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eras in church history


King Manasseh
King Jehoichin of Judah
John the Baptist
Christ harrows hell
Apostle Peter
Apostle Paul


Bishop Simeon of Seleucia


John Chrysostom
Theodulf of Orelans


William Thorpe
Jan Hus
Joan of Arc
Girolamo Savonarola


John Fisher
Thomas More
William Tyndale
Martin Luther
Anne Askew
John Frederick
Lady Jane Grey
Giovan Paschale
Jean Pierre Chambon
Guido de Bres
Philip of Moscow
John Knox
Edmund Campion
John of the Cross
Henry Barrowe
Robert Southwell


John Donne
Richard Baker
Hugo Grotius
John Lilburne
Samuel Rutherford
Joseph Alleine
De Laune
John Bunyan
Richard Baxter
George Fox
Katherine Evans and Sarah Cheever
Hans Burki
William Penn
Daniel Defoe
Alexander Cruden
Marie Durand
James Ireland
John Weatherford
Adoniram Judson
James Montgomery
Silvio Pellico
John Brown
George Borrow
George Thompson
Inspector of Forests


Edith Cavell
Sundar Singh
Toyohiko Kagawa
Lin Zhao
Corrie ten Boom
John Sung
Olivier Messiaen
Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Richard Wurmbrand
Noble Alexander
Tsehay Tolessa

Eras in Church History

We have categorized Captive Faith’s subjects by the era in which their captivity took place. We have not tried to list every captive of whom we have knowledge, but rather those who left interesting records of their sufferings. And we have tried to select a wide representation of the various pretexts under which Christians have been persecuted.

Prison Testimonies

[ABOVE—Empty cells at Alcatraz, by MarcelloRabozzi at Pixabay]

Below you will find Christian testimonies of living prisoners. All comments are moderated. We reserve the right to reject comments or to edit them for spelling and punctuation, to shorten them, and to remove inflammatory statements.

To comment or to tell your story, send us an email through the contact page. We will add those comments that seem interesting and worthwhile.

Easter Vigil

by Matthew B. Harper • March 26, 2016 Prison Lectionary

Isaiah 55:7 – Let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thought; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Psalm 42:1 – As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.
Romans 6:4 – Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death … so we too might walk in newness of life
Matthew 28:7 – Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “he has been raised from the dead”

All of these readings come to us from the service for the Easter Vigil, and together they sum up our faith journey.

The words from Isaiah are in a chapter that my Bible titles “invitation to an abundant life.” They are the words that invite us out of our old life of Sin, and into the life of God. We are a fallen people, and the only way back is through a proper relationship with our God. But we cannot go as we are. We cannot be with God when we love our wicked ways.

I am in constant fellowship with godly men who have been criminals of all kinds. The very foundation of their repentance and transformation is to forsake their wicked ways. There comes a day in every person’s life when they are just tired of being wrong, sinful, and alone. To give up what is wrong, and to return to the Lord, is the beginning of all good things. . . .

When we realized we are a fallen people, we turned to God; when we thirsted for God, we were filled; when we were crucified with Christ, we were resurrected to new life. In all things we have been given an unbelievable gift from the creator of all creation, and it is the only natural thing that we should go forth and proclaim this goodness to all people. If you are a Christian, how can you not want that very same thing for everyone. . . ?

Read the full text of Easter Vigil. All original content on Prison Lectionary is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

DVDs About Prison

Watch Blessedness out of Brokenness by clicking the video play button above.

Vision Video carries a number of videos about prison and prisoners. Here is a selection of titles in alphabetical order. For other prison DVDs, search prison at the Vision Video website.

beyond tortureWould you die, go mad, or triumph with loving forgiveness? Under Romania’s Communist regime, electrical shock, hallucinogenic drugs, near starvation, and fatal beatings were daily occurrences at Pitesti prison as the government tried to destroy the nation’s culture and faith. Meet three Christian survivors of the brutal prison and learn the secret of their survival and sanity in Beyond Torture. Order your inspiring copy today.

bless you prisonWhy would anyone bless prison?   In a cruel Romanian prison camp, Nicoleta Grossu could either betray others, die, or find God. It was an experience unspeakably brutal… But Nicoleta Grossu did find God in the Communist prison. Bless You Prison is the story of her life. Order today and be inspired in your own Christian Walk. English subtitles.

blessedness out of brokennessVisit Louisiana State Penitentiary, better known as Angola Prison. This documentary presents the stories of inmates that bring clarity to Jesus’ teaching as they share the blessedness of the beatitudes in their own lives. Many of these men have life sentences, yet they have found new life and purpose through their faith in Jesus Christ. Blessedness out of Brokenness will inspire you in your own Christian Walk.

agent of graceWhat is a moral person to do in a time of savage immorality? That question tormented Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German clergyman of great distinction who actively opposed Hitler. His conviction put him in prison and cost him his life.   More than a biography, Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace sheds light on little-known efforts of the German resistance. Glimpse Bonhoeffer’s world when you order today.

Bonhoeffer memoriesWhat does it mean to be a Christian in the 20th century? For Bonhoeffer, it meant prison and death.  Bonhoeffer, Memories and Perspectives follows the life of the martyred theologian as recalled by friends, family, and students. This emotionally wrenching documentary casts light on our deepest spiritual questions.

university to prison dvdOf the numerous intellectuals arrested after the Communist takeover of Romania, one was the renowned psychologist Nicolae Margineanu. He went From University to Prison. His story is a record of Communist atrocities and human triumph over oppression.

hanged on a twisted crossWhen should a man of peace abet violence in combating evil? Can deep-seated patriotism compel you to oppose your fatherland and a demonic leader? In  Hanged on a Twisted Cross we are shown how Dietrich Bonhoeffer confronted these and other issues with Biblical faith and personal courage that resulted in his imprisonment and execution.

in spite of darkness dvdEvery November an interfaith retreat is held at the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp where more than 1 million people were exterminated by the Nazis. Why? In Spite of Darkness takes us to one of those retreats.

bunyan dvdJohn Bunyan, Journey of a Pilgrim, is a look at the prisoner who wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress, the most circulated book of all time, next to the Bible.


bunyan dvdOnce offenders have served their terms and leave prison, doors still slam shut. Long Road Back seeks to reduce the fear and stigma experienced by those re-entering society after serving a term in prison.


love is not a luxuryImagine a prison with bars but no guards—a prison where inmates hold the keys. This Brazilian prison accommodates some of the most notorious inmates; yet peace and good order prevail. Love is Not a Luxury. The film, shot by two of the inmates, examines the day-to-day running of the prison and explores the personal development of two prisoners with sentences of 70 and 114 years, who hold substantial responsibility for the harmony and security of the prison.

power of forgivenessKarla Faye Tucker was a murderer who was put to death by the state of Texas. During her incarceration, she became a vibrant Christian. Even some family members of the two people she helped kill became her friends and wept when she was executed, a story told in The Power of Forgiveness.

prisoners of hopeDuring the Vietnamese Conflict, hundreds of American prisoners of war were interrogated, starved and tortured in Communist prisons. Prisoners of Hope presents the experiences of ten of these individuals who were denied that most valuable and precious possession—freedom. Their stories are filled with suffering and survival. But above all, they are testimonies of courage, faith, and a sustaining hope that refused to die. This moving program will change the way you understand freedom and life.

Richard and Sabina WurmbrandRichard and Sabina Wurmbrand. Before Communism fell in Eastern Europe, Christians were often arrested and kept in prisons camps where the Communists went to great lengths to break their faith. This is the story of a family whose faith endured.

saving face dvd
Saving Face. Student by day, car thief by night, Matt Kern wound up with a sixty year sentence after killing a man. After six years of continued crime in prison he found God’s grace…and eventually clemency.

Corrie Ten Boom Torchlighter dvdThe Torchlighters: The Corrie ten Boom Story Corrie ten Boom helped protect Jews from the Nazi regime during World War II. Hers is an amazing story of courage, sacrifice, and forgiveness.


John BunyanJohn Bunyan spends his days in prison, separated from his wife and children. Living in the cold, stone cell is the price he pays for going against the established state religion. If only he would agree to stop preaching, John could walk out a free man! Why does he choose to stay in jail, and how will he serve his Lord in this wretched place? Find out in The John Bunyan Story episode of The Torchlighters.

Richard WurmbrandIn war-torn Romania, there is only one way for churches to get the protection of the government: give their support and allegiance to the communists who are in control. Instead, Pastor Wurmbrand chooses to speak up for Christ, thereby placing his own life and the lives of his family in great danger. When Richard’s choice lands him in a communist prison, his faith and witness are tested to the limits. See how The Richard Wurmbrand Story continues to impact the world today. A Torchlighter episode.

Unbroken  Unbroken is the inspiring true story of American World War II hero Louis Zamperini. It is a story of stamina and courage in the face of cruelty. Louis Zamperini survives in a raft for forty-seven days after his bomber was downed in World War II, and was sent to a series of prisoner of war camps.

Prison Ministries

Chain link fence, by Engin_Akyurt at Pixabay

Many Christian Ministries are concerned about prisoners. One of the best-known is Voice of the Martyrs which maintains a prisoner alert page. Voice of the Martyrs has features that allow concerned people to write letters to prisoners and officials.

Although not explicitly a Christian ministry, another site that allows individuals to contact prisoners (in the United States) is jpay. It charges a few cents for a “stamp” to send your email, but is well worth the price. You can look up the prisoner you are trying to contact if you have basic information and if the prisoner has become a member of jpay. You can also send money to prisoner accounts through this system where institutions allow it.

An ex-prisoner seeking employment might find helpful Carolyn Kleiman’s blog “Building a Career After Incarceration” which shows how to write a resume and has links to several secular programs that help prisoners get reestablished in society. has provided a guide to getting an education after incarceration. View it at

For Links to individual Prison Ministries, visit the International Network of Prison Ministries

Contact Us

[ABOVE—Telephone Operators, 1952, by Seattle Municipal Archives from Seattle, WA [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons]

To contact Captive Faith, you can use the email address shown in the grey box below, or fill out the contact form below it. Send prisoner stories to the Christian History Institute address.

To contact Christian History Institute:
    use the contact form at the Christian History Institute web site.
or write:
   Christian History Institute
   P.O. Box 540
   Worcester, PA 19490

To receive a current catalog of Vision Video’s productions and resources, contact us with your complete name and address and tell us you want a catalog. You can write:
    Vision Video
    P.O. Box 540
    Worcester, PA 19490

    Vision Video Phone: (610) 584-3500



About Us


The Barn, home of Christian History Institute, Torchlighters, and Captive Faith.

Christian History Institute began researching and compiling the writings of prisoners around 2008. Their stories are heart breaking yet compelling. Their writings come from a place of pain that most of us will never face and often reach depths of understanding many of us only distantly comprehend. We quickly realized others would want to learn from these uniquely qualified teachers.

Christian faith teaches us not to be surprised by adversity. Our Lord and teacher died a horrific death in a public execution by crucifixion after a rigged trial. Countless numbers of his followers over the centuries have died or gone to prison for his sake. Others have gone to prison because of their own misdeeds and been liberated there by the Gospel which turned their prison experience into a discovery of grace and joy.

You can view a barebones site map by clicking the link in this paragraph.

If you want to encourage us at Captive Faith, or want to remind us of a memorable captive from church history whose story you think should be in these pages, use the contact link to reach us or email us at

If you are a prisoner or former prisoner with a Christian testimony, you can mail us (see address in the footer) or perhaps add your testimony in the comments section of the prisoner testimonies page.

Christian History Institute (CHI), a non-profit Pennsylvania corporation founded in 1982. CHI provides church history resources and self-study material. Our aim is to make trust-worthy, non-biased Christian history a delight to the widest possible audience, through print, video, and electronic media. We are also involved with film and video production (through our sister company, Vision Video).

Contact information

For more information on how to contact Captive Faith, Christian History Institute, or Vision Video, and for a contact form, visit our contact page


Learn at the feet of those who learned in prison.

Faith-filled prisoners have produced or inspired some of the most creative, life-changing, and spiritually perceptive writings in existence. From Joseph in the second-millenium B.C. to Noble Alexander in the twentieth-century, we’ve compiled dozens of powerful prison stories and writings.

Whether they were imprisoned because of their faith or found faith while imprisoned, may the words of these captives be a source of encouragement and edification to you.