i was alright until they proudly walked me down the path to their "minimum security" dorm.
i was ok with the prison thing.
i know people get locked up...i know some are innocent, some are guilty...in this corrupt society it's all about what kind of justice you can BUY.
so i shared with them that a palace can be a prison, and a prison can be a palace...if Jesus is there.
good stuff. happy happy happy. they love what i share, i love their smiling and their singing and their laughter.
it's getting to be time to leave, you have to stick to a schedule when you enter the maximum security area.
our guides, susan and grace, are minimum. (they get one brown t-shirt every year that says so.)
they escort us out to the perimeter of the prison area, where employees live and it's really much more like a little town than a prison.
green trees, gardens, kids laughing and playing, traffic on the little roads. quite beautiful, really. my mind says, "am i really in a prison compound?"
we walk down to their dorm.
"it used to be a chicken-coop", says grace matter-of-factly. "we had to fix it all up."
ah, i see.
we enter a gated compound, and grace introduces us to the ubiquitous (obviously necessary) guard. fine.
i'm fine so far.
i love these women. i love their stories. i'm fine. no really, i'm fine.
we enter the "chicken coop"...a cement floored, tin-roofed building filled with bunkbeds and.....wait a minute.
it looks like a summer camp...a few clothes, plain sheets, each bed made neatly...maybe more like a military barracks, except with a few feminine touches. my heart starts to crack a bit.
susan proudly shows us her corner- she's a "lifer", so she has a corner to herself. a simple bed, plastic drawers, a tiny tv, a little closet. her life is in this corner.
wait. wait. wait.
this woman has 5 kids. she has been away from them for 16 years; the youngest was 2 when she went to prison. she lives here, in this barracks...this sweet woman of God, in leadership in the "church on the inside"...this is her home. surrounded by 30 other inmates.
she has no kitchen in which to cook for her family. her kids don't have bedrooms nearby where she can hear them in the night. no husband to keep her warm in that lonely little bed. no one can visit her unless they go thru security, as we did, and leave everything behind...cell phone, purse, wallet. SHE HAS A NEW GRANDSON THAT WAS BORN YESTERDAY - her daughter phoned to tell her.
this is susan's home.
i have 5 kids. i am a wife and mother. I WOULD DIE if i had to live in the corner of a refurbished chicken coop with 30 other women and be locked up at night.
yet susan stood there and said, sincerely and with gentle wisdom on her face, "God brought me here to rest. He will let me out when it's His time."
i stood there in the sun, looking at her sweet eyes so full of grace and beauty, and i shook on the inside with the terror of the grace of God. a criminal- and what she did was indeed a crime, she honestly confessed to us- but a precious daughter of God in leadership in her community and church in the prison.
i am undone.
as we were leaving, she showed us a little "sari-sari" store inside the chicken coop. soap, snacks, necessities of life were for sale around this other woman's bunkbed. susan said simply, "they lock us up at night, and if we get hungry or we need something, we can buy it here."
they lock us up at night.
that is what finished me off right there.
what must it feel like to be locked in at night. alone.
i cannot imagine. i cannot really even go there in my head.
we walk off down the road with them; they are so thankful that we are just hanging around and visiting with them after the service, instead of just taking off. they are so grateful for love and acceptance and help.
i am a selfish pig.
i am convicted to the core of my being.
i am "free". but susan, grace, malu...they are the ones who are really free.
and i stand in awe of these giants, who are so NOT FREE, and yet who are gracious and loving and grateful and sweet and tender and ....... more. more than i am. more than i could ever be.
i have no more to even say. this is gonna take a while to get over.