The Crossroad Extra staff teamed up with Crossroad Bible Institute’s international department to interview Antonio Prieto Surmay, the director of CBI Colombia. At eighty years old, Prieto Surmay continues to be strong in the Lord as he ministers to hundreds of Colombian prisoners with the help of his family.
CE: How did you become interested in prison ministry?
APS: My grandparents were Jewish Cubans and later became Roman Catholic. They felt they needed to do good deeds to secure their salvation, so when I was twelve years old, they gave me money to put toward helping people in prison. Thus from an early age, I was very interested in helping prisoners because of my grandparents and the many things I saw as a child. *
CE: Can you tell us how you came to be a follower of Jesus Christ?
APS: After studying medicine in California, it was God’s will that I moved to Villavicencio, Colombia, in October 1974. Not long after, a Christian pastor moved in across from my house and opened a church. To me, the church was very noisy. But one day the pastor came to my house with a sick two-year-old boy. He said, “Doctor, I know that you dislike us, but I would like you to help my son.” I did, and soon the pastor started talking to me; he told me to read the books of John, Romans and Hebrews. I read and read, and then we started talking about ministering to people in prison. Three months later, I accepted Jesus as my Savior on December 5, 1975.
CE: And thirty years later, you established a CBI satellite campus in Colombia. How did you initially get connected with Crossroad?
APS: Raymond Walker of Source of Light Ministries was the first person to send me discipleship courses for prisoners. However, once the prisoners were finished with these courses, I had no other materials for them. I asked Raymond if he knew of any US organizations that would have materials, and he referred me to Crossroad Bible Institute.
CE: And the rest, as they say, is history?
APS: Long story short, the first prisoner, named Jose, CBI-001, sent his enrollment form and I sent him his first lesson of Grandes Verdades de la Biblia [Great Truths of the Bible]. Officially, CBI Colombia started in March 2005, ten years and six months ago. Glory to God!
CE: Indeed! CBI Colombia has since grown to disciple 430 students in over twenty facilities. Are there any specific challenges your students must overcome to continue their studies?
APS: Many of the prisons in Colombia are very overcrowded. Additionally, there is a lot of corruption. Some corrections officials are dishonest and provide drugs and cell phones to the prisoners with money.
CE: In spite of these challenges, how have you witnessed God working through Crossroad’s ministry in Colombia?
APS: God is marvelous! The students write beautiful things about Crossroad and they anxiously ask me to send materials to their children and family members. I have even been able to build relationships with their families through phone calls, and the families are very happy with Crossroad and what we are doing for the prisoners.
CE: All of CBI’s satellite campuses share the common goal of discipling people in prison, but each one uses unique methods to accomplish this task. For CBI Colombia, it appears that the ministry is truly a family affair!
APS: Yes! All my kids work with me. They volunteer by reading the lessons, letters and testimonies that the prisoners and their families send; they feel touched by what they read.
CE: How has serving as CBI Instructors impacted your family?
APS: Many times my children feel sad because of the problems that the prisoners and their families have. My children also have to study the Bible more in depth to be able to solve some of the most difficult questions. Like me, they feel very motivated by serving Christ.
CE: Are there any other distinctive traits of CBI Colombia?
APS: I complement the CBI studies by making different books available to prisoners. We also try to provide any items that our students may lack, such as paper for writing or toiletries, which is allowed in the prisons here.
CE: How can we pray for CBI Colombia’s ministry?
APS: Please pray that God will provide us with sufficient support to meet the needs of hundreds of CBI students in more than twenty prisons. They’re always wanting more materials!
CE: Thank you for sharing your testimony and giving us an inside look at CBI Colombia. In closing, do you have a favorite Bible passage that encourages you to persevere in your ministry to people in prison?
APS: Deuteronomy 31:8: “And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed” (KJV).
*All quotes have been translated from the original Spanish.