Monday, August 1, 2011

To Hear the Groans of Prisoners

Psalm 102:19-20
“The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death.”

5 July, 2011

As we met for breakfast we learned that Jan was not feeling well. John went to talk to her and she decided to stay behind for the day, even though it was a difficult decision for her to make. As our medical person, John stayed back too, which turned out to be a blessing for him since he was able to catch up on some much needed sleep. Jan slept most of the day and was feeling well enough to come to dinner this evening –praising God for that!

Today our ministry was to the women of Luzira Prison through Saphan’s Life Transforming Prison Ministry. We traveled there, stopping first at a bank in Kampala to exchange our money.

At the prison we were greeted by the warden and informed about how the prison operates and how Saphan (through Heart of God International) is helping them and the women of the prison. They expressed their thanks to us for our ministry to the women there and the provision of things that have made life more bearable for many of the inmates. They are willing to allow Saphan to continue his ministry because they consider it very valuable for the women. We aren't allowed to take photos inside the prison, however the warden took many, and promised to forward some to us. We are still waiting (hoping) to receive them.

We viewed and purchased some handmade items from the prison store, (pictured at the top of the page)

Next, we entered the prison, passing guards in formation on both sides as we passed, and walked to the classroom building. As we came down the path the prisoners began drumming and singing, dancing and trilling! After we filed in and things calmed down a bit Denise addressed the group and introduced us. Then some of the students sang for us, “How Excellent Your Name Is.” I had tears streaming down my face as I observed the joy in the faces and the passion in the voices of these poor and oppressed women. They sang a couple more songs putting all their heart and soul into their singing. Denise shared with the entire group the story of Joseph’s imprisonment on false charges, and how God used that experience and his faithfulness to God throughout to bless others, and in the end, received rich rewards and blessings for himself, as well. I’m sure it was an encouraging message for the prisoners to hear.

Next, we broke up into smaller groups. I led the student group, and Bobby and Abriana joined me. I spoke to the women using Psalm 40:2 and Psalm 103, assuring them that God is merciful, compassionate and willing to offer full forgiveness. I then explained salvation through Jesus Christ. As I finished, the interpreter who was also the praise leader for the group we heard from earlier spoke up.

“I want you to know that most of the prison students have trusted in Jesus Christ. It happens like this: we come to know Christ, then we want an education because we want to become the best person we can be for Him. We don’t want to go back to our old ways. We want to be good citizens. We want to learn to read so that we can read and understand the Bible. Trusting in Jesus gives us hope for a better future.” Once again tears came. Just before we broke into small groups Saphan had informed us that this woman, so full of joy and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, is scheduled to be executed by hanging in November!

We listened as several of the women thanked us for coming and then listed the greatest needs of the school. In expressing her thanks one woman said, “Thank you for coming to share God’s love with us. Most of the time we feel like the garbage of the world, but you made us feel special. You let us know that we are loved.” That statement alone made the day worthwhile!

After this we handed each prison student a book bag containing a New Testament, a pen, and a pencil.

Each woman, as she received the bag, bowed low before us. It is a gesture of deep respect and gratitude, but one that is humbling for me, for who am I that I should be so privileged to serve women of such great faith and courage? Many of the women left us with tears in their eyes.

Before leaving for the day we donated 25 mattresses and 10 thermoses for the HIV/AIDS group and the Mothers.

Chalkboards were purchased for the prison school as well, but they will arrive a few days after today’s visit. One of the most critical needs is protein supplements for the women who are sick, pregnant, or nursing. We will be in prayer over how to best meet this need.

Tonight before dinner each prison group shared some of their experiences. The Mothers group, the HIV/AIDS group, and the Needy and Alone group all had some very sad stories of injustice, separation from children, rejection, desperation.

We learned from Saphan that the formation of the guards as we entered the prison today is reserved for only three people -the president, the prison general, and the minister of internal affairs. We aren't sure why they did this, but perhaps it was a tribute to our God, the King of Kings!

It was an emotional day for all, both as we experienced it and as we shared about it at the end of the day. After dinner Saphan shared with the group more about his ministry and the challenges they face. Then he prepared us for what we will be doing tomorrow…

I should mention that we all ordered from the menu today. John ordered ox liver -something I would never order or make for him -and loved it! I was very happy with my Lubowa Special Steak. No of us opted for the Sand Witches offered on the menu. :)

Andrea ordered tilapia, and got the whole thing!

We all get served passion fruit juice with our meals. It's delicious!

Since some of us bought baskets made for kaloo (a millet cake made for special guests), Some was prepared for us so we could try it. We appreciated seeing and tasting it, but I'm glad I didn't have to eat a whole basket full!

6 July, 2011
We traveled quite a distance north of Kampala to visit another prison –co-ed this time. We went to visit one woman in particular, a pregnant mother of four children accused of murder (Wrongly so, our prison ministers believe).

Before reaching the prison we stopped at a market along the way where we bought some chapati (a fried bread) and some other things.

Aaron (still wearing the clothes he arrived in) asked about buying some clothes and was told, "we don't have huge!" They did offer to sew two blankets together for him to make a pair of pants, however!

When we arrived at the prison the officials unexpectedly asked us to address the entire group. Denise once again spoke to them about Joseph’s imprisonment and how God used it for good in his life as well as for His own glory. Aaron gave an impromptu presentation of the Gospel. Saphan then gave an invitation to accept Christ, and 17 prisoners stood! In order to follow up with these individuals, those who accepted Christ were asked to write their names on a sheet of paper. When the paper was collected many more names were on the list –seven of them Muslims, who may have been afraid to stand in the presence of other Muslims. So we don’t know the exact number, but many confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ today! (I am so thankful to serve Jesus Christ out of love, not fear!) We had a woman with us who lives in the area and participates in Saphan’s ministry. It is encouraging to know that Christians who live in the area will disciple these new brothers and sisters in Christ.

We left the prison and went to visit the mother’s children, now living with their grandmother in the bush. We followed roads that led to paths, until at last our vans were following a foot path with vegetation sweeping both sides of the vans –quite an experience! Below you will see the path as it looked after we reached the clearing.

We took clothing for the children, a large bag of corn flour, a bag of beans, several toys for the children, some pineapples, and much more.

This precious grandmother was overwhelmed. She invited us all into her house, got down on her knees, and told us (through an interpreter) that she knew that only God could have brought us to her, and now she couldn’t deny His love for her any longer. She wanted to confess her sins before us and put her faith in Jesus Christ!

One of the women who accompanied us bought some of the grandmother's chickens, so they traveled back to town in the van with us.

Before heading back to Lubowa Gardens we stopped at Abby and David’s house. Abby is Alex’ older sister who is involved in the prison ministry. Hannah (Saphan and Alex’s daughter) lives with them and attends school nearby. Abby and David served us a “by the way,” consisting of papaya, pineapple, bananas, and corn.

It was very refreshing, and a welcome break before traveling back to Entebbe. Saphan remembered that we liked corn with butter, so they had plenty of that on hand, but instead of salt, he had sugar! Corn in Uganda is hard and tasteless. They say it is for chewing, not for eating. They eat it after dinner or as a “by the way.”

Abby welcomed us to her home and shared her testimony. She is older than I and just accepted Christ 5 years ago. Her husband is “not yet saved.” They are well off by Ugandan standards. David is retired from a government position and Abby runs a nursery, selling seedlings.

David addressed our group as well, and welcomed us to his home. He also mentioned that he is not saved, but added, “I will be saved in my own time.” I pray that is true! John and I had a good conversation with him.

The children of the neighborhood came running to see the mzungus (white people), and the time spent playing with them was mutually enjoyed.

We returned after dark and some of the group rode bodas from the highway up to the hotel, which was quite exciting for them!

It was a joyful day in Uganda and in Heaven! We are privileged to be here, witnessing the Holy Spirit’s work and the saving grace of Jesus Christ in the lives of these precious people.

We got word as we traveled back to the hotel this evening that Aaron’s bag was located and can be retrieved tomorrow –the day we will leave here for Tororo! I’m sure that Aaron is pleased, and the timing is certainly another miracle, although it pales when compared to the other miracles of the day.

As a postscript I must add that the imprisoned mother gave birth to twins four days after our visit! She and her family remain in our thoughts and prayers.

Here are some sights seen along the way today. The first is a flock of storks!

1 comment:

  1. Bless you, bless you, bless you! You'll probably never know just how much your visits to those dear ones has meant. "Well done, good and faithful servants!"



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