Inmate With a Radio
To Sabbath School teachers: This story is for Sabbath, May 27.
omeone gave a small radio to Paulo in prison in Portugal. The radio was the only thing that Paulo, a well-educated scientist, had to distract himself. He started looking for radio stations. However, the only station that the radio would pick up was Seventh-day Adventist. Paulo had to stand in a certain spot by the window to pick up the station. He began listening to Adventist programs.
One day, someone on the radio offered a free copy of Ellen White’s The Great Controversy. Paulo asked for the book and received it by mail.
After a while, Paulo was transferred to another prison, but he wasn’t happy because it wasn’t where he had hoped he would be sent. The new prison, however, ended up being closer to the Adventist radio station, and he could pick up the radio programs better.
Paulo sent a long letter to the director of the radio station. He wrote about why he was in prison. He told about how he had started listening to the radio station.
“My life is being transformed by what I’m hearing every day,” he wrote.
The radio station director was amazed that Paulo had been able to listen to radio broadcasts from his first prison. The director lived near that prison and had never been able to pick up the radio signal.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, the radio station added Sabbath worship services to its programming, and Paulo began listening to the sermons. In one sermon, the preacher invited people to sign up for Bible studies, and Paulo did. He began studying the Bible through the mail with Ana, a church volunteer.
As a scientist, he was a curious student, and he asked many questions. When he finished the Bible studies, he asked to be baptized. COVID restrictions and bureaucracy blocked his request.
Then he began studying the book of Revelation with Ana. After finishing Revelation, they began a study comparing Ellen White’s writings with the Bible.
The studies are ongoing. Ana is trying to make Paulo as independent as possible in his Bible study. “I want him to have the tools to go to the Bible and study for himself,” Ana says.
Paulo has asked Ana to give Bible studies to several other inmates. Ana is happy to teach the inmates, but she wants to get Paulo involved in teaching. So, she is encouraging him to give Bible studies to the inmates. “I want to make him a tool in a place where we cannot reach people in person,” she says.
It is very difficult for Adventists to reach people in Portuguese prisons.
Paulo is worried that he doesn’t know enough about the Bible to teach about Jesus. He also worries that he lacks moral authority to teach others because, after all, he is in prison.
But Ana has continued to encourage him, and he is growing more comfortable. He has begun Bible studies with one inmate, and talks regularly about Jesus with two or three others. He also has spoken about Jesus with his psychologist. In Portugal, inmates are either required to undergo counseling or have the option to seek counseling. Paulo’s psychologist is an atheist. Paulo has told the psychologist about Jesus, and the psychologist questioned his beliefs. “How can you as a scientist believe something that science cannot prove?” the psychologist said. “Everything you believe is a fairy tale.”
The counseling sessions have turned into conversations about faith. Paulo feels like the Holy Spirit is guiding him. He says things that he has studied but he didn’t plan to say just come to his mind. At one session, he challenged the psychologist to read The Great Controversy, and the psychologist agreed. Paulo offered his copy, and the psychologist is reading it.
Paulo has written to Ana that prison life is not easy. He wants to change his diet and be baptized, but prison restrictions have complicated things. But he is grateful to be in prison. “I believe that it gave me the encounter that I needed with Jesus,” he writes. “Looking back, I can see that everything that has happened was guided by God to transform my life.”
Ana says Paulo is in prison because he made bad decisions. He is not innocent.
“Yet I believe that he is being called to be God’s instrument in a place that we don’t have access to,” she says. “I really believe that he is a missionary there, even though he has not discovered that yet.”
Education, including Bible studies to prisoners, is a major way that the Seventh-day Adventist Church shares the good news about Jesus’ soon coming in Portugal. Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help expand Adventist education by opening an elementary school in Setubal, Portugal. Thank you for planning a generous offering.