Five sworn gang enemies have risked their lives to get baptized together at a Texas prison.
Members of the rival factions housed at Coffield Prison made public declarations of faith just six months after Dallas megachurch Gateway opened up a campus within the walls of the penitentiary.
“Yesterday at our Coffield campus, we were able to do something that no church has ever been able to do in the history of this prison,” said Niles Holsinger, Gateway Coffield Prison campus pastor, in a Facebook video. “And that is water baptize men from what's called administrative segregation, a section of the prison that has the most violent felons, violent inmates of the whole prison.”
Over 4,000 extremely dangerous inmates are housed at Coffield, with a proportion of them spending 23 hours a day confined to their cells. “These guys cannot be around other people, Holsinger explained. “They cannot be around friends, they cannot be around family.”
But on Sunday, it was a very different atmosphere to usual. Instead of violence and hate, there was joy and freedom at Coffield, as a group of these hardened criminals came to be baptized.
“Five men were escorted into the gymnasium, each one shackled hand and foot and around the waist, and escorted by a guard that would not remove their hands from their arm until they were placed, picked up and put shackled in the water baptism tank,” Holsinger explained.
“These men are all active gang members. And not only were they making a decision to be baptized and to commit their lives to Christ, they knew that this decision meant, to some of them, certain death. They walked out past men who, when they were walking back, soaking wet, dripping with water because the decision, were going to mark them for death.”
On the way to the pool, Holsinger said that “guards had to separate them on both sides so they couldn't get close to each other just in case violence would break out.”
After coming up out the water, however, the environment shifted from hostile to spirit-filled.
Despite being from warring gangs, Holsinger said that the group of men “professed the same Lord and were baptized in the same water and they walked out together in a line, guards not holding onto their arms anymore because God had done something in their life.”
This desire for spiritual renewal was clear to see among those inmates who had chosen to follow Jesus.
“I have tried it my way my whole life and it’s gotten me here," one of the prisoners explained to the campus pastor, according to Fox News. "I want to try it God’s way…we’re going to come out of the water as new men."
Holsinger said what he witnessed beside the baptismal pool was nothing short of “mind-blowing.”
“That's what we get to be a part of every day here at Gateway,” he added. Gateway Church opened its Coffield Prison campus in February, ushering in some 650 inmates to its first service.
The remaining 14 inmates still confined to solitary are hoping to be baptized in July, according to the Church. In addition, Gateway plans to launch a further six prison campuses in the state of Texas, all by the start of 2020.
Photo courtesy: Emiliano Bar/Unsplash