Dear Mission Partners,

Joel Van Dyke was one of hundreds of college students who worked with my son Bart twenty years ago, back when Bart was directing neighborhood outreach programs here in Philadelphia.  Joel volunteered two summers with Bart, serving with Bethel Temple, a predominately Hispanic church in a very rough part of North Philadelphia.  After college, Joel returned to Bethel Temple as its youth minister. Eventually he became the church’s pastor.

After many years of front-line ministry in North Philadelphia, Joel felt called to go to Guatemala as a missionary, training youth workers in that city and all over Central America. In the course of that work, he became involved with an outreach effort in one of the most dangerous cellblocks of a gigantic federal prison in Guatemala City. What he and the gang chaplains his ministry supports are doing there is nothing short of amazing.

I recently visited that cellblock, and saw firsthand how Joel and his colleagues have earned the trust and respect of the 150 hardened criminals incarcerated there.  I wish I could report that all those men had officially become Christians but, according to Joel, for a gang member to make such a public conversion in prison could be very dangerous.  In fact, the few conversions Joel knows about came after guys were released and sought out one of the chaplains serving on the street. Many of these have now started working in the chaplains' micro-enterprise projects, but even so they are forever in danger.  What I found instead in that prison were gang members whose hearts had been softened enough that I was able to take my teenaged granddaughter right into the cell block without fear. Every tough-looking, tattoo-covered prisoner Joel introduced to us was very polite and extra kind. On the walls there, those men had painted beautiful murals’ depicting scenes from the life of Christ.  Many were making souvenirs to be sold outside, as a way of helping those prisoners with no families to support them.  

Never in my life have I witnessed such a brilliant demonstration of the life-changing power of the Gospel, or such a clear example of Kingdom fertility!  Honestly, to see seeds of ministry planted more than twenty years ago in a Philadelphia church basement now bearing such wonderful fruit in a faraway Guatemalan prison filled my heart with an indescribable joy!

I know EAPE directly impacts the lives of thousands of God's neediest children, but I feel certain that our greatest impact comes later on, through the lives and the ministries of hundreds of young men and women like Joel Van Dyke, who we have challenged and trained and discipled and encouraged over the years, and who are now doing great, sacrificial works of love all over the world.

So now I ask you, what better investment can you make for Christ’s kingdom than giving your support to our EAPE workers, who are daily learning to make a difference in some very dangerous places. Please, keep on giving and praying.  They need us...and we need you!


Tony Campolo

P.S. You can make a one-time gift or schedule a monthly pledge of support for our Red Letter Christians discipleship campaign by clicking here.  Your gift will make a difference!

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