Greetings from Entebbe!
Today is Wednesday, another beautiful day to serve the Lord!
Yesterday, the team was at Luzira Women’s Prison where they split into groups to minister to the women prisoners. The problem in the prison system in Uganda is that many women who are incarcerated are done so without a formal hearing or any formal charges being brought against them. They are simply accused and put into prison. Many wait years before ever appearing before a judge — some never do. They may be randomly released without any notice simply because their accuser changed their minds and decided to drop charges. Or, they may live out their lives within the prison without ever knowing for sure why they’re there.
Since I stayed behind yesterday with a very upset stomach (complete with vomiting), Sharlyn shared the Word using Psalm 146. Worship was led by a young woman condemned to die in October. From the reports, it was the most intense worship this Team had ever experienced. Genuine. Selfless. Focused. Powerful.
After the worship service, more personal interaction was allowed by the prison officials so each woman would have an opportunity to share what was on her heart.
Group 1: Elderly & Physically Ill
Group 2: HIV
Group 3: Mothers with Children
Group 4: Students
Each group was asked to share with the Team about their needs. You would have thought they would be asking for lawyers or help to get out. But, no! They asked for soap, underwear, toothpaste, sanitary products. You see, they are issued a uniform and they get 2 meals a day, and that’s it. Heart of God East Africa (HGEA) had made arrangements to purchase some mattresses (a 2-3″ foam mat) for some of the sickest prisoners. The prison eagerly allowed us to present them; they will decide who receives one, so pray with us that those most in need will end up with a mattress.
The team who visited the students were amazed at the eagerness of the women to better themselves so when they were finally released, they would be able to make a better lifestyle for themselves and their families, if possible. HGEA presented some chalkboards to the students to use for their classes. All students are taught by students … the biggest gruop were the women at the Primary 1 level (probably equivalent to kindergarten/first grade) — women who were overwhelmingly between the 40 and 55 age range. Education has not been a priority in Uganda until recent years. Their requests were for pencils, notebooks, and books for their library.
Several of the prisoners are condemned to die by execution while many others are living with a death sentence of HIV/AIDS. The government gives them some treatment while in prison, but because of the feeding schedule, it is difficult for the AIDS patients to digest the medicine. A few months ago, HGEA purchased thermoses for some of these patients to keep some of their food warm until it was the scheduled time to receive their dose of anti-viral meds. These challenges are ones that we would never think possible in the US since we have laws to protect prisoners’ rights — many times, too many rights in my opinion, especially compared to what we see here in Uganda.
There is a rule that if a woman is arrested and imprisoned while she is pregnant, she may keep her child until the baby turns 18 months. At that point, the child is sent out of the prison and the mother may or may not know what happened to her child. One of the most heartbreaking things is to see a woman nursing her child, loving it, and caring for it when it means she may not eat or be properly fed because she gives up her portion for her child … then, one day the guard comes in and takes the child from her arms, walks to the front gate of the grounds and sets the child outside the gate. If the prisoner has family she is in touch with (many times not the case), the family may come to claim the child. If the prisoner has not been able to get word to a family member or friend, the child will be picked up by the first passer-by. This is where witchdoctors (yes, they still exist) will find children for their sacrifices. HGEA’s prison ministry is now being informed when a child is released and is working hard to find placement for every child being set outside the prison. The goal is to build a house and hire former prisoners to run the house to care for the children until their mothers are released. Please pray with us about this … it is a desperate need. Also, a new outfit was given to each baby — in most cases, it was the first gift the baby had ever received. The mothers also asked for diapers and vasoline for the babies.
We were told last night that probably 85-90% of the women in Luzira Women’s Prison are saved and committed Christians. The team witnessed a lot of women yesterday who lived humbly before their God. It was very evident when they shared their wants and desires … few were selfish, all were grateful for what God had already done.
Today the team is visiting the family of the worship leader who is condemned to die in October. Her story is very sad and, unfortunately, verified. Her husband died from alcohol poisoning but since he was alive when he was dropped off at her house and died the next morning the village accused her of murdering him. She is believing God for a miracle of justice and truth. Please pray with us for this woman. Pray that God will move on her behalf … that however He chooses to do it, He opens the prison doors and sets this captive free.
Well, family and friends, that’s my update for today. I stayed behind again with a stomach that is out of sorts and the long drives on the dirt roads would not bode well with me. I hate that I’m missing some of this, but at least I can stay behind and pray and intercede for God to use the rest of the team. I don’t know if this is a residual effect of the typhoid I had after I returned from India or if it’s just a combination of things. Either way, I am happy to pray and not hinder the team with my stomach issues! <smile>
Love to all,