"God can forgive the worst sinner on
earth." How many times have
you heard a preacher say something like that? Or, "God loves
everyone. He doesnt want anyone to perish. There is no
sinner too sinful for God to forgive, if that person will repent
and come to Christ in faith." And do we believe it? Of
course we do. We believe that Jesus Christ would have forgiven
Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him, if he would have truly
Question: Would Jesus have forgiven Adolf Hitler? Perhaps
survivors of the holocaust couldnt...and we could
understand their difficulty in forgiving. But Jesus could
have forgiven Hitler...if he would have changed his life instead
of ending his life by blowing his brains out in a Berlin bunker.
Lets bring it on down to today.
Would God be willing to forgive a repentant Jeffrey Dahmer,
the mass murderer of Milwaukee?
How about Sadaam Hussein, the bloody butcher of Baghdad?
What about General Manuel Noriega, the former Panamanian drug
Stop the questions!
Its not a moot question anymore. For on October 24,
1992, in a baptistry provided by American Rehabilitation
Ministries, General Manuel Noriega was immersed in the name of
the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the chambers of the Honorable
William M. Hoeveler, United States District Judge, Federal Court
House, Miami Florida.
Noriega was "Public Enemy No. 1" during the time
leading up to the U.S. invasion of Panama in December 1989. How
did it come to pass that the former general of Panama was buried
in bapitsm in Florida in an A.R.M. baptistry?
Joe R. Garman, Founder and President of A.R.M. Prison Outreach
The story begins in a maximum security cell in the federal
prison in Miami where General Manuel Noriega was awaiting trial
on charges of international drug trafficking.
Early in January 1990 a copy of a Spanish New Testament came
into the notorious prisoners hands. On January 10, 1990,
the editor of the Soul Winners New Testament (Evangelismo
Personal), Clift Brannon, a former attorney turned preacher,
received a letter from Noriega. In the letter, Noriega
expressed his appreciation for the copy of the Scriptures.
Brannon immediately applied for a visitation permit for the
purpose of religious instruction under the rights granted Noriega
under the Geneva Accords.
Accordingly, on May 15 and 16, 1990, Brannon and a Spanish
interpreter, Rudy Hernandez, were allowed to visit Noriega for a
total of 6 hours in the Metropolitan Correctional Center of Dade
County, Florida. Following their visit, Noriega wrote
Brannon as follows:
On completing the spiritual
sessions that you as a messenger of the Word of God brought to my
heart, even to my area of confinement as Prisoner of War of the
United States, I feel the necessity of adding something more to
what I was able to say to you as we parted. The evening
sessions of May 15 and 16 with you and Rudy Hernandez along with
the Christian explanation and guidance were for me the first day
of a dream, a revelation. I can tell you with great
strength and inspiration that receiving our Lord Jesus Christ as
Savior guided by you, was an emotional event. The hours flew by
without my being aware. I could have desired that they continue
forever, but there was no time nor space. Thank you for
your time. Thank you for your human warmth, for your constant and
permanent spiritual strength brought to bear on my mind and soul.
With great affection.
Manuel A. Noriega
Following another visit in July, 1990, Noriega enrolled in a
16-week Bible correspondence course. At the conclusion of his
personal study the former drug lord requested permission of the
prison authorities to be baptized in accordance to what he had
learned from Matthew 28:19,20.
His request, however, was denied upon the advice of his
On September 25, 1992, Brannon wrote to the Honorable William
M. Hoeveler, united States District Judge in Miami, pleading the
courts permission to immerse Noriega. "Only in this
way can he (Noriega) genuinely show his faith in the death,
burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-5)."
The former attorney went on to write:
On October 24th, we ask your
authority to have a fiberglass baptistry taken into the court
room and for General Manuel A. Noriega to be immersed in accord
with the Holy Scriptures and in obedience to the command of our
Lord Jesus Christ.
Sincerely submitted for Your
Honors favorable consideration.
Clifton W. Brannon
In the meantime, it was necessary to secure a portable baptistry. To whom would they turn?
To the same ministry that has for the past 31 years placed
more than 1000 baptistries in American prisons nationwide. A.R.M.
not only responded with a communion table baptistry, but also
provided two in-depth Spanish Bible correspondence courses for
General Noriegas study. A variety of Spanish
DaySpring greeting cards were sent from A.R.M. along with several
New Testament Gospel tracts in Spanish.
On October 24, 1992 (United Nations Day!), A.R.Ms baptistry arrived at the back door of the Federal Court House in
Miami. A Deputy Marshall helped Brannon and his associates take
the baptistry into the courtroom and fill it with water.
Joe Garman was able to partake of the Lord's Supper
along with Manuel Noriega and his daughter during a private visit to his
Noriegas baptism almost didnt happen because of
his high security status, opposition from the Catholic chaplain
and daunting logistical problems.
The baptism was arranged to take place in the courthouse, in an
atrium outside the door of one of the courtrooms, using A.R.M.ís
Communion Table Baptistry.
"That was a first", Brannon said. "We were told
this had never taken place in a federal courthouse before".
When the baptistry was filled, the Deputy Marshall brought
General Manuel Antonio Noriega into the courtroom to be baptized.
Surrounded by 12 guards, Noriega, wearing civilian clothes, took
off his jacket and shoes, and got into the baptistry. Brannon
preached on the meaning of baptism as Hernandes interpreted,
followed by prayer and Scripture reading. Brannon then baptized
Noriega in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Brannon says that when Noriega "came up out of the
water" you could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in the
room. "Rudy had an accordion, and we all sang Amazing Grace,
which reverberated off the marble floor", Brannon said.
"Its one of those sacred moments," Brannon
said. "I could feel God speaking that He was well
Noriega was allowed to give a brief testimony and be served
the Lords Supper before being escorted back to his maximum
security cell. Here, in part, is the testimony of General
Manuel Antonio Noriega, the notorious international drug lord and
ruthless dictator of Panama:
"Before, Jesus to me was
only an image of that which was learned from Catholicism, an
historic being who worked miracles. All was transformed when on
Tuesday, January the 16th, 1990, Dr. Clift asked me in a
telephone conversation, he in Texas and I in a preventive prison
of the court, "Do you know that Jesus loves you?"
Today, this is what He means to
He is the Son of God, who died
on the cross for our sins, who arose from the
grave and is at the right hand of God the Father and who above
all things He is my Savior, and has mercy on me, a sinner."
General Manuel Antonio Noriega has been found guilty of
international drug trafficking and sentenced to 40 years in the
General Noriega is only one of more than a half-million
prisoners who have obeyed their Lord in Christian baptism in A.R.M. donated
baptistries. The gifts from you, Gods
people, made it possible.
Since the baptism of General Noriega, prison authorities
across America have phoned and written A.R.M. headquarters
requesting a baptistry for their prisoners too. One
chaplain in Alabama said, "We have 65 men now waiting to be
Another chaplain in Louisiana wrote, "We have been on
your waiting list for over 9 months Please, we need a baptistry
as soon as possible". The chaplain in Attica, New
York, phoned to say, "You gave us a baptistry in 1975, but
we have used it so much that it is cracked and broken.
Please send us a new one".
Tony Ponceti, who led the former dictator in weekly
discipleship studies for more than two years said, "Gaining
permission to transport A.R.M.s baptistry into the
courthouse was nothing short of a miracle. After Noriega
rose out of the water, he had no words to express the joy he
Our continual effort to provide baptisteries to jails and prisons is also
nothing short of a miracle. A.R.M. Prison Outreach International receives
requests for Communion Table Baptisteries and Collapsible Portable Baptisteries
on a weekly basis. Missionaries and native evangelists are also in need of
A.R.M.'s baptisteries. Will you allow God to perform a miracle through you?
Would you, your Sunday School class, or church prayerfully consider
sponsoring a baptistery for a jail/prison chaplain or a missionary serving in