Forgiven in Prison, Part 1
By Andrew McChesney
The volunteers chose slips of paper with the names of inmates who had signed up for Bible studies at a prison in Spain. But nobody took one slip of paper. “Doesn’t anyone want to meet with this man?” asked Dante Marvin Herrmann, a 36-year-old theology student at Sagunto Adventist College.
“He’s too difficult to work with,” said one volunteer.
“He always mocks God,” said another.
Dante prayed and sensed a still, small voice say, “Go visit Matías.”
A prison guard brought Matías, a young, clean-shaven man, to Dante in an empty dining hall of the prison’s maximum-security block. Unlike the serial killers and other hardened convicts locked up in the block, Matías didn’t have any visible tattoos or an angry scowl on his face.
“You don’t look like the other prisoners,” Dante said.
Matías laughed. “You don’t know who I am,” he said.
“I don’t really care who you are or what you did,” Dante said. “We all have made mistakes in our lives, and we can’t change the past.”
Matías took a close look at Dante. He saw blue tattoos covering his arms and stretched-out holes in his earlobes left by body piercing.
“Are you from the Seventh-day Adventist Church?” Matías asked. “You don’t look like the other Adventists.”
“God can change every one of us,” Dante replied. He told how he had sold his soul to the devil at 17, joined a street gang, and worked as a drug dealer before finding the love of God in the Bible and becoming an Adventist. When he finished, the hour allotted for Bible study was up.
“Can you visit me again, please?” the inmate said. “I want to learn about this unknown God whom you spoke about. I’ve never heard about a loving God. I’ve only heard about an angry, condemning God.”
Dante promised to return the next Sabbath.
Back at the college, Dante mentioned Matías to a teacher. “Do you know who he is?” the teacher asked. When Dante shook his head, the teacher suggested that he do an online news search. The online search prompted Dante to pray. “God, this is very serious,” he said. “Why did you send me to him?” He sensed a still, small voice reply, “Dante, I have grace for you. I have forgiven you. I can forgive him, too.”
Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission. Find more mission stories at adventistmission[dot]org