Charles Colson went to prison in 1974 as a result of investigations into the Watergate affair that eventually toppled Richard Nixon’s presidency.
Colson served seven months and, after his release, became involved in prison reform.
As an advocate for reform, he visited prisons all over the world, one of which was Humaita in Brazil. More than forty years ago, the Brazilian government turned a prison over to two Christians. It was renamed Humaita and they planned to run it on Christian principles. At the time they employed only two full-time persons, with the rest of the work being done by inmates. Prisoners had the benefit of being adopted by families outside the prison, who worked with them during and after their terms.
When Colson visited Humaita, he discovered the inmates were smiling. He was particularly impressed with the convicted murderer who opened the gates and let him into the prison. He saw Bible verses decorating the walls. When his guide took him to the cell once used for torture, he told Colson that block held only one inmate. At the end of a long corridor, the guide paused and asked Colson if he was sure he wanted to go in.
When the guide opened the door, Colson saw that one prisoner: a crucifix carved by the inmates of Humaita — Jesus, hanging on a cross.
This weekend, millions of Christians will observe World Communion Sunday. As they partake of the elements of bread and wine or grape juice, they will remember the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. That’s what the prisoners of Humaita were doing when they placed the crucifix in that isolation cell — remembering that he took our place.
— The Rev. Ron McClung, a former pastor of Owosso Wesleyan Church, now living in Indianapolis, Indiana, currently serves as the assistant general secretary for the denomination.