Heaven's Family Magazine
December 2012 Issue

Thrice Freed

The Prison Ministry & Rehab Fund at Work in Moldova

Bob Collins, Prison & Rehab Ministry


As Heaven’s Family partner and national missionary Ghiorghi Cazacu listens, former inmate Ion Guznac testifies before a crowd of prisoners. Note the swastika tattooed on his middle finger.

Prison inmates have one advantage over those who are never incarcerated: They’ve stood before a judge and been found guilty—something that should help them think about what awaits every sinner on his or her journey to stand before God. As he sat for seven years in prison cells in Russia and Moldova, Ion Guznac thought about those things, until he eventually realized that he had, up to that point, spent his entire life in prison.

Found guilty of robbery in Russia, Ion was sentenced to four years behind bars. After serving his time, Ion was faced with a choice. He had also previously committed robbery—but was never caught—in his home country of Moldova. Should he confess his crime and hope for a light sentence, or should he risk discovery and face a heavier sentence? He decided on the former and was sentenced to three years in Moldova’s Soroca Men’s Penitentiary.

Every week, Soroca Penitentiary is visited by a dedicated group of Moldovan brothers in Christ—some of whom are former inmates themselves—to win the lost and disciple the saved. They shared the gospel with Ion, and he listened during his three years of incarceration. But it was not until shortly after his release that he made a commitment to the Lord. Liberated from his lifelong imprisonment to sin, Ion was now truly a free man, thrice freed.

When Ion shared his decision with the brothers who told him the gospel, they encouraged him to return with them to Soroca to publicly receive water baptism and to testify before the other inmates who knew him so well. Ion enthusiastically agreed, and our team from Heaven’s Family was privileged to witness that wonderful event.

Ion is an intimidating figure. A large, husky man, he has a swastika and other symbols tattooed on his hands. I could only imagine what lie hidden under his gleaming white baptismal robe. But none of that mattered now as we listened to this gentle giant boldly proclaim how Jesus had transformed him. Then we watched—along with more than 100 inmates—his watery burial and resurrection.

After Ion’s baptism, Heaven’s Family staff member David Warnock and I preached the gospel in the prison courtyard to a captive audience (literally). Afterwards, thanks to gifts to the Prison Ministry & Rehab Fund, we distributed food, toiletries, chocolate and tea to three dozen inmates who had become believers since they entered the prison. They received our care packages with great joy. We were likewise filled with joy, knowing that we represented all those who have given to the Prison Ministry & Rehab Fund, and remembering Jesus’ words, “I was in prison, and you visited me” (Matt. 25:36).


At left, Ion being baptized; at right, Bob Collins preaching the gospel to Soroca inmates

Thank you for helping us, through your gifts, to present the gospel to men and women who are languishing in Third World prisons and to serve prisoners who have come to Christ. We’re not only supporting national partners in several prisons around the world and the U.S., but also distributing Bibles, books and literature to men and women behind bars.


Before we left Soroca Penitentiary, the prison ministry team showed us a room inside the prison that was given to them by the warden for use as their church chapel. This a great opportunity inside an overcrowded prison where space is at a premium. But the roof leaks, and the room is in need of some basic renovation. The estimated cost is just $2,500. A simple remodel will make it the most inviting room in the entire prison, and a place where the inmate-pastor can minister at any time to hungry hearts!

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