The inner gate swung shut with a loud clank. Dimitri Apostol had never been to this part of Moldova’s prison, though he knew the rest of the facility well. For the first time, he was being taken into solitary confinement.
Guards led Apostol down the hall of the run-down Soviet-era building. Stopping outside one cell, they opened the door for him to enter.
“Dima?” said a man inside. The prisoner had called for a chaplain, not expecting a reunion.
“Viktor!” Apostol replied at seeing the man with whom he’d first taken drugs more than 20 years ago. Both were shocked to see the other, but more so Viktor. Dimitri “Dima” Apostol—a Christian chaplain?
Apostol explained he led a vastly different life now. Viktor listened politely but was unmoved when presented with the gospel. Apostol left heartbroken for his old friend.
“I looked at [Viktor] and realized, ‘That was my life without Christ.’” This chance encounter—his first assignment—cemented Apostol’s resolve: If God could change him, He could set any prisoner free.
In his early 20s, Apostol had organized a crime ring involving narcotics and human trafficking. He became addicted to heroin and at his lowest point weighed just 100 pounds. Realizing he’d die unless he got help soon, Apostol reached out to a local church and in time came to faith. Though he’d acquired wealth and power, he left it all behind.
Many of the incarcerated still know Apostol from his life of crime, and in an odd way have respect for him because of it. “They can’t say, ‘You don’t understand our life,’” he said. They listen when he preaches the gospel, and several have given their life to Christ over the past six years. When Apostol baptizes new believers, he has the rare permission from guards to record these on video. He hopes the moment reminds them of their new life as they serve out a difficult sentence.
Through In Touch Ministries, Apostol is now equipped with the Messenger. He uses the audio Bible primarily for those who cannot read: blind prisoners and people of listening cultures like the Roma. It’s a remarkable asset—in a crowded cell, just one device proclaims the gospel to dozens of inmates. Messengers are always in high demand, he says.
Only Christ can change a heart or mind. But as long as prisons beckon Apostol back, now as a freed man, he will tell inmates how Jesus, once and for all, vanquished sin and death.
Photograph by Joshua Howard