Home > Evangelism, Salvation > THE CONVERSION TO CHRIST OF GENERAL MANUEL ANTONIO NORIEGA

THE CONVERSION TO CHRIST OF GENERAL MANUEL ANTONIO NORIEGA

“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 doesn’t 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 repented.

Question: Would Jesus have forgiven Adolf Hitler? Perhaps survivors of the holocaust couldn’t…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.

Let’s 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 Lord? General Manuel Antonio Noriega was found guilty of international drug trafficking and sentenced to 40 years in the federal penitentiary.

“Noriega, a former Roman Catholic known to have dabbled in the occult, embraced evangelical Christianity and prayed for forgiveness in a three-hour session in May 1990, the Times reported.

“I received Jesus Christ as my Saviour the 15th May of 1990 at 11 a.m.,” he wrote in letters about his conversion. In some letters, he wrote that he had suffered from “illusions of grandeur and a heart hardened to the Gospel.”

His attorney confirmed his conversion at the time, dismissing questions about whether it was all a ploy to curry favor with the judge. “There are people who are just cynical about everything,” the attorney told the Times.”

A prison guard witnessed Noriega’s life after his conversion “I’ve seen seriousness and I’ve seen the lack of it,” said one of the guards who monitor the fallen leader daily. “I haven’t seen any dedication or seriousness greater than his.” 

Stop the questions!

It’s 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 baptism in Florida in an A.R.M. baptistry?

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 prisoner’s hands. On January 10, 1990, the editor of the Soul Winner’s 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 attorneys.

On September 25, 1992, Brannon wrote to the Honorable William M. Hoeveler, united States District Judge in Miami, pleading the court’s 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 Honor’s 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 Noriega’s 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.M’s 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.

Noriega’s baptism almost didn’t 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.’s 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 Hernandez 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.

“It’s one of those sacred moments,” Brannon said. “I could feel God speaking that He was well pleased.”

Noriega was allowed to give a brief testimony and be served the Lord’s 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 me:

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.”

Sources:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/05/30/for-two-evangelical-christians-manuel-antonio-noriega-became-the-ultimate-jailhouse-convert/?utm_term=.8357612c5687

http://www.arm.org:80/bk/noriega.htm  (CAUTION: ARM holds to a doctrinal position resembling baptismal regeneration, which do not)

Question. Are you saved? Have you made peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ? God made His plan of salvation simple enough for anyone to understand:

First, believe that you are a Hell-bound sinner that is totally unacceptable to God in your present condition: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God . . . the wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23; 6:23)

Second, believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins so you could be acceptable to God through Him: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)

Third, believe that Jesus Christ will save you if you will simply believe in Him with your whole heart and call on His name right now: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in  thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation . . . For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:9-10, 13)

If you have just trusted Christ as your Lord and Saviour, please contact Dr. Mike for a FREE 8 lesson Foundations of Theology Bible study to help get you started right in your New Life as a believer in and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Categories: Evangelism, Salvation
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