Francisco Javier Salgado Coronel and his wife, Denis, (pronounced Denise) were taken to the Oklahoma County Detention Center in Oklahoma City on Oct. 21.
Thankfully, their visit was a short one, however.
Coronel, administrative sub-secretary for public security for the State of Guerrero, Mexico, joined officials from the Guerrero Regional Baptist Convention and the Seminario Teologico Bautista del Sur (STBS, Baptist Theological Seminary of the South) on a two-day visit to the Sooner State to observe the successful Oklahoma Jail and Prison Ministry. Their trip also included a stop at the prison facility in Lexington and a visit to Langston University to see a goat breeding program that might be productive in the southern Mexican state.
The whirlwind tour concluded that evening with a banquet at the Baptist Building hosted by Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma Executive Director-Treasurer Anthony L. Jordan.
Others in attendance included BGCO team leaders and staff; Tom Pace of Oklahoma City, founder and CEO of PaceButler Corporation; OJPM officials, including board president Joe Williams, senior chaplain Don Duncan, chaplain liaison Bill Farley and representatives from area churches involved in ministry in Guerrero.
“These have been some wonderful days and we believe the governor of Guerrero sent to us his best,” Jordan said in his comments that evening. “Francisco and Denis have been wonderful guests, and we have given them many opportunities to see many things.
“Let me give a brief background to this event. As many of you know, Oklahoma Baptists and OJPM work together, and because of the influence of Joe Williams, some 14-15 years ago Oklahoma Baptists chose to invest in the OJPM ministry at the Oklahoma County Jail. It’s been a wonderful privilege, and the work that God has done through this ministry has been phenomenal.
“It has now extended out of the Oklahoma County Jail into several other counties as well, and so we are very proud to be part of that ministry.
“About two years ago, some of us were in Acapulco and one of our friends from Arizona who also does ministry in Guerrero was headed to the prison there. So we talked about what he was doing. Since that time, we have also had a group from Edmond, Henderson Hills do ministry in the prison there in Acapulco.
“As a result of that, God burdened in the hearts of many what we might do in the state of Guerrero. And, we have worked with the Guerrero Baptist Convention and have had the opportunity to see many doors opened.
“When I was preaching at their convention in Acapulco last February, I had the privilege of meeting with some of the leaders of the prison in Acapulco. We were able to talk with them about the difference a ministry like this can make in the prisons.
“. . . we simply believe that we can change all of the outward experiences that a person has, but if there is not a heart change, it is very difficult to see progress toward the greatest opportunity for a prisoner to have his life transformed to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We believe that is a very powerful event, yet a very simple one.
“We believe that though we can train prisoners to do good things, we can give them a job and all of those things are helpful, but we believe when you change a prisoner’s heart, that it positions him to go out a live a life that is good. We also believe that if he comes to know Christ, and there is a prison ministry that can connect him to a local church in prison he has a family—people who will accept him and care for him. That’s why we’re involved in prison ministry and we’re so pleased that the governor of Guerrero has sent Francisco and Denis to us.
“I think he has seen the great value of ministry done inside the jail, and we commit to you and your governor that we will help in anyway we can because we would love to see the prisons of Guerrero changed and to see the prisoners changed.
“At the same time, one of the things we had the opportunity to discuss in February was ministry to those who serve in the prisons and on the street on the police force. We talked about chaplaincy and how can we help to serve those who put their lives on the line every day to protect the citizens of Guerrero.
“We believe as well that we can help with that, and we will do our best to do so.”
Farley, who is the liaison between the OJPM and the Guerrero prison ministry, hosted the group on its trip. He said he believed Coronel was impressed with what he saw in Oklahoma.
“In Mexico, they usually only see interaction with inmates on a mass scale,” Farley said. “Someone will come in and preach to a large crowd and leave. Our program emphasizes one-on-one interaction, and allows an inmate the opportunity to open up and share their past with an individual who is looking them in the eye.
“I believe Francisco had an eye-opening experience here and witnessed really how effective our program is. He saw how our follow-up and discipleship programs work and how they lay a foundation for life for the inmates.”
Farley said the point man for the prison program in Guerrero is a prime example.
Jorge Jimenez was incarcerated at the Oklahoma County Detention Center when he was saved through the OJPM ministry. A native of Mexico, he had grown up in the San Antonio area after his family moved to Texas when he was 5 years old.
Now saved, he fervently shares the Gospel, using the OJPM model. He was deported back to Mexico last March. Seminary officials met with him and, convinced of his salvation, have allowed him to enroll as a student. He now ministers to inmates at the prison in Ixtapa north of San Jeronimito, where the seminary is located, and in other prisons as well.
Farley will travel to Guerrero Nov. 12-17 on his fifth trip to the state in just more than a year to meet with prison officials, Coronel and, more importantly, Christian prisoners.
“We will be discussing our discipleship programs and continuing to build relationships” he said.
Farley said the Acapulco prison houses 2,500 prisoners, half of Guerrero’s total inmate population of 5,000.
Pace, author of Mentor: The Kid & the CEO, has pledged to provide copies of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life in Spanish to the inmates in Mexico.