Argentina is the eighth largest country in the world. Nestled at the southern tip of South America, Argentina is known for its beautiful beaches, rich grasslands, and majestic mountains. Though the Gauchos have all but disappeared, their influence is still felt and celebrated in Argentina’s culture. But Argentina is more than tango and football. Argentina is also troubled by deep poverty and corruption. Even the police force is often involved in violent, illegal activities.
In the midst of this poverty and corruption, SACDEM ministers to those whom society has thrown away. Since 1984, SACDEM has worked with marginalized and rejected groups in Argentina such as prisoners, the mentally ill, children born in prison, mothers and pregnant women housed in special institutions, incarcerated individuals living with HIV/AIDS, homosexual and transgender groups, those battling drug abuse and addiction, people living in extreme poverty, and recently released prisoners who now must reintegrate into society.
- The poverty rate in Argentina is rising. The latest statistics indicate one out of every three Argentinians live in poverty.
- Crime rates rise along with poverty rates. Argentina’s already overcrowded prisons struggle to cope with the influx of inmates. Jails designed to hold 26,000 prisoners now house over 30,000 inmates, and an additional 1600 prisoners are added each year. Once released, half of all prisoners re-offend.
- The prison system is corrupt, and even some of the evangelical ministries that serve the local prison system are embedded with corruption.
- Many marginalized groups lack real opportunities for improvement but are not considered by the state for programs or real solutions that can positively affect them.
- Through seminars, workshops, and discussions, SACDEM works with religious organizations, seminaries, universities, and local churches to equip and train the Christian community to minister to these marginalized members of society.
- SACDEM works with male and female prisoners throughout Argentina. The ministry hosts Bible studies, offers counseling, and helps inmates understand God’s forgiveness and grace. SACDEM also works with newly-released prisoners to help them rebuild their homes and assimilate into society. Over 200 prisoners have been baptized in prison.
- SACDEM offers workshops related to prison chaplaincy as well as career advice and support of chaplains, both working to improve care for prisoners and equip local churches to welcome the marginalized as they return to the community.
- In Argentina, children born to female inmates stay with their mothers until they turn four years old. The hundreds of children who are living with their mothers in prison are exposed to violence and have few opportunities for age-appropriate play and growth. SACDEM helps give these children a better life. Prisoners’ children alternate weeks at SACDEM and with their mothers in prison. After children turn four, those without anyone else to care for them live at SACDEM full-time until their mothers are released from prison. Over 300 children have gone through this ministry. SACDEM also provides clothes, shoes, powdered milk, and school supplies for children in the prison system.
- SACDEM also offers support for over 1,000 men and women in psychiatric hospitals across Argentina. Patients who experience mental illness are often forgotten and abandoned by their families. SACDEM provides outings, shoes, clothing, and hygiene items and holds church services and Bible studies for those being treated for mental illness.
Daniel Ruffinatti founded SACDEM in 1984. As a police officer, Ruffinatti witnessed the corruption that plagues Argentina’s law enforcement community. He was not allowed to resign and was forced into illegal activities such as murder and drugs. Daniel was eventually arrested on multiple counts of theft and sentenced to a maximum-security prison. While in prison, Daniel started reading his Bible. He found Jesus, committed his life to God, and began sharing Christ with his fellow prisoners. Even while he was still serving his sentence, Daniel started a prison ministry that over half the prisoners attended. Today, SACDEM ministers to over 1600 mental health patients and works in 16 prisons in Argentina. Thousands of lives have been saved through SACDEM’s healing ministry.
SACDEM has been an Oakseed Ministry Partner since 1998. Oakseed helps SACDEM by providing prayers and financial support.
- Corruption is a societal problem in Argentina that has impacted even many evangelical ministries. Pray for SACDEM and those who serve with the ministry to have integrity and conviction.
- Pray for provision and support for SACDEM’s ministry. As the cost of living rises in Argentina, the needs of the ministry continue to grow.
- Pray that those rejected by their families and communities will know God’s acceptance and love.