In an amazing story of grace and redemption, 39 inmates at the Durham County jail in North Carolina -some of whom are incarcerated for crimes including rape, assault with a deadly weapon, and murder-were baptized by ministers from seven local churches.
According to Charlotte's News & Observer, the event, which took several months to plan, was organized at the prompting Reginald Minor, an inmate who told reporters, "It's my faith. I'm a Christian. Like all Christians, we believe Jesus is the way."
"It's giving us inmates an opportunity to walk in our faith, and I thank them for what they're doing," Minor said of the baptisms.
"I can't speak for everybody, but I can speak for myself," he continued. "I know deep down inside it's bringing me closer and closer to beliefs, my religion. I just look forward to God to help me, that's all."
Sheriff Mike Andrews reportedly allowed for two wading pools to be set up in the jail's parking lot, and gave each of the individuals Bibles and Bible study materials after they were baptized.
Andrews told the outlet: "We all get limited time on Earth. We're all just passing through. The people that are here today, they're here because they want to be here and they're here because they want to make a difference. If these individuals who have made this leap of faith want to take this step, I think it's only befitting that we have ministers from the community that want to assist us for these individuals."
Pastor Vinny Abbruscato, of Trinity Outreach Inc., has been holding an hourlong ministry three nights week in the jail since March. He revealed that each session is typically attended by 10-25 inmates. He, along with several other pastors, held each inmate's arms and laid him or her down into the water, then helped them stand back up.
"This is something that was mentioned in Matthew 28 by Jesus, saying go and baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit," Pastor Abbruscato said. "Baptism in water is basically they're going down and dying to the old self and rising up the new person they are in Christ."
The miraculous conversions and baptisms bring to mind the story of the Apostle Paul, who, according to the account provided in the book of Acts, was a violent killer dedicated to the persecution of the early disciples of Jesus Christ.
However, after experiencing a dramatic encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul emerged as one of the greatest missionaries of all time, spreading the gospel throughout the Roman Empire and writing 13 books of the Bible.
"They have been forgiven if they've truly repented," Abbruscato told ABC News. "And you can see the change and the transformation in them."