Friday, November 25, 2011

As good as a newly released DVD

I usually go to Florence's to leave my cell phone, and then we walk together to the prison.  

On this day, I went to the drugstore before going to Florence’s.  I asked the man at the counter what the medicine that beautiful lady had showed me was for.  He said, “Ulcers.”  I asked him about the dosage the nurse had written down, and asked him how much that amount would be.  It was the American equivalent of 71 cents, so I didn’t even think twice about purchasing those meds.

At Florence’s, I met up with two ladies from America who were here with a team from Tennessee.  They were going to walk with us to the prison today, but first we had an errand to run.

There are now 10 babies in prison with their mommas, and they are allowed to be there because they are 18 months or younger.  In fact, one child had been born on Sunday, and we visited the mother on Tuesday in her cell/room.  (The baby was beautiful, by the way!)

Florence had heard from one of the mothers that they needed soap.  There are no diapers, of course, and during teaching, I have watched as a baby urinates on the towel that his mother holds in her lap.  

All mothers walk around with towels to “catch” things.  Anyway, their wash load is a whole lot larger than the other women’s. 

Florence wanted to buy the baby-mommas some soap, but I told her I didn’t feel right doing that and leaving the other ladies out.  So we walked to the market and inquired about prices on large boxes of soap.  We finally found one at a decent price (or so we thought), so we handed the money over. 

Apparently, we had misunderstood, and we owed more.  What a blessing to have those two visitors with us who chipped in money from their church to finish the purchase of soap.

We carried the soap box through town, taking turns until we got to the prison, about a mile a way. 

We arrived at 2, and again, the ladies had not eaten.  But this time, there apparently was food coming.  Eight women walked over to the men’s side to pick the food, and then they came back and went and fetched water at the well.  

M**** (the lead prisoner) brought benches out for us to sit on under the tree, and we sat and listened to the ladies talk.  Florence jumped in their conversations and heard more of their incarceration stories:

*A husband brought a second wife into the home that this first wife had built, and so she burned her house down so they couldn’t live there.  The husband brought her in.

*A six-year old boy died of malaria, and the father blamed the mother and brought her to prison  (have I told you before that they believe that every death was caused by some person, either directly or indirectly by a curse?)

*One woman was pregnant with twins.  She tried to abort them, but only killed one.  She was put in prison, and then she delivered the second one while locked up.  He is 17 months old and he still can’t walk, and he has trouble breathing.

*Mob justice killed a man, and one woman was accused of arranging the mob.  She’s waiting for a date in high court, but people have been known to wait 5 years

*One lady was brought in for cutting / slashing the co-wife with a panga.

{Obviously, we can see, that God intended man to have one wife for a good, many reasons!}

Sitting under the tree was a nice time just to hang out and visit, even though their stories aren't so nice.

*Granted, a few were brought in for murder or some other crimes I won't name here, and I'm not naive enough to think all these women are innocent, but I do believe some are.

The food came.  They ate quickly.  We went inside for singing and Bible study.

They also sang a song for the two visiting ladies from America.  The chorus was, “Welcome to Prison,” and it cracked me up.  I asked them, when they were finished, how come I didn’t get such a song when I came, and they thought that was hilarious.

I prayed in Lugbara and then started the day’s lesson.  Immediately, a lady stopped and commented that she didn’t understand Lugbara, and she only spoke Alur (she hadn’t come in our study before).  So we arranged for a girl in the front to translate for her.

I would speak, and as Florence started her Lugbara translation, the other helper would start her Alur translation for the lady.  I’m just glad the lady cared enough to speak up, because I found out later there were over 8 Alur speakers in there, and none of them said anything.

I used Becky Miller’s illustrated book Creation today.  You would have thought I was showing a newly released DVD.  They were glued to the book.  They loved the illustrations.  God, angels, Adam, and Eve are all drawn as Africans.  It is really beautifully done!

Receiving the books last April!

At the end, I told them I had some questions for them, but Florence mis-translated me, and asked them if they had quesitons.  Boy did they:

*Were they really naked?
*What was the Tree of Life for?
*What did Adam eat?  We were told that food dropped from heaven, right in front of him, like chickens, and pigs, etc.
*We have heard that the fruit Eve ate wasn’t really a fruit, but a sexual sin.  Was it?

I finally did get to my questions, and they had fun raising their hands to answer.  I told them at the end, they all got a passing grade today, and they liked that.

Next, we told them about the soap.  The bars are about a foot and a half long, and we had determined to give the baby-mommas one-half bar each and everyone else got a third of each bar.  So Florence, the two volunteers and I broke apart the bars until they were all in a pile.

Florence prayed, and then one-by-one, they came up for their soap.  Most left after that, but about 12 remained because they wanted to give us prayer requests.  Seven of them were translated through an Alur inmate.  That whole process took about 20-30 minutes.

The last one to come up was the sickly girl who said that after I prayed over her last time she has started feeling better.  Praise Jesus!  She also thanked God for me, God sending us, and for the medicine I had brought her today.

We walked outside, and there seemed to be a frenzy of clothes-washing taking place.  A few of the ladies thanked us to much and told us that next time we saw them, they would be looking so “smart” in their ”new” uniform.

The food situation isn’t much better.  They are supposed to be fed at 1pm and 5pm (just twice a day), in their rooms after they eat, and then silence from 7pm on.  The nursing mothers are not getting enough food.  The babies pull on their mom’s chests during Bible study trying to get something, but they are flat and empty.

When you think about it, pray for these women to be protected from the evil spirits that enjoy hanging around in that dark place.  These women need a chance to hear the Truth and have some peace without always being tormented.

Beans Every Day

On our first Friday at the prison, after talking with the ladies, they informed us that no one came on Tuesdays or Thursdays, so the following week (and since), we have adopted those days.
As we were arriving (at 2pm) the following week, their food was also arriving (one hour late).  The guards started to yell to tell them to eat quickly, but we assured the guards we would wait as long as possible.  And truth be told, they were pretty quick eaters.

One lady made me laugh as she raised her hands and spoke to God saying, “ God, look at the beans we eat every day.  Can’t you change this.”  But seriously, I understand her plea.  Can you imagine having beans and posho (cornmeal cooked with water to a dough-like consistency) every day for the last 2, 3 or 5 years? 

After some amazing dancing and singing, I prayed in Lugbara, and then Florence gave her testimony to the ladies.  Then, before I finished C2C (Creation to Christ), we handed out the scripture cards.  The ladies were so pleased.  There was some arguing over who got which card when some ladies had the same name, but I was able to tell (from their requests), which card belonged to who.

Since I couldn’t learn all their names the first day, I had put some description of them in my book to help me remember them, and that came in handy. 

We finished the Creation to Christ story with the Resurrection of Jesus, and then I told the story of the Prodigal Son. 

Florence then told the ladies if they would like their scripture cards read to them, she and I would have two lines.  One for those who wanted to hear it in English and another for those who needed to hear it in Lugbara.  I was surprised that I had more ladies in my line, but I quickly figured out why. 

Those who wanted me to read their scripture were about 5.  The last 5 had interpreters with them, and they came to tell me they had to leave to go get the food last time, and they had missed giving me their requests.   They too wanted to give me their requests in hopes of receiving a scripture card.

It was good to talk to the ladies one-on-one in this way, because not only could I stop and pray for each one individually, I also got to directly ask them about their relationship with Jesus when they were telling me their issues.  So many of them battle demons and bad spirits, so with the help of the Holy Spirit, I try to pray strategically for each of them.

The last girl who waited to see me was so beautiful and precious.  Everyone seems to care for her because she has been sick.  Her fellow prisoners all show mercy toward her.   Her blood has been tested twice, and nurses can’t find anything wrong.  She told me all her symptoms and that the nurse had given her magnesium (because it was free), but told her she needed a pill to take for 10 days, telling her she had an ulcer (a common diagnosis given by nurses here…along with malaria…you never know if you are getting a true diagnosis or not).  She showed me where the nurse had written what she needed, and I wrote it down, just in case it was something I could do.

It was a beautiful day of ministry.

Tougher Spot

After I took my last language evaluation, I began only attending "language class" three days a week instead of five. 

Florence and I also thought a good way to practice language was with other people (go figure), rather than sitting with pencil and paper, one-on-one.

We prayed about what God would have us do, and we BOTH felt God leading us to the same place, even though we had never talked about it before!

I'm in a tough spot because I can't tell you the names of these women, but I love them and I want to tell you their stories (the best I can), and the tougher spot they are in.

They are the ladies at the women's prison.

In orientation, I was told, of course, that I can't take pictures, use these women's names, take my cell phone in, or give them my personal info.

The guard told us there was only one day (Friday) when we could come, but a man higher up, thought there were three free days.

We decided we would take the Friday and continue praying.

Our scheduled time was set from 2-4pm, because they are fed one of their two meals at one o'clock.

But first...we visited on a Monday to see what other kind of ministry was being done, and to see the process.

When it's time to meet, they go into a designated room and either sit or stand waiting for 5 ladies to grab some instruments.

Their instruments are three goat-skin covered drums, a closed tin double tetrahedron (think 2 connected triangular prisms), filled with rocks, and an abacus-type shaker made with bottle caps.

Most of the ladies danced and sang joyfully. 

They are all made to come, so you can imagine some aren't too happy.

The lady that was teaching, the day we observed was from another country besides America.  She was a little difficult to understand and she had the lead-lady prisoner (the one who keeps the peace) interpreting for her.

Florence, who could understand the interpretation, said the scripture was not being repeated correctly.  Scary!!  Another great reminder how important it is to learn the language.

So, Florence and I left, prayed, and then I went home to ask God what plans He had for these women.

I know that two different churches visit the prison during the week, so I know they knew some things, but yet, I think God wanted me to start at the beginning.

When we arrived on Friday, the women still had not been fed.  13 of the 58 women usually walk over to the men's side, where over 600 men are, and bring back their portion of food and water.

Today, there was nothing.


I'm wondering if the men got fed...

I think that not feeding 600 men would create a riot situation, don't you?

Anyway, after 20 minutes the guards just told the ladies to go into the room for worship.

Florence and I felt awful. 

We didn't want them being made to listen when they were hungry.

Have I mentioned there are 9 babies in the prison, too?

[As I write this, there are now 10, because one was born two weeks ago].

The babies are sucking on mommas who don't have enough milk because they don't get enough food.

They sang songs with joy.  Beating the drums, and shaking the shakers.  The lead girl who had interpreted the last time, led them in what songs they were singing.  And she pretty much told everyone what to do, but not in a harsh way.  I liked her immediately.

I greeted them after singing, and then prayed in their language.  I then introduced myself in their language and Florence introduced herself.  I told them in their language I was going to tell them my story and then part of God’s story.
I gave my testimony in their language and then we started the Creation to Christ story.  

The only problem with "their language," is that I later discovered there were about 4 languages represented.

We got all the way to the prophets and 400 years of silence, and then we stopped and told them the story of the four soils and asked them to identify which soil they were.

Them talking about themselves led to prayer requests.  Some ladies left, but most stayed to give requests.  A lot of them were prayers for their children who were either back with family or whereabouts unknown.  Most of them are awaiting their day in court, and some have been waiting 2 years or more!  Many admitted to their crimes; some said they don’t love God enough;  a few said they didn’t have peace; and many wanted prayer that they wouldn’t wish revenge on the people that had put them in prison.

I wrote down every request and every ladies’ name. 

I went home, and over the weekend, I wrote a scripture in English and in Lugbara for every lady who had a prayer request, and I made sure the scripture could speak truth to the situations they mentioned.  I decorated each card so that they would want to keep and treasure it, and it was such a pleasure for me.

(It turns out that the ladies who left, went to see if food (from the men’s side) was available for at least one meal , but there was none, so they went without food this day.  Be thankful that our taxes insure that prisoners get fed in our country.  They are people’s sons, daughters, mothers, sisters, fathers, and brothers.)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Another visitor

Jack, my piki driver, said one day, "I think we will be having a visitor soon."

If you are familiar with my previous "visitor" experience, you will be glad to know that I didn't ask if someone was coming to stay with his family or if a thief was expected to break in.

This time I knew...his wife was going to give birth.

A few days later, Jack told me that Gasi was at the hospital, so Florence and I rushed over.

We found out that Gasi was having contractions really far apart, but the baby wasn't coming.  But since the baby seemed too large to the medical "authorities," they wouldn't let her go home.  (She had her Maama Kit with her, ready to go, though)

So we sat.


Under a tree.

This is Florence and all of Gasi's (and Jack's aunts) belongings.  Since you don't get an assigned room to yourself, you have to carry your belongings with you wherever you go (including the charcoal and pot for cooking).  The rooms are just large, camp-style with wall-to-wall beds.

Below is Gasi.


In labor.

This is Abuku.  She is my favorite of all of Jack's aunts.  She is funny, loves to laugh, and since she doesn't have any children of her own, she helps everyone else take care of theirs.

She loves having conversations with me in Lugbara.  She cannot speak English, so hanging out with her is definitely good practice for me.

Her name means "still the one to bury."  Her father had 5 girls, and when she born, the relatives commented that even though she was a girl, she would "still be the one to bury" her father.

Below is Driwaru.  Her name means "coming out of an accidental curse."  Her family believes the mother was accidentally cursed, and when Driwaru was born, they took it as a sign, that the mother was "coming out of it."

The last one is Nyakuru.  Her name means "still for the soil."  I wasn't getting the meaning totally.  It was because her first sibling died, and maybe she was a replacement ???

Because of these names, I recalled all the other names I have learned since being here.

Sadly, relatives often give these morose, sad names to children.

Gasi (Jack's wife's name) means "refusing," because she wasn't wanted.

Bako - "has no relative"

Adriko - "has no brother"

Amviko - "has no sister"

Anguyo - "no place" (the wife doesn't have a piece of land and they don't feel welcome at home)

Lekuru - "not liked"

Draru - "death" (sickly child / mom almost died / or no proper treatment after exile)

Agasiru - "refusing"  (means child's mother's relative didn't want her to marry that man)

Candiru - "sadness"  or "problem"

Ocokoru - "misery"

E'yotaru - "tolerating problems"

Okuonzi - "bad woman" (the child's mother given this name by the father's relatives)

Aziku - "she doesn't work for the clan" (also about the child's mother)

Angudubo - "place is bushy" (all family has died and no one keeps the grounds)

Ojuruko - "termite" (the child is not human; it's a termite for the ground b/c it won't live.  This name was given in the instance that her two older siblings had died)

I've even met an Alpha Omega (he was the first and last child of his mother...she died.

Well, now we come to two days later.  I arrived at the hospital to check on Gasi, and Abuku was sitting under the tree outside, holding the new baby!!

Right as I started talking to them, Jack drives up with a driver in a car taxi.  It is to bring everyone home from the hospital.   

She had just given birth THREE hours before, and now she was headed home!

They all invited me to ride with them, so Gasi, the baby, the three aunts and I got in the taxi for the journey home.

They dropped me off at my road, and I went to see them two days later, with Kylie, bearing gifts of food for the family.

He is a beautiful baby.

Jack, Gasi, Sayida, and Jamal (who was given his name one and a half weeks later).