Juan Carlos, director of Crossroads Peru, speaks at a youth detention facility more than twenty years after his incarceration.
Juan Carlos Yahua grew up with an alcoholic, abusive father. He harbored resentment and unforgiveness toward his father after watching him beat Juan Carlos’s mom for many years.
After his mother was killed when he was twelve years old, Juan Carlos sank into depression and turned to drugs. At eighteen, he became involved in criminal activity, which led to an eighty-month prison sentence for robbery a year later.
Juan Carlos resented God and doubted He was real. In prison, Juan Carlos continued to steal and fight, frequently ending up in solitary confinement. In 2000, during one of many lonely nights in his cell, Juan Carlos was ready to give up on life. But at that very moment, his cell filled with what he now knows was the presence of God. The presence was so profound that he fell to his knees in repentance and asked God for forgiveness.
Around midnight, with tears pouring down his face, he began knocking on his door until a guard appeared at the small window. Juan Carlos shared his strange experience with the guard, who sent a nurse to him. The nurse gave him some anxiety medication and began telling him the story of Saul on the way to Damascus. The nurse explained to Juan Carlos that he had experienced the same thing.
Juan Carlos was moved to a cell with a Brazilian man. This man had tried to share the Gospel with him before, but Juan Carlos had dismissed him as a hypocrite. That night, they did not sleep as Juan Carlos again listened to the man proclaim the Gospel. This time, Juan Carlos had ears to hear. He knew it was time to commit to following Jesus.
With a significant portion of his sentence left, Juan Carlos began to look for ways to serve the Lord inside the prison. But eight months later, in January 2001, he received the shocking news that he had been granted a presidential pardon.
“From that moment, I have not stopped being able to share what God did in my life,” said Juan Carlos. “And from that moment to today, I dedicate myself to sharing the Word in many places. . . . I go especially to prisons, where people need it.”
He continued, “[Twenty-three] years have passed, and today, I continue to preach the Word.”
Crossroads Peru began its ministry in early 2019, under the leadership of Juan Carlos Yahua, with fifty students at a local juvenile facility and a women’s facility. Nearing the end of their fifth year of ministry, Juan Carlos and his team of more than sixty mentors envision being able to enter more adult facilities in the future and dream of expanding to other parts of the country.
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