There’s a saying: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” For some visitors to the world-famous city of gambling and entertainment, this may sound like a guarantee, or like an offer to get out of jail free; meaning: “If you take a walk on the wild side here, no worries; we’ve got you covered (wink-wink).”
But it isn’t a guarantee, as Gladys Perez and Marc Anthony Colon tragically learned. For the two young people, what happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas. It went nationwide.
In January 2006, Perez, 24, and boyfriend Colon, 26, were complicit in killing Perez’s 3-year-old daughter, Crystal Figueroa. It’s believed that Colon’s bad luck in the casinos, in part, lit the emotional fuse that led to little Crystal’s death from blunt-force trauma.
Of the crime, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported: “Few murders in Las Vegas captured the community’s attention like Crystal’s.” Locally, residents contributed some $50,000 in reward money on Crystal’s behalf and held a memorial service for her.
When Perez and Colon were identified as the suspected killers, the news drew national and international attention. Wire services sent out the story with the couple’s pictures. America’s Most Wanted spotlighted the two on several TV programs. A Paris film company, Maha Productions, tracked the pursuit from France and sought permission to create a documentary.
After Perez and Colon were caught late in February 2006 and jailed at Clark County Detention Center (CCDC) in Las Vegas, local Foursquare pastor John Page Jr. received a request from Colon’s sister in New Jersey through a Foursquare church there. She wanted a pastor to visit her brother in jail.
Pastor John accepted, and during the visit, Colon accepted Christ—as did Perez when Pastor John was allowed to speak with her as well. He baptized Perez, pouring bottled water over her head. It was the only method granted him under CCDC’s maximum-security restrictions, and it is the only time in CCDC’s history that it has been allowed.
Filmmakers with Maha Productions had by then arrived in the city and were permitted to capture documentary footage of Perez’ baptism in an 8-by-8 anteroom at CCDC. Their resulting two-episode series about her—Sin City Law: Gladys’ Choice—aired on The Sundance Channel during primetime.
Pastor John is one of about 30 Foursquare prison chaplains, ministers and associates who reach inmates for Jesus every day in county, state and federal institutions. They go bearing friendship, forgiveness, hope and the unconditional love of God, taking it to thousands of people whose lives have been changed forever by their wrong decisions and actions.
Every Foursquare prison minister who spoke with Foursquare.org talked of the personal joy that compels their special pursuit of America’s criminals—to see the captives freed from sin’s imprisonment. These ministers view steel and concrete prison walls as gateways to white fields of harvest. They witness miracles while laboring in cells, pods, blocks and wings—anywhere that crime and punishment is fenced up and shut out.
“Seeing the devil do what he does is enough to get you angry. But seeing how the Holy Spirit can restore a spirit of joy in a dark place is simply remarkable,” says Pastor John, founder of Freedom Foursquare Outreach Ministry and senior pastor of Freedom Fellowship, a Foursquare church in Las Vegas where he serves alongside his wife, Barbara.
Pastor John continued his visitations with Perez and Colon as their case advanced through the Nevada criminal justice system. In October 2008, a Las Vegas jury found them both guilty of first-degree murder and child abuse.
Colon, who prosecutors said dealt the lethal blow on Crystal, got life without parole. Perez received life, with the possibility of parole in 20 years.
Perez spoke with Foursquare.org during a time-restricted, 10-minute phone call from the maximum-security tower at CCDC:
“I’m a baby Christian. Every day Pastor John tells me that God loves me, that Jesus died for me, that my sins are forgiven, that I’m a child of God,” she said. “Even during the worst times of life, God is there. If it weren’t for Pastor John, I wouldn’t know Christ.”
Her tribute, “if it weren’t for,” is the type of recognition that applies to many of Foursquare’s prison ministers, some of whom tell remarkable stories of what God will do to open the locked hearts of prisoners everywhere.
One such minister is Daniel Blomberg, 62, prison chaplains coordinator for Foursquare Chaplains International and director of Jubilee Prison Ministry, which he founded in 1978 in Eugene, Ore. “If it weren’t for” Blomberg, more than a thousand inmates in Estonia would not have come to Christ in the 1990s.
In 1993, Blomberg was part of a team of 25 fellow ministers from the Coalition of Prison Evangelists (COPE) who went into the ex-Soviet republic of Estonia to train indigenous chaplains. An amazing event awaited them at Rummu II, an old maximum-security prison with a violent history.
By: Jimmy Stewart, a freelance writer and journalist in Orlando, Fla.
This is part 1 of a 3-part story spotlighting some of the amazing people within Foursquare who minister to those in prison.
Part 2: To read more about a Foursquare group that visited the ex-Soviet republic of Estonia—and had an unexpected visitor themselves—click here.
Part 3: To read about a Foursquare church that started their own prison ministry after needing a little help with a building project, click here.