Jail Time in Brazil
What an encouragement you are to me! THANK YOU for the flood of prayerful and uplifting Facebook messages, emails and texts as word got out via Facebook that I was getting sick! Don't worry, I'm doing great! My doctor sent me here with medicine "just in case" so I'm well taken care of. In fact, Jeff and I have been able to maintain the full itinerary that Pastor Eduardo prepared for our time in Porto Alegre and countless people have been coming to Christ at our many outreaches in schools, churches and community centers.
I spent 2 days this week in a maximum-security prison for teenage boys. These boys are very hard-core, “worst of the worst” offenders, murderers and such. I was told it would be very dangerous to group them together because of the gangs within the prison so I would have to speak to each unit separately. This would mean being there for two days speaking over and over again to individual groups. They told me that these kids don’t accept outsiders very well and that they may not be interested in what I had to say.
As we entered the first unit, we were locked into a cell that felt like a cage the size of a master bedroom with 17 inmates packed inside. To say the least, I was feeling nervous and a little inadequate to handle these violent boys who have committed such unthinkable crimes. I prayed silently for the Lord to bless me like Samuel: "The Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground." (I Sam 3:19)
As I looked around the room I saw curious and compassionate faces looking at me while trying to maintain a thug-like posture. It was then that it finally hit me – these are just little boys, babies. Their faces were so young and innocent that it simply broke my heart. How could these have murdered. How could these have raped??
I began my talk by explaining my disability and the struggles I face on a daily basis and paralleled my being in a wheelchair full-time and confined in one position to being in a prison. I told them about how Jesus gives me the strength to overcome the painful circumstances in my life… how He gives me hope. I ended by saying, “The choices we make can change the story of our lives” and gently reminded them that it’s because of a choice that they once made why they were in this jail. Some boys were crying at this point. I told them that our story continues as long as we’re alive. I shared with them that the most important choice that I’ve ever made in my life was to open my heart to Jesus. They were so attentive; you could hear a pin drop! In the end, many gave their lives to Christ! And so it went, cell block after cell block – even in the girls jail – lives were being changed.
Well, today is our last day in Porto Alegre. Tomorrow we fly to Vitoria, Brazil where we’ll be working for the next 10 days. Thank you for keeping us in your prayers and for supporting us in this work. We would not and could not be here, reaching people for Christ, without you!
In His Strength,
Posted by Bernadette at June 19, 2011 04:46 PM