Five rival gang members risked their lives to get baptized together in Coffield Prison in Texas just six months after Gateway Church in Dallas opened a campus within the maximum-security unit.
“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,” Niles Holsinger, Gateway Coffield Prison campus pastor, said in a Facebook video Monday. “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.”
In Coffield Unit, which houses 4,200 criminal offenders, there are men so dangerous and violent, they spend 23 hours a day confined to their cells, Holsinger said. “These guys cannot be around other people. They cannot be around friends, they cannot be around family.”
But on Sunday, the prison asked Gateway Church pastors and volunteers if they would water baptize several men who had made a decision to follow Christ.
“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 said.
“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.”
Five of the men baptized came from rival gangs, Holsinger said. “When they came in the gym, the guards had to separate them on both sides so they couldn't get close to each other just in case violence would break out.”
Yet those five men from two different gangs “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.”
“That's what we get to be a part of every day here at Gateway,” Holsinger added.
Gateway Church, pastored by Robert Morris, first opened its Coffield campus in February. More than 650 inmates attended the megachurch's first service, and over 500 men made decisions to follow Jesus.
Over the next two years, the church reportedly plans to open 10 prison campuses within 100 miles of existing Gateway campuses. Additionally, there are small groups at every Gateway campus for families of the incarcerated.
The remaining 14 prisoners in solitary confinement will be baptized in July and the church is also planning on taking several thousand Bibles to supply the prison for individual and new inmates, Fox News reports.
“Gateway Prison Ministry is committed to discipling the incarcerated and their families,” notes the church website. “We plant Gateway churches inside prisons and build community within prison walls, so offenders will feel part of the Gateway family. They can experience regular worship and attend Gateway Equip classes centered on discipleship, marriage, and parenting to help prepare them for life after incarceration.”
On Facebook, evangelist Franklin Graham celebrated the baptism of the rival gang members and urged other churches to follow Gateway's example.
“These men have come to know Jesus Christ and they won’t be alone anymore,” Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, wrote. “My good friend Pastor Robert Morris & Gateway Church say they’re going to start six more prison campuses throughout Texas by the beginning of next year. All I can say is—Great Job, Keep Going! We give God the glory for each of the souls being saved for eternity through this fantastic outreach!”