, during which time he served in seven different jails, including jails in Alabama and Louisiana.  Meanwhile, his wife visited or called him every day, at considerable expense, and did her best to take care of the family’s needs.

Claudio emphasized the importance of Gerson’s bible studies in providing emotional support to detainees, and especially in bringing them hope. He also pointed out that few people not directly involved are aware of the situation. Participants raised a number of questions.  Some of the highlights of this discussion were:

– The reason for frequently moving detainees from prison to prison, increasing the burden on themselves and their families, is to put pressure on them to sign a deportation agreement.

– Being married to an American citizen is not an automatic guarantee of legal status. This depends on the particular situation.

– PIM’s bible studies have given many inmates a faith in God that has been empowering for them, bringing them hope as well as the strength and wisdom to face their situation.

– During the week, between the scheduled bible studies, inmates meet to pray and read the bible together.

– Detention puts a financial burden on families, and can be emotionally devastating for the children. Support for families, through Gerson’s intervention, is an important part of PIM’s ministry.

– Conditions in the home countries of many inmates are intolerable, and in some cases deportation can mean death.

– John Webster, co-chair of PIM’s steering committee, raised the important question of how PSNE members can help PIM to continue as long as needed. Even if comprehensive legislation is passed, it will be some time before the reforms are in place.

November/December, 2015

Advent Wreath

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” – Luke 2:14

Christmas is coming! The New Year is around the corner! Here is my special message for those who have supported my ministry since its beginning:

It’s my understanding that, in the above verse, the message proclaimed by the angels when they announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds teaches us that Peace on Earth glorifies God. Peace on Earth is a powerful message which our world needs to hear in these days. Therefore, I invite you, inspired by the most genuine spirit of Christmas, to renew your commitment to promoting the Peace of Jesus Christ through your life. Remember what Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

May the Immanuel fill everyone, in every new day, with the peace and hope that only He can give us.

I thank you as individuals and you as a congregation for the support I have received to proclaim Jesus among immigrants in prison. I hope that in 2016 we can continue this partnership, which helped me to share the Gospel of Jesus with so many people.

Donations received:

– Bethel Community Church, Marlborough – MA

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston

– Valley Presbyterian Church, Brookfield – CT

– Pat Wales

– First Presbyterian of Hartford, Hartford – CT

– First Presbyterian of Stamford, Stamford – CT

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Donate Online through our website: www.presbim.com

Click on support and ways to give.

We Need Your Support: We are going to start a new year soon. I can’t believe how fast the time goes by. PIM started its ministry in August 2011, so we are going to complete 5 years in 2016. As PIM is preparing its 2016 budget, we will continue depending on donations from individuals, churches and organizations. You can support us with your donation, and also share this ministry with others who are potential supporters. If you believe this is an important ministry, please give us your support.

November/December Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
11/04 Boston 22
11/05 Plymouth 28
11/06 Bristol 19
11/11 Boston 21
11/12 Plymouth 62
11/13 Bristol 25
11/18 Boston 25
11/19 Plymouth 46
11/20 Bristol 33
11/25 Boston 28
11/26 Plymouth Thanksgiving
11/27 Bristol 27
12/02 Boston
12/03 Plymouth 19
12/04 Bristol 17
12/09 Boston
12/10 Plymouth 49
12/11 Bristol 20
12/16 Boston 30
12/17 Plymouth 49
12/18 Briston 25

 

“I want to confess to you”. – A few weeks ago, after one of the Bible studies in the prison at Plymouth, one of the prisoners asked to speak with me in private. When the others left he told me: “I want to start a new life, and so I would like to confess to you.” I realized that he was really determined to take another direction in his life, leaving behind a lot of things that he regretted. It was an opportunity for me to teach him that there would be no need for him to confess his sins to me. He could do it directly to God, because Jesus Christ came into the world to give us free access to the Father.

We talked for a while, we read the Bible, and I selected some texts, recommending that he study them later. After a prayer he went back to his cell, with a heart relieved by the certainty that, through Jesus Christ, his sins have been forgiven by God.

Bible study group – The Bible study group continues to meet every 15 days. The group is still small but has shown interest in continuing to gather in 2016. At the last meeting one of the participants, a former inmate, Joao (fictitious name), spoke about the almost 20 months he was in prison. Although he has already been released for about 5 months, his situation is still far from being resolved. He still has to go back to the court for a few sessions, and still runs the risk of being deported. If this occurs, his wife and his stepdaughter, who are American citizens, are considering moving to Brazil. They have no idea what they may face there. After nearly 20 years of living in the United States, Joao will also have difficulty resuming his life in Brazil. But despite being frightened by this possibility, Joao has put his life into the hands of God, and is resigned to accept whatever may be the decision of the authorities. I ask that you pray for him and for his family.

More immigrants in prison – A few months ago it seemed that the number of immigrants in the prisons was decreasing. Some units in which immigrants were detained, in the three prisons I visit, had been closed. But unfortunately, in recent weeks these units were reopened with the arrival of about 300 immigrants. Most of them are from Central America and were detained at the border in Texas. The question of immigration here in the United States appears to be far from arriving at any solution. With the crisis of so many people fleeing violence and poverty in their countries, Christians need to speak out in defense of a justice based on the principles of the Kingdom of God.

Visit our website. You can read our newsletters, watch videos and learn more about our ministry. Help us to share our website: www.presbim.com

October, 2015Bible Study Group

IM, Home Bible Study Group – On October 2nd PIM started a new program. This program, named Bible Study and Spiritual Support Group, is made up of people interested in studying the Bible. Our goals are: to seek in the Bible guidance for life; to stimulate friendship among the attendees; to give support to the ministry among immigrants in prison. The meetings are on Friday nights, every other week. The three first meetings took place at my home, but the next one will be at the home of a couple who are attending. It is still a small group of 8, including my wife and myself, but we intend to bring in others, focusing on those who do not attend any church.

Two former inmates are attending, one of them with his wife. This former inmate spent more than 2 years in 9 different prisons. He has been married to a US citizen for many years. At our October 30th meeting he gave his testimony about the time he spent in prison. We were sharing the meaning of Jesus for each of us. He told that before he was in prison, Jesus was only a name he heard in the churches the few times he visited them. While in prison he joined the Bible studies, first in Dartmouth, and then in Boston, two of the places where he was detained. Through the Bible he started to know Jesus on a different level and, step by step, he understood the meaning and purpose God has for his life through Jesus. Now, he said, “Jesus is all in my life.”

His wife also said that knowing that her husband was receiving spiritual support in the prison was of some comfort to her.

Our next meeting will be on November 13th. All the attendees are from Brazil or Portugal. There is a possibility of starting a Bible study group in Spanish in New Bedford, MA.

Donations received:

– Valley Presbyterian Church, Brookfield – CT

– First Presbyterian Church, Stamford – CT

– First Presbyterian Church, Newport – RI

– Greenwood Community Church, Warwick – RI

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston, MA

– Bethel Presbyterian Church, Marlborough – MA

– Presbyterian Women of Greenwood Community Church, Warwick – RI

– Tom Taylor

– Jovelino & Joan Ramos

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Donate Online: through our website: www.presbim.com

Click on support and ways to give

We Need Your Support: We are going to start a new year soon. I can’t believe how fast the time goes by. PIM started its ministry in August 2011, so we are going to complete 5 years in 2016. As PIM is preparing its 2016 budget, we will continue depending on donations from individuals, churches and organizations. You can support us with your donation, and also share this ministry with others who are potential supporters. If you believe this is an important ministry, please give us your support.

October Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
10/01 Plymouth 25
10/02 Bristol 14
10/07 Boston 30
10/08 Plymouth 22
10/09 Bristol 16
10/14 Boston 23
10/15 Plymouth 28
10/16 Bristol 16
10/21 Boston
10/22 Plymouth 22
10/23 Bristol 15
10/28 Boston 28
10/29 Plymouth 26
10/30 Bristol 11

 

Email from Brazil – Few days ago I received an email from a former inmate who was deported to Brazil. I answered him and he has already answered me back. He is attending a church in Brazil. He is married to a US citizen, and he asked me to pray God to allow him to come back to the USA to live here with his wife. He applied for legalization before he was arrested. Here some of his words:

“Hello Pastor Gerson,

I hope everything is going well with you and God bless you. My name is Adilson, and I was at the Bristol County Facility. I was deported to Brazil on June 17th this year. It happened too quickly, without prior notice. It was so sad because I was not allowed to call my family or even my attorney. I already had appealed my case. The reason I’m writing to you is to get news about the other Brazilians who were in prison. Are they still there? I’d like to know how they are doing. Thanks to God I’m well, looking for what God is going to do in my life.”

I ask you to pray for Adilson and his wife Fabiola. May God reunite this couple again, as soon as possible.

Meeting a Former Inmate – On Saturdays my wife and I like to have coffee at a Portuguese Bakery in Fall River. This is a place where we can meet many Brazilian and Portuguese people, of course. There we met one of those who are attending our Bible study group.

Last Saturday I met Isaac and his wife. He spent about three months in prison. At that time his wife was pregnant. He was arrested because he was driving under influence of alcohol. Attending the Bible studies, he began to think about his life. Because of his mistakes he expected to miss the birth of his son, who is now six months old. The thought of missing the birth of his son was the most terrible thing he faced in prison. I remember that every time I was there he asked me, in tears, to pray for him.

“Thanks be to God,” he said, “I was released in time to be with my wife when my son was born.” According to his wife, “Isaac is not the same person who went to prison. He is now a new person. He never drinks any more.”

I invited them, and they will join us in our next Bible study group.

Visit our website. You can read our newsletters, watch videos and learn more about our ministry. Help us to share our website: www.presbim.com

 

August/September, 2015Boat

et on the Boat – In September I attended a Presbytery meeting. The worship was very inspirational. Its theme, ”Get on the Boat”, invited us to get together on the journey to search for a renewing time for our congregations. The picture above shows the altar decorated with a boat symbolizing the journey we were asked to join. I was really moved by that worship. But besides the invitation to that journey, the boat made me remember the small and fragile boats that thousands of people are embarking in, looking for a better life away from conflict zones, away from poverty, away from violence. This is not only about what is happening in Europe. It’s about what is happening right here in the USA. I have heard many stories of people who entered in the USA, crossing the Rio Grande in inflatable boats. They preferred to risk their lives in this journey rather than continue to face the struggles to survive in their own countries. But those who made it are fortunate compared with those whose bodies are someplace out there in the desert. From 1994 to 2004 almost 2,000 were reported dead, plus an unknown number whose bodies were never found. By boat, by foot, or another way, they are embarking on a journey looking for a better life. When I think about them I understand that we, as Christians, have been challenged to get aboard with them, to help them pursue the happiness that by natural right belongs to everybody. Let’s get on the boat with them through our prayers, asking God to protect them on their journey; let’s pray to God to provide open hearts among the people of the countries where they are going; let’s pray to God for peace around the world, to allow people to stay safe and to pursue happiness in their own countries, with no need to jeopardize their lives in an uncertain journey. Also, I ask you to get on the boat with me on the journey to assist those whose travels ended in detention centers. I need your prayers! I need your support!

Read the following article about this issue: http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/10/05/445985671/never-leave-your-house-survival-strategies-for-el-salvador-s-15girls

Donations received:

– Bethel Presbyterian Church, Marlboro, MA

– First Presbyterian Church, Stamford, CT

– First Presbyterian Church, New Haven, CT

– Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana, Boston, MA

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston, MA

– John & Alice Hand

– Robert & Alice Evans

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Donate Online: through our website: www.presbim.com

Click on support and ways to give

 

August/September Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
08/05 Boston 17
08/06 Plymouth 30
08/07 Bristol 15
08/12 Boston 19
08/13 Plymouth 31
08/14 Bristol 16
08/19 Boston 26
08/20 Plymouth 32
08/21 Bristol 14
08/26 Boston 25
08/27 Plymouth 29
08/28 Bristol 13
09/02 Boston 27
09/03 Plymouth 31
09/04 Bristol 14
09/09 Boston 24
09/10 Plymouth 28
09/11 Bristol 12
09/16 Boston 33
09/17 Plymouth 27
09/18 Bristol 20
09/23 Boston 30
09/24 Plymouth Lock down
09/25 Bristol 16
09/30 Boston 31

 

Anderson was released – Anderson is a young Brazilian man who came to the USA when he was 19 years old. Trying to get away from problems related to his parents’ divorce in Brazil, he faced many struggles here as well. He got married and divorced, and was in a turbulent relationship. From his marriage a child was born. This 5-year-old boy was the reason Anderson fought for more than one year to stay here in the USA. His son has many health problems because of a cerebral malfunction. During the time Anderson spent in prison he became a Christian. He always attended the Bible studies, except for three weeks when he was very depressed. I missed him at that time. So when I was leaving the unit where he was, as I was passing close to his bed I decided to give him some words of encouragement. But only four words came out of my mouth that day: “Do not give up.” The next week he was there again with his Bible to attend the study. He told me then: “I was so depressed, and the night before that morning when you came to my bed, I was praying to God to give me a signal that I should continue to fight my case. I had been pressured to sign my deportation. I was feeling so fragile, powerless to continue fighting. Then you came and spoke those simple words to me, and I immediately understood that those words were the signal I was waiting for.”

Anderson continued in prison for 5 months more. He was transferred to another prison where I also do the Bible studies. There he became a tool in God’s hands to bring others to the Bible studies. I remember one Thursday morning while I was doing the studies in a certain unit, I was asked by Jose, a young man from Honduras, “What can I do to become a Christian?” When I asked him the reason he wanted to become a Christian, he told me that he had met Anderson on his way back to the prison from the Court House. Both were frustrated because the judge’s decisions were not what they wanted, but even so, Anderson was at peace. Jose asked Anderson how he could be at peace. Anderson told him that the reason for his peace was Jesus. And as Anderson continued testifying about his faith, Jose was compelled to confess Jesus as his Savior and Lord.

Anderson was released at the end of August, and I have talked with him by phone. He is attending a church. I had not heard from Jose because he was transferred to another facility to serve time for errors he committed. But a few weeks ago he returned to an ICE detention center where I met him again. He continues growing in faith, and now he is one of those who invite the inmates to the Bible studies, giving his testimony about how Jesus changed his life.

Visit our website. You can read our newsletters, watch videos and learn more about our ministry. Help us to share our website: www.presbim.com

IV aniversario

 July, 2015

Fourth Anniversary – In August 2011 I began working full time in this ministry among immigrants in prison. Since then I have experienced God’s presence each time I go to teach the Bible to those who may be facing the worst time in their lives. One of my main concerns is not to give them false expectations about what God can do for their lives. For many of them, their first motivation to attend a Bible study is to bargain with God for a solution to their case. In the end, almost all of them expect to stay in the USA, which can happen in only a few cases. What I usually say is that God has a plan for everyone, but this plan will often not be according to our own desires. My major goal is tell them that there is a God who cares about them no matter what. Whether or not they receive justice from the authorities does not determine which side God is on. God always will be beside those who are oppressed, whose lives are in danger because of the unjust social/political system. God didn’t abandon them.

Of those who approach the Bible studies as a bargain, few continue coming. But most of them do continue coming, and as they start to meditate, they find in Jesus the incarnate God not only the strength to face whatever length of time they will be there, but also the confidence that wherever they will be, they can count on God. I cannot recall how many times I have heard such expressions of faith as: “Here in this place I found the most precious thing in my life;” “I was a prisoner of sin, but here I was released;” “I became a new creature;” “I came to this country looking for a better life, and I found it in Jesus.”

Of those who were released from prison and allowed to stay in the USA, I have talked (mostly by phone) with about 30. And the upshot is that most of them are attending a church and continuing on their journey of faith. Not only have they themselves received the benefits of a life with Jesus. Their families have also benefited because those who left the prison are now able to restart their lives in a new way, without doing the bad things they used to do before getting arrested.

Four years have already passed since I began this full time ministry. Many accomplishments have been made. I thank God for this call I received from Him. I thank Him for all the support I have received. I thank each one of the congregations, people, and organizations who have supported me with donations and prayers. I thank my family for being beside me. I thank all the members of the PIM Steering Committee for forming a team with me. God bless you all.

Donations received:

– Bethel Presbyterian Church, Marlboro, MA

– Calvary Presbyterian Church – Enfield, CT

– First Presbyterian Church – Stamford, CT

– First Presbyterian Church – Newport, RI

– Providence Presbyterian Church, Providence, RI

– Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana – Boston, MA

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston, MA

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Donate Online: through our website: www.presbim.com

Click on support and ways to give

July Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
08 Boston 26
09 Plymouth 28
10 Bristol 11
15 Boston 13
16 Plymouth 21
17 Bristol 12
22 Boston 18
23 Plymouth 23
24 Bristol 13
30 Boston 22

 

Call From Brazil – Few weeks ago I received a call from Brazil. It was a call from a man who spent more than two years in prison before being deported. He was arrested for operating a small illegal financial system and, after his time in prison, he was deported. At the prison he had his first contact with the Bible. He attended the Bible studies every week, first in Plymouth and then in Boston, where he was transferred before his deportation. Joao (fictitious name) always admitted he was paying for his own mistakes. But harder than being in prison was being away from his family (his wife and two children). He was already in prison when his youngest was born. I remember one day when I arrived at the prison, he showed me pictures that his wife had sent to him of his son’s second birthday. I could feel how hard it was for him, knowing his own son only through pictures.

Some weeks before that day, I met him at the Chapel for one more Bible study. His face showed more than the usual sadness. I asked what was going on, and he told me that during that week his mother had passed away in Brazil. It was already about ten years since the last time he had seen his mother.

Joao called me from Brazil to say thanks for the time I spent with him and the others in prison. The Bible studies gave him strength to support him when he needed it most. Now he is restarting his life in Brazil. He knows it will not be easy, but he is confident God will help him.

Another reason he called me was to ask me to visit his wife and his children. They will continue living here because, as he said, his children, who were born in the USA, will have a better chance in life here. Joao lives in a small town in the northern region of Brazil, where there are no good opportunities for his children. His plan is to meet them from time to time when his children are able to visit him in Brazil.

Please, pray for him and for his family. Druing the next weeks I’ll plan to visit Joao’s family.

Received Emails

Sometimes I receive messages from people, who have read the newsletters. Here are some emails I received recently:

Rev. Jeff Ritchie, USA: Dear Gerson, The impact you have made on people through this ministry is amazing, truly God’s grace. Thank you for your faithfulness. Jeff.

Rev. Samuel de Aguiar Campelo Junior, Brazil: I thank you for the information. We are projecting (the newsletter) on the screen, to demonstrate to the members (of the church) the power of our prayers. May God continue to bless you along with your family and your teammates.

Rev. Jean Carlos, Brazil: The testimony given by Gisley Amaro and in the letters received is very uplifting. May God continue to pour out grace upon your life and your family there in the USA.

Visit our website. You can read our newsletters, watch videos and learn more about our ministry. Help us to share our website: www.presbim.com

June, 2015Gislei

Life Changed – In 2011 when I began my full time ministry among the immigrants in prison, I met a large group of Brazilians at Plymouth County Correctional Facility. Among them was Gisley Amaro de Oliveira (picture above). He stayed there for 3 months and, according to him, he had never studied the bible before. He was not a churchgoer. In those three months he lost everything he had saved from his hard work but, as he told me a few days ago, he does not regret being there, because those three months changed his life for the better. At that time he knew nothing about the bible. Then he was invited by another prisoner to attend a Christian service performed by the inmates, those who had been attending the weekly bible studies led by me. At that service he became a Christian and also started to attend the bible studies. As I said, he never had read the bible before, but then he started to read it daily and little by little he began to understand the plan God had for his life. One bible text that was very important to him was Isaiah 43:1-2: “But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”  These words from Isaiah gave him the strength and confidence to face whatever he would face.

After three months he received the benefit of leaving the prison on bail. The first thing he did was to find a church and, with his wife, he began to attend it regularly. It’s a small Portuguese speaking Baptist Church in Brighton, MA (Igreja Batista Vida Nova). After some months he was ordained as a deacon, and recently he was consecrated as a lay pastor, in charge of starting a new congregation with a small group of Brazilian immigrants.

His immigration case is not solved yet. But he is authorized to stay here in the USA until his case is ended. His next court appearance will be only in 2017. He said that no matter what happens, he knows God always has a perfect plan for his life.

Donations received:

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston

– First Presbyterian of Stamford

– Greenwood Community Church

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Donate Online: through our website: www.presbim.com

Click on support and ways to give

June Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
03 Boston 27
04 Plymouth 25
05 Bristol 09
10 Boston 26
11 Plymouth 30
12 Bristol 15
24 Boston 27
25 Plymouth 33
26 Bristol 12

*On June 17th, 18th, and 19th I was traveling, so there were no bible studies.

 Letters Received

  • “God bless you and your family. After a life away from God, He called me to serve Jesus. My Christ has brought me to this prison and little by little I understand the Holy Scriptures. He put in my heart wonderful words that I try to preach to others of my group. That’s why I decided to be baptized as I leave this place and also, I want to study to be a pastor. Through this letter I want to assure your leaders that they are doing an excellent work among us.” R.E.J.
  • “I want to say that my life changed a lot through God’s Word. I pray asking God to give you strength in your ministry. I can see how many persons have been transformed in this place ” J.N.
  • “My name is J.C. and I want to say that I’ve been helped to understand the Word of God and to do right things in my life, not to get in trouble. Also I have understood that, no matter what the situation, I shall always leave everything in God’s hands. I thank you for helping me.”
  • “I’m writing this letter to ask you to send me a bible in Portuguese. I am a Cape Verdean and I understand Portuguese better than English and I want to study the Bible. I will be grateful if you take my request.” E.L.Obs.: the following week PIM provided a Portuguese Bible to him.

Website – Visit our website. It’s updated, and you can read our newsletters, watch videos and learn more about our ministry. Help us to share our website:

www.presbim.com

May, 2015

Daniel Croce

Books Delivered – In a previous newsletter I mentioned that PIM had received a donation of books to be given to the inmates. A few weeks ago I met the Chaplain Rev. Daniel Croce (picture) and delivered about 30 books in Spanish and about 10 in Portuguese. In Spanish, the book is called “Prisioneros Más Cerca de Dios.” That same day all the books were given to the prisoners, and one of them asked me to send one book to his wife.

The Rev. Croce is the chaplain at the Plymouth County Correction Facility, and he is the person who opened to me the opportunity to start the Bible studies at that facility back in 2005. His story is strong evidence that the ministry among prisoners can be fruitful. In 1985, while serving a 2 year sentence at the Plymouth County Jail, someone gave him a Bible and he read about Jesus of Nazareth. Reading the Bible, he started to understand how far away he was from God’s purposes for his life. He began to attend the Bible studies and, with the help of the chaplain, he started to understand that his life would be restored. After his time in prison, he was motivated to attend a church and he began to serve in many ministries. During this time he acquired a sense of a call from God to serve Him. He started to study and at the end of his studies, after being ordained, he was hired to work as a chaplain at the very same prison where he had been a prisoner before. It’s not by chance that Chaplain Danny loves his ministry and supports those who want to spend time teaching the Bible to the inmates. He knows from his own experience that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to restore and change lives.

Read Danny’s full testimony at: http://newhopecm.org/chaplain-dan/

Donations received:

– Bethel Presbyterian Church – Marlborough, MA

– First Presbyterian Church –Newport, RI

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston

– First Presbyterian of Stamford

– IPI do Brasil

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Donate Online: through our website: www.presbim.com

Click on support and ways to give

Back to the Prison – Two weeks ago I was surprised when I met an inmate who I thought had already been deported. The last time I had seen him was about eight months ago. But now, there he was again at the prison in Boston. He told me he had been taken to other prisons, paying for mistakes he had made. He has been in prison for more than 22 months and now is waiting for deportation. He emphasized to the other inmates that he is not mad or sad about being kept so long in prison. He said: “The person that I became here in prison, learning the Bible, is much better than the person who arrived here 22 months ago.” Also, he said that God has given him the patience to wait for the right time, when he will be out of prison, to initiate a new life as the new person he has come to be.  I think this testimony represents very well the importance of this ministry among immigrants in prison. And I’m so blessed to be a part of this ministry, which has changed the lives of so many people. I thank you all who have been partners in this journey.

May Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
01 Bristol 16
06 Boston 19
07 Plymouth 31
08 Bristol 18
13 Boston 20
14 Plymouth 23
15 Bristol
20 Boston 24
21 Plymouth 33
22 Bristol 11
27 Boston 25
28 Plymouth 31
29 Bristol 08

Letters Received

  • “First I want to congratulate you for the effort you have made, offering yourself first to God and also to us, the prisoners, who many times have been abandoned. I thank God because He always is with us, and calls us His children. We have a small daily bible study group at our unit and we always are praying for you, your family and your ministry.” R.M.
  • “First, I wish God to bless your ministry, and also blessed be those who run this ministry. Let me tell you that it is a blessing for us, the prisoners, that through you we received the studies of the Holy Bible of God. These Bible studies, due to our circumstances, are the only help we have. God bless you today, tomorrow and forever.” D.C.
  • “It’s a pleasure greeting you. I hope that everything is fine with you, your wife, and your beloved ones, when you receive this letter. I’m grateful to God for the way you come to explain the Scriptures to us. Also I want to ask you to keep me and my family in your prayers” M.M.R.
  • “I’m writing this letter to inform you that we are thankful for your work among the immigrants in this prison. We thank you for bringing the Word of Life to a place that seems to be a spiritual desert where many are in need. We wish that the ministry among immigrants will continue to grow.” (signed by nine inmates who named themselves “The Church in Bristol County Prison”)
  • Website – Visit our website. It’s updated, and you can read our newsletters, watch videos and learn more about our ministry. Help us to share our website:

www.presbim.com

April, 2015

Violao

Virtual Guitar – Some time ago, some members of the former Christ is Life Presbyterian Church, in Fall River, donated a guitar to be used at the prison in Boston. Mario, a young man from Honduras, was the only one who could play it and he played very well. According to the policy at the prison, the guitar must be in the office of the social worker whenever I’m not there. The only exception is that, when authorized by me, the guitar may be used for other Christian meetings. So Mario used to play at the Bible study with me on Wednesdays, and on Sundays when the Franciscan priests were there for mass. Mario liked to play, to sing and to teach news songs. In order to learn new songs and teach them to the other inmates, he needed to practice them. But, how could he practice if he was not allowed to keep the guitar most of the time? He found a way. He made a fake guitar out of paper and, reading the notes in the song book he had, he pretended he was playing. His cellmate at first thought Mario had become “nuts” – until the day he heard Mario playing on the real guitar the songs he had been practicing on his fake one.

Mario was deported. Last week, when I arrived there with the guitar in my hands, there was no one to play it. I will never forget him. Besides his musical skills, he was one of the leaders among the Christians in his unit at the prison. He was so creative, practicing with his fake guitar. But also very dedicated and determined in the service of our Lord.

Donations received;

– Bethel Presbyterian Church – Marlborough, MA

– First Presbyterian Church –Newport, RI

– Igreja Presiteriana de Boston

– First Presbyterian of Stamford

– Richard Swayze

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days Meeting

Over 1,000 Christian people attended the 13th Annual National Gathering of Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington DC on April 17-20. I was there, and as I heard the testimonies and the big challenges we as a country have to face, I felt that our efforts, as PIM, are so little. The theme that brought us together for those days was: “Breaking the Chains:  Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation.” According to the information we received as attendees, the USA has about 5% of the world’s population, but about 25% of the world’s incarcerated people are here. There are many problems related to these numbers: 1) The mass incarceration is a reflection of a system that allows some to profit from the privatization of the prisons, established by President Reagan’s mandate. 2) This system also affects the immigration situation, due to the fact that thousands of immigrants have been kept in ICE custody at private prisons, in inhumane conditions. According to information that I heard, there is a system of quotas to ensure that 34,000 beds are kept occupied in private prisons, in order to guarantee the profit of the private organizations.  3) Another problem is that the current system lacks programs to promote restoration for those who committed a crime and didn’t find a way to a better life after doing their time in prison. 4) The proportion of minorities, such as Afro-Americans and Latino immigrants, also reveals how racist this system is.

For sure, this is an area that offers plenty of opportunities for the Church to act, proclaiming the justice and mercy of the Reign of God. We, as PIM, are doing something, but it’s so little compared with the challenges we are facing.

On Monday, April 20th, some advocates went to Capitol Hill to meet senators and representatives, asking them to address, according to the principles of the Reign of God, the issue of mass incarceration and the system of quotas.

From the Ecumenical Advocacy Days website, I quote:

”As people of Hope,” Grace continued, “we are reminded that Jesus’ radical message was one of liberation for all and restoration of right relationships. Through prayer, worship, advocacy training, networking and mobilization with other Christians, we have faced the reality of mass incarceration and corporate exploitation, and now call for national policies that bring liberation both to the prisoner and to a world in need of restoration.”

 

April Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
01 Boston 31
02 Plymouth 15
03 Bristol
08 Boston
09 Plymouth
10 Bristol 15
15 Boston
16 Plymouth 26
17 Bristol
22 Boston 35
23 Plymouth 25
24 Bristol 17
29 Boston 14
30 Plymouth 28

Letter Received – Last week I received a letter from Alabama. The letter was sent by a man from Honduras who spent more than 6 months at the prison in Plymouth. He told me he had been taken first to Boston and then to Louisiana in order to be deported to his country, when he received the news that his deportation was canceled and his process was going to be reviewed. Then he was taken to Alabama. Here are some of the words he wrote, which I translated from Spanish:

“Hi pastor. May the Divine Creator of the Universe and the Communion with Christ be always with you and your family. It’s an honor for me to let you know that Christ lives in me. On the same day that they said I was going to be deported I attended a Christian meeting at the prison in Louisiana and 5 inmates became Christians. I was already prepared to go to my country when at about 3 AM I was told that ICE changed my destination. I was going to Alabama instead of to Honduras because my process was going to be reviewed. Now I’m at the prison in Alabama, but I want to make sure that we praise the Lord here. I enrolled myself on the list of those who want to be baptized and, thanks to the Bible studies in Massachusetts, now I have been able to preach the Gospel in honor of my Jesus Christ. (R.E.J.)

Forgiveness and Reconciliation – More than at other times, prisoners have been moved from one prison to another around of Massachusetts. I don’t know the exact reason, but I have seen prisoners whom I met first in Plymouth and later met in Boston or Bristol, and vice-versa. Two weeks ago I was in Plymouth and I met a man who first was in Bristol. He started to ask me about his former inmates, and I told him that some now were in Boston. I told him the names of those who now were in Boston, and as he heard one of those names, he said: “Would you do me a favor? Ask this person to forgive me for the things I said to him when we had an argument. I lost my mind and I tried to attack him. But now I know I was wrong. Please, ask him to forgive me.” This week I went to Boston. As I promised, I talked with the person who almost was attacked, telling him what I had been asked. When he heard me, his eyes became teary. He smiled and said: “Tell him he was already forgiven.” Now, my duty next week is to bring this word of forgiveness back to the inmate in Plymouth.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

March, 2015

Valdir Reis

 Books in Spanish – Some time ago I shared some inmates’ letters with my friend who is also a Brazilian Presbyterian pastor, the Rev. Valdir Reis (picture). Touched by those letters, he felt himself compelled to write a book with messages directed to those who are facing prison. About two years ago he published “Presos Mais Perto de Deus” (Prisoners Closer to God) in Portuguese. The messages in this book are based on biblical texts about servants of God who also faced time in prison, like Joseph, Paul, etc.  The author also used modern stories, such as the one about the American chaplain at the Plymouth County Correction Facility, the Rev. Daniel Croce, who was himself a prisoner at that facility when he became a Christian. So, without a doubt, all prisoners could identify themselves with those messages.  Two years ago I brought some books to the prisons where I’m serving, precisely when I was leaving for one month of vacation. The Portuguese speaking inmates took advantage of those books, using them for their daily bible studies while I was absent. Some of them, in order to help non Portuguese speaking inmates, tried to translate some of the messages into Spanish and English. However, since he began, the intention of Rev. Reis was to have his book translated to Spanish and English. One month ago the second part of his project was accomplished when the Spanish version was published. Soon it will appear in English also.

Very many books in Portuguese have been delivered to prison facilities, not only here in the USA but most of all in Brazil, where congregations are buying and using them as a tool in their evangelistic projects among prisoners. Now that they available in Spanish and will be soon in English, congregations around the USA and in other Latin American countries will be able to use them for their evangelistic programs.

With the help donations from some people, the Rev. Valdir will send some books in Spanish to be used by PIM among the immigrants who are in ICE custody and others facing criminal charges in prisons in Massachusetts.

Here is the information on how to buy this book:

Contact the Rev. Valdir Reis by email: valdirreisbooks@gmail.com

Price: U$15 each. More than 20 books: U$12 each. Or you can order by phone in the USA:  201 687-1273. www.Prisioneirosmaispertodedeus.com  (Site under Construction)

Donations received;

– Frank Arnold

– Crossroads Presbyterian Church

– Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana de Boston

– Igreja Presiteriana de Boston

– First Presbyterian of Stamford

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

March Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
04 Boston 22
05 Plymouth 18
06 Bristol 12
11 Boston 22
12 Plymouth 25
13 Bristol 19
18 Boston 21
19 Plymouth 33
20 Bristol 26
25 Boston 26
26 Plymouth 28
27 Bristol 19

One Year in Prison – Last week I received a letter from a 30 year old Brazilian man. I have heard many sad stories among the inmates, but this one is very sad. A.J.A. came illegally to the USA when he was 19 years old. He came to try to refresh his life, away from his parents, who had gotten divorced. Soon he met a Brazilian girl and they started to live together. But they had some relationship problems that brought them to court. All the problems were solved, but she decided to move to Las Vegas with her family and he stayed in Massachusetts. Some time after that he married another Brazilian girl. After living in Boston for awhile they decided to go to Florida, where she became pregnant. As he was facing some personal struggles, they came back to Boston and separated, but he continued to support her in her pregnancy. Their son was born in Boston, and from his very first days of life the newborn started to face many health conditions. Writing about the day he arrived at the hospital to see his son, he said: ”(I)…arrived so happy but when I looked at the others in the waiting room, they all were unhappy. As I entered the room I realized my son was very sick, and he stayed at the hospital for several days.” His son is now 5 years old. He does not speak, does not walk, and needs be fed. Also, his son cannot take a plane to go anywhere.

On March 24, A.J.A. completed one year in prison and he misses his son so much. His great fear is of living away from his son. The last time I talked with him, after a bible study, he told me he has talked with the mother of his son by phone, and things are evolving in a such a way that they are planning to re-start their family if he is released and allowed to stay in the USA.

A.J.A. qualifies for the Obama administrative order that allows immigrants to stay legally in the USA based on family bonds. At the end of his letter he wrote: “I long for a chance to be with my son again. Please, pray for me not to be sent back to Brazil. I want to be able to start my life again with my family.”

Visiting – In our previous newsletter I wrote about C.N., a Brazilian man who stayed 20 months in prison and now is back home here in the USA. Yesterday, March 27th, I visited him and his wife. My wife was with me and we had a very good time together. Of course our conversation was basically about the journey that C.N. took around 4 different prisons in the USA until he was released. His case still is not solved, but at least he can fight it, being at his home.

All the time we are talking, C.N. and his wife were recognizing how great is the God who has come to them. Raised as a Catholic in Brazil, C.N. never went to church since he was a teenager. It was in prison that he started to attend the bible studies and became aware of the new life God wanted to give to him, even though he is now 42 years of age. He said that his faith was the only way he found to face all the struggles he had while in prison. The fellowship he experienced with the other Christian inmates helped him to be strong when all things around him seemed to be lost. He still does not know what his future will be, but now he knows enough of God’s faithfulness. Now he can rely on God’s will because he knows God always has a plan to be fulfilled.

 

January/February, 2015

Neve 2015

 Resuming – In December and January I took 30 days of vacation. I resumed my activities on January 21st but, as the Bible studies were done only on 15 days in January, I waited to resume the newsletter until after a full month of my activities. It’s the winter season. This season has been the worst in the almost 15 years I have lived here in the USA. A lot of snow fell these last days, making my travels more difficult, and also making it more difficult to find a place to park my car. (See in the above picture the amount of snow around the prison in Boston). The farthest away prison I visit is in Boston. The about 50 miles I drive usually takes one and a half to two hours during the morning rush hour, but with the snow it took 3 hours. Sometimes the Bible studies were cancelled because of the bad driving conditions. But even the cold weather, under zero Fahrenheit, shall not stop me from bringing hope to those who are waiting to learn more and more from the Word of God.

Changes – Coming back to my activities after the vacation, I realized that there had been some changes. The most important was the decrease in the number of those who are in prison. Some say that this is already the consequence of the new policy our President announced last year. Others say it’s a consequence of the financial difficulty in keeping those immigrants in prison. One way or another, the reality is that fewer immigrants are in prison now. But for those who still are there, the Gospel has been a source of comfort and strength.

Donations received since December, 2014:

– First Presbyterian Church – Stamford, CT (3X)

– Richard Price

– John & Alice Hand

– Joan Priest

– Jefferson & Megan Ritchie

– Glenn & Nancy Ramsey

– Bethel Presbyterian Church – Marlborough, MA (2X)

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston, MA – (2X)

– First Presbyterian Church – Newport, RI

– Greenwood Community Church – Warwick, RI

– IPIB

– First Presbyterian Church – New Haven, CT

– John & Penny Webster

– Andy & Brenda Burgess

– Ralph Jones

– David MacCahan

– Henry Ruppenthal

– Providence Presbyterian Church – Providence, RI

ATTENTION! Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

January and February Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
01/21 Boston 20
01/22 Plymouth 18
01/23 Bristol 23
01/28 Boston storm
01/29 Plymouth 32
01/30 Bristol 18
02/04 Boston 19
02/05 Plymouth 27
02/06 Bristol 10
02/11 Boston 17
02/12 Plymouth 05*
02/13 Bristol 15
02/18 Boston 19
02/19 Plymouth 30
02/20 Bristol Locked down
02/25 Boston 21
02/26 Plymouth 20
02/27 Bristol 16

I was on vacation from December 20th,, 2014 to January 19th, 2015.

* This day I was able to do only one bible study because a prison staff meeting was going on at the chapel.

Back Home after 20 months – Many times I have been asked how long an immigrant can stay in prison before his/her case gets a final decision. It’s hard to answer because it depends on the case. Some have been there for less than 3 months. Others several months. There is one case I want to report. This person, a Brazilian man named José (ficticious), is married to a Portuguese American woman. He was deported while he was preparing to marry his wife back in 2010. Even while he was in Brazil he got married and started his process of legalization. His marriage was recognized, but his legalization was denied because he had a DUI felony. So he decided to come back to the USA illegally in order to stay with his wife. He was arrested again and this time he spent almost 20 months in prison. First he stayed at the Bristol prison and his wife, as their home is about 10 minutes away, used to visit him every evening. Then he was moved around the USA, first to Boston, MA, then to Dover, NH, then to Alabama. After this “tour” he was brought back to Massachusetts where he stayed until he was released on bond. His case still is not closed. But he continues bringing his case first before God, the source of all hopes. Probably next week I’ll meet him and will record his testimony.

From the New York Times – “A Life Without Papers” is a very interesting article I read today in the New York Times. I’m reproducing part of this article because I think it can help us to understand what is going on in the minds of the immigrants while they are awaiting changes in our legislation. This part of the article has an immigrant woman’s thoughts:

“I was born and raised in Río Bravo in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. I was 12 when my mother told me she couldn’t send me to school anymore. She needed me at home helping her with my siblings and keeping the house clean. When I was 17, one of my older sisters, who had already moved to Houston, invited me join her. She was 20 and asked me to take care of her baby so that she could work. Knowing there was little to lose, I crossed — without documents, but with my mother’s blessing.

I quickly realized that life as an undocumented person in the United States was not what I had imagined. Without documents, school did not make sense. The only job I could find was taking care of other people’s kids, earning me a few dollars in cash at the end of each day.

Eventually, I met my husband, also an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. He found work as a mechanic. We live with my in-laws and I currently stay home with our children. We have stitched together a beautiful family. But that’s 12 years of living cautiously, on the margins.

In November, it seemed we would be able to move, however slowly, out of those margins. We would have temporary relief. I gathered my documents together and kept them safe. We were prepared.

Then the judge put it all on hold. Everything we had been working toward — a break from life in the shadows — is now on pause, in limbo, maybe never to be a reality.

I allowed myself to feel a little disappointed and a little bit sad. But I am not going to let myself feel defeated.”

From:

A Life Without PapersBy EHIRACENIA VASQUEZMARCH 2, 2015 – New York Times

December, 2014

Christmas

 Here we are again, getting closer to a New Year and the celebration of Christmas. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus is God incarnate – Emmanuel – God among us. Christmas is the celebration of the presence of God in our midst. May the presence of God in your life, and in each of your family members’ lives, fill everyone each new day with the peace and hope that only He can provide.

I thank you as individuals and you as a congregation for the support I have received to proclaim Jesus among immigrants in prison. My wish and prayer for 2015 is to continue this partnership that has helped me share the Gospel of Jesus with so many people.

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

Second Mile Meeting – On December 13th, from 3:30 PM to 7:00 PM, PIM held a meeting with some former inmates as part of the Second Mile Project. Our intention was to hear from them ideas on how to give continued support to those who have been released from prison, and also how to have them as PIM supporters. Through the Rev. Gerson, PIM has contact with 23 former inmates who are living in the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. All of them were invited and 13 accepted the invitation, but 9 came to attend that meeting. Some of those who were there brought relatives and friends, so the total number of persons attending the meeting was 22, including the Rev. John Webster and Elder Penny Webster representing the PIM Steering Committee, the Rev. Gerson and his wife Sandra Annunciacao, and some members of the Bethel Presbyterian Church in Fall River. Two children came with their father who is a former inmate. The meeting took place at the facilities of the First Baptist Church in Fall River. After the meeting, the Bethel Presbyterian Church – a Portuguese Speaking Congregation – offered a special dinner for those who were there.

The program started with time for each one to identify him/herself, and each of the former inmates gave a brief testimony about what God did in their lives while they were in prison. After that moment, one of the former inmates, Mr. Victor Kozubenko, led a devotional during which he challenged all to be thankful to God for the things He has done in their lives. He mentioned that all the former inmates present were among the few people who have been allowed to stay in the USA, and this by itself is an important reason to give thanks to God. Following the devotional the Rev. Webster spoke about PIM as part of the 1001 New Worshiping Communities. (Picture below, Victor being translated to Spanish by Mr. Willi Alonso, both former inmates)

Victor and Willi

The final part of the meeting was reserved for a discussion in which those who were attending were asked about the importance of getting together from time to time, and how they could give support to PIM. All agreed that more meetings like that will take place, and many demonstrated interest in inviting the Rev. Gerson to speak to small groups in their respective cities, at their homes or at the churches some are attending. The consensus was that between  now and the next meeting, probably in March, the Rev. Gerson will spend some time holding these small meetings.

All was recorded in a video which we plan to edit, showing the best parts of the meeting.

This meeting was possible due to the support of the First Presbyterian Church in Fairfield, which donated funds to the Second Mile Project. PIM invited them to be present, but this was not possible as that Church had another program at the same time in Fairfield.

PIM is grateful to the Church of Fairfield, to the First Baptist Church in Fall River and to the Bethel Presbyterian Church for making this meeting possible.

Second Mile 2014

All the people attending the meeting.

ATTENTION! THE PRESBYTERY CHANGED ITS MAILING ADDRESS:

Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

December Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
03 Boston 33
04 Plymouth 48
05 Bristol 22
10 Boston 29
11 Plymouth 46
12 Bristol 17
17 Boston 27
18 Plymouth 36
19 Bristol 19

I’ll be on vacation from December 20th to January 19th, 2015

November, 2014

Justice

 Immigration Law – After years of expectation, the president of the United States came up with an administrative action that can produce relief for some immigrants in this country. I have been asked several times how this action will affect the immigrants I’ve visited in prison, and the answer is that the majority of those who are in prison facing deportation are not eligible. The day after the President announced his action, I went to the prison in Dartmouth. There I could feel the frustration in many hearts. That was a hard day! Even among those who have been attending the Bible study, few were thankful to God for the good news. The majority were trying, with broken hearts, to understand what will happen to them and how God could bless their lives, even when they are going back to their respective countries. In the end I could feel that all of them had been comforted by God’s Word. For me, life is like that: often we don’t know where we are going, but we can rest in God because He knows where He is taking us. Please, continue praying for those people, especially for those who will be deported, asking God to help them to restart their lives back in their respective countries.

Second Mile Project – On December 13th PIM will hold a meeting in Fall River with some former inmates.  The purpose of this meeting is to give them an opportunity to share their after-prison stories, and to hear from them how they can be supportive of our ministry. I talked by phone with 22 former inmates, and so far 13 have confirmed that they will attend this meeting. Probably some will bring relatives to attend it. This meeting is possible thanks to the support we received from the First Presbyterian Church in Fairfield, Connecticut, and from Bethel Presbyterian Church in Fall River. The meeting will end with a dinner that will be prepared by members of Bethel Presbyterian Church, a Portuguese speaking congregation. Members of the PIM Steering Committee also will be present. Our next Newsletter will have information and pictures from this meeting.

Donations received:

– Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana “Elim” de Boston

– IPI do Brasil

– Bethel Presbyterian Church, Marlborough, MA,

– Greenwood Community Church

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston, MA

– First Presbyterian Church of Stamford, CT

– First Presbyterian Church of Newport, RI

ATTENTION! THE PRESBYTERY CHANGED ITS MAILING ADDRESS:

Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

November Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
05 Boston 31
06 Plymouth 44
07 Bristol 24
12 Boston 33
13 Plymouth 14
19 Boston 31
20 Plymouth 32
21 Bristol 27

The week of Thanksgiving do not have Bible studies because I was traveling.

Advent Season – The Advent Season is a time of preparation to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Churches around the world take time to set up Christmas trees, choirs rehearse for great performances, kids and adults perform the Christmas pageant once more. At home the Christmas trees are already bright, and all are anticipating the special food when relatives and friends toast together. And we should not forget the gifts! All these things are part of the Christmas climate for many people. For those who are in prison, however, Christmas is a sad time. There is a Brazilian inmate who is facing not only immigration charges, but also criminal charges. He said to me: “This will be my third Christmas in prison.” Although he may have done something unlawful to be there, it is still very sad to spend this time away from the family.  And not only for him. His kids are also paying a hard price for their dad’s guilt (if he is convicted). And there are others in same situation among those I’m serving. Most of them, unlike this Brazilian man, are there only for immigration issues, but are also paying the high price of being away from their respective families on Christmas. Even so, we are having our Advent Season at the prison. For us it’s a time to focus to the real meaning of the season. They will not attend a choir presentation, they will not have a plentiful table  of food, they will not receive gifts, they are not going to see the happiness in their children’s eyes when opening their gifts. What I’m trying to teach them is that Christmas for them is a time to celebrate the birth of the One who came to the Earth to be the light of the world, bringing light to a people who were living in darkness, as they are also. It’s a time to celebrate the One who immigrated from Heaven to dwell among us, to give us citizenship in the Reign of God. Advent for those in prison is a time to prepare to celebrate hope in Jesus Christ.

For you who will celebrate Christmas with your church companions, your relatives and friends, and will celebrate around a festive table, I ask you: Would you please take a brief moment to pray for those who will spend Christmastime it the prisons, in the hospitals, or in places devastated by diseases and hunger? Maybe you can do something to help people this Christmas, because this is the season when we celebrate the God who made himself flesh and came to help us.

The people walking in darkness     have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness     a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)

October, 2014

Visita - Juan Pablo

Second Mile – As part of the Project Second Mile, I met two former inmates who live in Connecticut. This meeting was on October 11th, at the house where Juan Pablo Mapozito lives, in Waterford. He lives with his sister and her family. The other former inmate, Victor Kozubenko, came from Manchester, CT, where he lives. It was a time to hear how they are doing and also to talk with them about how they would support our ministry. Thanks to God they are doing well. Victor is attending a Russian Baptist Church and Juan Pablo is attending a Catholic Church with his sister. He commented that he still misses being part of a Bible Study, as he was while he was in prison. Of course, he doesn’t want to be back in prison, but he is looking for a church where he can continue his spiritual growth. I heard from them that they are willing to continue meeting from time to time with other former inmates. We still don’t know the exact date of our meeting with the others, but they already are prepared to share their ideas about how to help each other and how to help PIM.

One thing surprised me: Juan Pablo’s sister, her husband and their two children, 24 and 20 years old, were with us the whole time. They told me that how important was to them, when Juan Pablo was still in prison, to hear from him that he was attending a Bible study program. They could feel he was comforted even while facing struggles.

At the end, before I left, Juan Pablo asked me to read the Bible for a brief study with his family as I used to do when he was in prison. I did, and I prayed with them.

On October 22nd, on my way back from Boston, I stopped in Brockton, MA, to visit another former inmate. His name is Willi Alonso, from Honduras, and at the prison he was one of those who helped me leading the songs. He left the prison about six weeks ago. He is married and has two children. I met his wife and his daughter that day. He told me that he was invited by the Chaplain Daniel Croce (Plymouth County Correctional Facility) to be part of an annual banquet, when he will give his testimony. He is willing to give his testimony anywhere God allows him to go.

Donations received:

– Henry Ruppenthal

– IPI do Brasil

– Wayne Parrish

– Joan & Jovelino Ramos

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston

– First Presbyterian Church of Stamford

ATTENTION! THE PRESBYTERY CHANGED ITS MAILING ADDRESS:

Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

October Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
01 Boston 39
02 Plymouth 65
03 Bristol 23
08 Boston 18
09 Plymouth 66
10 Bristol 25
16 Plymouth 47
22 Boston 23
23 Plymouth 50
24 Bristol 16
29 Boston 29
30 Plymouth 49
31 Bristol 28

 pregando em Newport

Reporting – I was invited to give a brief report about the PIM ministry at the First Presbyterian Church in Newport, RI. On October 5th, at the beginning of the service, I shared briefly the development of the ministry among immigrants in prison. The invitation came from the Outreach Committee of that church. The First Presbyterian Church of Newport has been a PIM partner since the very beginning.

Quotations From Letters

I always tell the inmates that I can go to share the Gospel with them because there are churches and people who are supporting me. I encouraged them to send letters to our ministry sharing their testimonies, and they did. Here are, in a few words, the testimonies of two inmates:

  1. G. R. – “My hope in God is that, when you receive this letter, many can be blessed from the Heaven through the love of Jesus. I want to thank you because, being in prison and needing to feel truly loved, I decided to ask for a Bible. When I received it I noted that that bible was donated by your ministry, and it blessed me a lot. Now I live in Christ and He lives in me to express His truth. I want to say I love you for helping me to open my eyes to someone who is greater than us.”
  2. A. C. – “God bless your ministry and also blessed be those who operate it. Let me tell you that it is a blessing for us, the prisoners, that through you, we received the Holy Bible of God.”
  3. M. R. – “…my name is M. M. R., and I’m one of those who you used to visit here in Bristol County Sheriff’s Office. I’m thankful to God and to you for coming to explain the God’s Word that is the Holy Bible. Also I ask you to keep me and my family in your prayers because I need it.”
  4. C. – “I’m detained at Suffolk County Sheriff’s House of Correction. [PIM] has helped me to understand the Word of God and to do the right things in life, not getting in trouble, and also I have learned that, no matter in what situation, I am always leaving it in God’s hands.”

September, 2014

reuniao - Misael

 IPIB VISITED PIM – IPIB, the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil, has had a partnership with PIM for almost two years. On September 27th the Rev. Misael Barboza, the IPIB Missionary Fields Supervisor, came to visit me, and on the 30th he met with some members of PIM’s Steering Committee. This meeting was held at the facilities of the Woodbury Union Church, in Warwick, RI, whose pastor is the Rev. Beth Appel. PIM reiterated its gratitude for the support received from IPIB, and the Rev. Barboza said that the support of PIM is part of the effort of the Board of Evangelism of IPIB to extend its missionary vision outside of the Brazilian borders. About a half hour late, the Rev. Almir Dias Dantas, the Field Staff for the Portuguese Speaking Ministry of the PCUSA Hispanic/Latino Office, also joined the group, speaking about the challenges of creating new Portuguese Speaking groups in our denomination. The next day both the visitors attended the bible studies with me at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Prison in Boston. There they heard a little about the inmates’ stories, and they shared with them words of faith and hope in Jesus Christ. In the picture above, from left to right: Rev. Jovelino Ramos, Elder Penny Webster, Ms. Joan Ramos, Rev. Beth Appel, Rev. John Webster, and Rev. Misael Barboza. Read below what the Revs. Barboza and Dantas wrote about their visit to the prison:

“I had the privilege of visiting the Rev. Gerson Annunciacao and his wife Sandra Regina Rosa Annunciacao, missionaries of the IPIB in Massachusetts, USA, where I was very well received. Among several places that I visited, I was in Suffolk County Sheriff’s Prison in Boston on Wednesday, October 1st, along with the Rev. Almir Dantas and the Rev. Gerson. This is where the Rev. Gerson works as a volunteer chaplain, serving the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry (PIM), giving spiritual assistance to Portuguese and Spanish speaking inmates. It was very moving for me to meet people with problems of documentation as well as those who had committed transgressions, and who were there, away from their families without much information about how long they will be in that place; some awaiting deportation or other sentences. Some of them, when they knew that I had come from Brazil to make that visit, were moved, perhaps remembering their families in Brazil. In addition to the Brazilians, I also met people from other countries, like Nicaragua, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries. During the singing I realized that most of them were in tears while they sang, and during the Bible study they were paying attention to the explanation of the Word, surely getting at that moment a word of consolation and hope. Of all of them, the one who touched me most was Isaac, from Minas Gerais, who during the whole time of the Bible study remained very moved, with eyes full of tears and a very sad countenance. When we had finished the study he called me and asked me to pray with him, telling me he had turned away from God’s ways, and  that in the prison  God was talking a lot with him, but he was very sad because his wife was about to have a baby and he could not be by her side. I conclude this statement by saying that I was greatly impacted by the situation of those boys, and understood how necessary and important it is to have someone speak to the heart of those people in that situation, bringing a word of consolation, comfort, hope and salvation.” (Rev. Misael Barboza)

“On October 01, I had the rich experience of participating in three Bible studies conducted within the Suffolk Correctional Facility in Boston, MA, along with the volunteer chaplain in this institution, Rev. Gerson, and the Rev. Misael Barboza, IPIB Minister. It was a blessing to be there and see firsthand the great ministry that is being developed by the Rev. Gerson, who has preached the word of God to those detainees, promoting an environment of harmony and peace among them, and especially comforting the hearts of many there who are hopeless and joyless, bringing the expectation of an act of Justice and of God.

The three Bible studies were conducted, in English, Portuguese and Spanish simultaneously, with three different groups of inmates in different wings. There are prisoners from various Latin countries and even from Europe. They are men who are highly emotional, spiritual, and morally weakened. The pain and suffering of each from being away from family and friends is noticeable. Some reported in tears how they arrived at the prison. Before each study, we performed a moment of praise, where we saw how much they love to sing praises to God with fervor. My talk was virtually the same, based on Ecclesiastes 3, emphasizing the sovereignty of God, and how each one needs to put every confidence in God and in His eternal mercy and love. Also, we talked about how CHRIST JESUS suffered the greatest pain to redeem us from all sin. Those inmates are in need of spiritual help, and this ministry should never stop. The Church must join forces so that the word of God continues being preached there, because many will have the opportunity to have a real encounter with CHRIST.”  (Rev. Almir Dantas)

Donations received:

– Bethel Presbyterian Church – Marlboro, MA

– Providence Presbyterian Church – Providence, RI

– First Presbyterian Church – Stamford, CT

– IPIB

– Thomas Taylor

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston,

– Greenwood Community Church

ATTENTION! THE PRESBYTERY CHANGED ITS MAILING ADDRESS:

Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

September Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
03 Boston 33
04 Plymouth 67
05 Bristol 33
10 Boston 31
11 Plymouth 64
12 Bristol 39
17 Boston 35
18 Plymouth 49
19 Bristol 36
24 Boston 36
25 Plymouth 45
26 Bristol 25

 

Quotations From Letters

I always tell the inmates that I can go to share the Gospel with them because there are churches and people who are supporting me. I encouraged them to send letters to our ministry sharing their testimonies and they did. Here are, in a few words, the testimonies of two inmates:

  1. M. – “I’m on ICE custody at Suffolk County House of Correction for 2 months. Here, thanks to the Weekly bible studies with the Pastor Gerson I found peace and more knowledge about the plans God has to my life and to the others who are seeking for Him. I’ve learned from the God’s Word how to trust in Him and how to keep hope. No matter neither where I am nor where I’ll go, under Jesus’ salvation, we will always be protected, as He has promised on the Scriptures. I’m thankful to Pastor Gerson for bringing the spiritual food that fill up my heart with peace and happiness.
  2. H. C. – “I thank you for sending the pastor to preach the bible. Truly this makes us feel very well and I want to ask you to continue sending him to us. Each time that I hear God’s word I feel well and I want to be closer to God. I want to change my life, changing my heart and my way of thinking being able to do good things. With God’s help I’ll accomplish it”.

August, 2014

Familia

 Time with Family – August was an extraordinary and joyful month for my family. My daughter Heloisa got married on August 31st and I had never imagined how amazing it would be to escort her on her big day. She was so beautiful, and so was my beloved wife. My handsome son Guilherme also was there and we had an amazing time as a family. Family is the best part of our lives, don’t you agree? This is the cause of the major suffering among immigrants in prison. Being away from those they most love is the cruelest penalty for them. The worst thing is that their children also have been penalized and are paying this price only because their fathers wanted a better life for them. It’s very common to see the inmates upset because they are missing special times with their families, like birthdays and other special dates. For example, there is a Brazilian man who never met his youngest child, who was born when his father already was in prison. Last time I was there he showed me some pictures that his wife sent to him. Those pictures were taken on his daughter’s birthday and, with tears in his eyes, he pointed to his almost one- year-old boy and told me: “I didn’t meet him, yet.” I have met others with the same feelings. They are sad not only because of missing special dates, but also because they are missing the ordinary times that we often don’t value until we are unable to have them. In my Bible I have many small pieces of paper with the names of the family members of some inmates. They gave them to me, asking me to keep them in my prayers. One of them gave me a picture of his family (himself, his wife and their two children) and wrote on the back of that picture their names and the following request: “Please pray for my family. I thank you.”

So, I ask all of you who PIM’s supporters are: WILL YOU HELP ME TO PRAY FOR THEM?

Bible Study Groups:

  1. Boston

-The authorities of the prison in Boston authorized me to bring a guitar to be used at our Bible studies. I do not play any instrument, but there is an inmate who will play. My son Guilherme allowed me to bring to the prison a guitar that he left at home and he said he is glad that it will be used for this purpose.

-There are 3 Bible study groups there.

-The average attendance was 28/day.

  1. Plymouth

-This last month the unit DN3 was reopened.  I am leading 4 Bible studies on Thursdays. Three groups include those who are facing immigration charges, and one group includes those who are facing criminal charges and waiting for trial. This is the larger group of inmates. Those who are facing criminal charges come from three different units and, unlike those in immigration custody, are allowed to come to the chapel.

-I used to lead a group of some who are already sentenced. But as only a few individuals were attending and since unit DN3 was reopened, I decided to cancel the sentenced group for a while because there is not enough time to do more than 4 Bible study groups a day.

-The average attendance was 57/day.

  1. Bristol

-The inmates at the Bristol prison continue taking advantage of the books I brought to the prison’s library.

-I’m leading 3 Bible studies every Friday, two with those who are facing immigration charges and one with immigrants with criminal charges.

-The average attendance was 33/day.

Donations received:

– Henry Ruppenthal

– First Presbyterian Church – Stamford, CT

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston

– First Presbyterian Church – Newport, RI

– One person who asked to not be identified

Also we received a donation of 13 Spanish Bibles from I.M., a Guatemalan former inmate.

ATTENTION! THE PRESBYTERY CHANGED ITS MAILING ADDRESS:

Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

August Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
01 Bristol 27
06 Boston 30
07 Plymouth 42
08 Bristol 36
13 Boston 15
14 Plymouth 19
15 Bristol 36
20 Boston 22
21 Plymouth 72
22 Bristol 32

From August 25th to the end of the month there were no Bible studies due the fact that I was traveling for my daughter’s wedding.

Desperate Letter – Some weeks ago I received an email sent by a person who is part of the staff of the PCUSA national office in Louisville, KY. She sent to me a letter that her office received from a prisoner. His name is G.W. and he is in a prison in West Virginia. He wrote saying that he is on an isolation unit and has a lot of bad thoughts. Fearing he was desperate, the very next day I answered his letter, and he already wrote me another one. He is 46 years old and was sentenced to life in prison, and he already has served 24 years. “I gave my life to God” he wrote, “but I walked away from God and I have things in my past that I don’t know how to tell anyone about”. “I’m very tired of this life and I lay in my bed at night praying God will let me pass away in my sleep at night”.

Please, I ask you to pray for him and for me too, as I’m going to try to continue to exchange letters with him.

Second Mile – This is a new step in PIM’s ministry among immigrants in prison. Thanks to a donation from the First Presbyterian Church of Fairfield, CT, we will be able to give continued support to some former inmates who have been allowed to stay in this country. Here is what we are planning to do soon:

  1. A) To visit some former inmates and their families in the two first weeks of October. They are living in four different regions and I’m planning to visit them on four days: Connecticut; Worcester; Boston; Fall River/Providence
  2. To hold another meeting with former inmates on the last Saturday of October, the 25th. This time the focus will be:
  3. To allow them to talk about their struggles outside of the prison in order to provide an environment for mutual help.
  4. Discuss ways they can be PIM supporters.

Please, pray that we are able to support them.

VISIT OUR BLOG: www.presbim.com

Watch our videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cT5GAaLeCwA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nu8_NU-DmiA

July, 2014

 Tres dedos

Third Anniversary – On August 2011 I started serving full time doing bible studies among immigrants in prison. During the previous May, our Presbytery had already started to recognize PIM as a validated ministry, to give us credibility to find supporters. At the beginning, I was doing Bible studies in two prisons, but I soon started doing other bible studies at a prison in Boston. Unfortunately I did not keep precise data, but I am sure that we held over 100 studies in the year, most of them in Portuguese and Spanish, but one in Ukrainian and another in French. Immigrants from several countries from around the world heard the Gospel and most of them went back to their respective countries grateful to God because, during their time in jail, they could feel somebody cared for them, and helped them face one of the worse struggles they’ve ever encountered. Those who already knew Jesus received help to strengthen their faith. Others began new life as Christians while in prison. And all received comfort and counseling.

I’m grateful to God for calling me to this ministry and for equipping me to accomplish things I had never dreamed of. But I’m also grateful to God for providing me with partners who help support me, join the PIM Steering Committee and the Advisory Committee, and those who have journeyed with me during these three years. I’m grateful to God for those He has called to give spiritual and financial support – congregations, organizations, and individuals. I want to thank all of you for standing side by side with me. Let us begin one more year searching for God’s will as we continue his ministry.

Received Messages – Our Monthly Newsletters have been sent to hundreds of people in the USA, Brazil, and few other countries around the world. I sometimes receive messages from those who are reading our Newsletters. Here are three messages I received in the last month:

“Dear Reverend: My name is Edelberto Valdes and I am a pastor in the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba. I am so glad I receive your newsletters about your work in prisons. For many years we couldn’t enter in our prisons to give pastoral care, but now we can do that and we are having wonderful experiences. Please don´t give up, continue your work. Many people need it. Blessings”

Dear Rev. Anunciacao,

I don’t know if you remember me.  I met with you about a year ago to talk about a prayer vigil our group held outside Plymouth prison.  We are from the Alliance for Immigration Justice of First Parish Brewster. We have held four prayer vigils and plan another September 14.

I always read your newsletter with great interest.  We have visited the prison once and have been organizing a phone ministry but it has taken many months.  We hope to have the free phone line running by the end of the summer.

I am so happy to hear about your Second Mile program.  If you have any prisoners or their families who live on Cape Cod we might be able to help them in some small way. Please feel free to approach us. Blessings. – Sue Bowser”

My name is Laura, I am a member of the Independent Presbyterian Church of Parque Edu Chaves and this year we are starting a missions outreach and we would like to learn more about your work as a missionary.

To do this, I wonder if there is any possibility to send us a video*, telling a little bit about yourself and your ministry in the place where God sent you to spread his message.

If necessary, we can forward a blank DVD.

We are thankful and we also put at your disposal any assistance or help we can give. Every year we contribute with an amount for helping in the missionary work, but we would like to learn more.

I appreciate the attention given to this email, and I am looking forward to your reply.”

  • (A video is almost complete to be sent to Brazil)

Donations received:

– Henry Ruppenthal

– Charles Forman

– Richard & Mary Swayze

– IPIB

– First Presbyterian Church – Stamford, CT

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston

– Bethel Presbyterian Church – Marlborough, MA

ATTENTION! THE PRESBYTERY CHANGED ITS MAILING ADDRESS:

Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

July Attendance

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
02 Boston 34
03 Plymouth 29
04 4th July – no studies
09 Boston 37
10 Plymouth 27
11 Bristol 33
16 Boston 39
17 Plymouth 38
18 Bristol 34
23 Boston 24
24 Plymouth 41
25 Bristol 30
30 Boston
31 Plymouth 30

* On 3rd and 10th the C3 Unit in Plymouth was still quarentined because of a case of the chicken pox. However, I was allowed to lead the other studies as I usually do.

PIM in Numbers – From time to time I prepare a list of those who are attending the Bible Studies. Briefly looking over three lists from October 2011 to September 2012, at least 270 persons attended the Bible Studies. Most of them came from Brazil (111), Guatemala (37), Dominican Republic (18), Mexico (18), Honduras (14), and Jamaica (12). In addition to the countries mentioned above, other immigrants came from the following countries: Portugal, Azores, Nigeria, Peru, Nicaragua, Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, Bermuda, Ecuador, El Salvador, Cabo Verde, Sri Lanka, Burundi, Laos, Cayman Island, Panama, Lithuania, Belize, Poland, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Ireland, Kenya, China, Argentina and Greece.

VISIT OUR BLOG: www.presbim.com

Watch our videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cT5GAaLeCwA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nu8_NU-DmiA

June, 2014

Soccer Ball

 Bible Study 4 X 0 World Cup – A big event is happening in my Country: The World Cup of Soccer. As any other Brazilian, I like to watch a match, even when the Brazilian team is not playing. The games of the World Cup are very attractive because only the best national teams that qualified to earn a spot in the tournament compete against each other. Like Brazilians, many other Latinos also like soccer. Some weeks ago I went to Bristol for a Bible study. It was Friday afternoon and the most important game of that day was Italy vs Costa Rica. Costa Ricans had been the sensation of the cup so far because no one expected they could go so far, outplaying teams with a much richer soccer tradition. When I arrived at the unit where I was going to do the bible study, almost all inmates were watching the game. I presumed nobody would be interested in studying the bible that afternoon. Regardless, I went to the classroom to wait for someone to come. Even I was eager to watch that game. But then, they started to come and we had 14 inmates attending the bible study. That afternoon 4 became Christians.

New “Officials” – Many times I have to answer the question “where is your church?” Some inmates ask me because they think I’m a pastor of a specific congregation outside of the prison. My answer is always the same: “My church  is here and you are part of it”.

On one hand there are many differences between a traditional congregation and the group with whom I’m ministering, but there are also many similarities. When we meet, we have a sort of liturgy with songs and prayers. The inmates foster fellowship among themselves. They even developed a missional culture, sharing the Gospel with inmates who are not Christians, and inviting them to attend the bible study. These are examples of the similarities. The rising of news leaders is another similarity that happens from time to time. Last Friday I was at the 2 East Unit in Bristol and, after the meeting, four inmates asked to talk with me. They said: “Our brothers Geremias and Francisco are not here anymore. They were our leaders and now we must continue their ministry here. So, we decided to share their leadership among us, and we want you to pray for us. So, I prayed a consecration over them, challenging them to be faithful to God and to respect one another. They also asked me to share their names asking our supporters to pray for them. Here are their first names: Julio, Alvin, Geronimo, and Carlos.

Donations received:

– Brendon & Jean Bass

– First Presbyterian Church – Stamford, CT

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston

– Providence Presbyterian Church – Providence, RI

– Bethel Presbyterian Church – Marlborough, MA

– First Presbyterian Church – Fairfield, CT

ATTENTION! THE PRESBYTERY CHANGED ITS MAILING ADDRESS:

Send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

June Attendance – During June, I attended the PCUSA General Assembly in Detroit, so I did not go to Boston and Plymouth on the 18th and 19th respectively.

 

Day Prison (all units) Attendance
04 Boston 41
05 Plymouth 37
06 Bristol 45
11 Boston 45
12 Plymouth 39
13 Bristol 14
18 General Assembly
19 General Assembly
20 Bristol 29
25 Boston 28
26 Plymouth 14  *
27 Bristol 42

* On 26th the first bible study is at the C3 Unit. Though I was allowed to enter, the area was quarentined because of a case of the chicken pox. However, I was not allowed to lead the other studies as I usually do.

Project Second Mile (Update) – As I wrote at our previous newsletter, PIM is planning on launching a new project, called Second Mile. PIM is planning to repeat the gathering we had in March, to bring former inmates back together to have a time of fellowship. PIM is also planning to visit former inmates who are allowed to stay in the USA, helping them to re-start their lives after their time in prison. I mentioned that a Church was analyzing a grant proposal PIM wrote. The good news is that, The First Presbyterian Church of Fairfield-CT, approved PIM’s proposal, and gave us a grant to start this project.

Reconciliation with God – A few days ago something very special happened in one of the biblical studies in Boston. Every Wednesday I lead three Bible study groups in three different units of that prison. As most prisoners are immigrants of Spanish-speaking countries, the studies are conducted in Spanish even though Brazilians participate. After the first study that morning a Brazilian stayed few minutes longer to speak with me. This is a man in his fifties who had been baptized as a teenage, but for many years has been away from the Church. Actually, from what he told me, he had created a great barrier against everything that had to do with God and the Church. But, after participating in a few Bible studies in prison, he finally made the decision to be reconciled with God. I learned that, like me, he is also from State of Paraná – I am from the City of Curitiba, and he is from the city of Francisco Beltrão. I told him I had an uncle, my father’s brother, who was an Assembly of God Minister in Francisco Beltrão. The inmate told me that in his adolescence he was baptized in an Assembly of God Church, and to our surprise and excitement, we discovered that the pastor that baptized him nearly 40 years earlier was none other than my uncle Ariel Annunciacao. His new purpose is to go back to Brazil, and visit the same Assembly of God Church where he was baptized in Francisco Beltrão, to give a testimony of his renewed relationship with God in front of the congregation where his mother is still a member. Truly God is very good!

VISIT OUR BLOG: www.presbim.com

Watch our videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cT5GAaLeCwA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nu8_NU-DmiA

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