As we pulled off one of the main highways in Jamaica that believe me are not such to talk about, on to a dirt road so full of pot holes the bottom of our van was touching, I had a hard time believing this was the road into the largest women’s prison in Jamaica, sure enough after a few minutes there it was, and what a surprise, it was like the Pirates of the Caribbean all over again, straight ahead of us was a fort made of stones, with cannon ports all along the front. It had to be built in the 1600’s and would have made an excellent tourist attraction .The old fort did not have an entrance door only a tunnel that horse’s and wagon’s must have used quite often.
We parked the van and proceeded on foot to the front with the chaplain, to where a guard was standing next to the tunnel, before long a lady guard on the inside swung open one of the large steel doors that covered the front of the tunnel. Don & Judy McKay, Jonathan English, the chaplain, and I headed through the dark stone tunnel that appeared to be a resting place out of the sun, where two mangy looking dogs laid lazily up against the wall and two young lady guards sat with their chairs leaning back resting on the wall, looking like they were bored to death, I would guess 8-10 hours in that tunnel would be a lone day. After we came to the end of the tunnel we turned to our left and walked into a make shift office approximately 8×12 in size. All that was in the office was a table to the left and a desk with a lady behind in at the back, above her head was a large caulk board that showed the number of inmates that were housed in this prison. In white caulk the first line at the bottom said 161, than on the next line, above it at 9:00 am it changed to 159, at 10:00 am which was on the third line it said 157, while we were waiting to be cleared a police escort van came in through the tunnel with lights flashing, and out climbed two young ladies in hand cuffs, that did not look old enough to even be in a ladies jail, so needless to say the board was changed from 157 to 159 once again. While all this was going on five more mangy dogs that badly needed some meat on their bones, were quick to jump up from there lazy sleep and get out of the way.
The lady behind the desk was given our names by the chaplain, there was no I.D. required, no metal detector to clear, I did not even have to empty my pockets. Then the warden came to meet us and have us escorted to the chapel. As we walked across the dusty graved yard toward a high fence with the top of it covered with razor wire, that ran from one side of the prison to the other, I could not help but notice all the little shops on my right, against the prison wall. They had been donated by different prison ministries, there was a sewing room, a craft room and a few others, all with signs over the doors saying what they were for and which ministry donated the funds needed to build them. It was not long before we walked up to a paddle locked door that was a part of the fence, the guard opened the lock and let us go through.
When we arrived in the chapel, I was pleasantly surprised although there was no glass in the windows and no air-conditioning, it was nice and clean with a pleasant breeze blowing softly across the chapel, and the seating was great, with lots a room for everyone, at the front of the chapel was a stage, with seating for the choir. They were all seated in their proper place and ready to start singing. While I sat waiting for things to get started an older lady dressed in an old dirty yellow dress, with a yellow bandana that matched, tied over her hair, came in the front entrance and walk slowly through the chapel in kind of a daze, she never stopped or looked up, just kept walking until she went out the back door. Judy saw that I was watching her and said her sentence has been served for quite some time, but she had nowhere to go. I could not but feel sadness for her. It was plain to see if she was not already, she would soon be a senior citizen. There were other ladies carrying their babies in their arms, at this prison if you had a baby while in prison you were allowed to keep it with for four months.
The praise and worship started with two of the ladies from the choir. When they stopped singing, there were a few introduction’s done, and then the choir sang a special song that they had practiced for quite some time. WOW, I could not believe my ears, the song was so beautiful that you could feel the Spirit all through it, I closed my eyes and felt God, as I prayed that he would give me what I needed to save a lost soul, I actually forgot I was in a prison for a while, it was like sitting in front of a full choir at some theater or large church.
The service was turned over to us when the choir finished singing, and the same order was used as all the other prisons, each one on our team having a chance to share. When I got up to share I remembered the time when Tony Loeffler asked for forgiveness, as he and I stood in for the men that had abused the women, that were being treated at an addiction Centre I knew it was Gods will that I do the same for these ladies. So I asked if Don & Jonathan would join me. I had no idea what kind of an affect it would have on these two men, they both said yes. There is something powerful that happens when you stand in front of eighty women who you know have been abused by men so bad that words cannot explain the pain. Then take the blame on to yourself and ask them for their forgiveness, it not only ministers to the ladies it also ministers to us men. Jonathan said it was so humbling that it gave him just a glimpse of what Jesus felt like when He took the blame for us. The tears that were shed and the quietness that could almost be heard were powerful. When we finished, Don, and Jonathan sat down and the silence was broken as the ladies clapped vigorously by way of saying you are forgiven. Then after, I shared Jesus love, grace, and forgiveness, and twenty-two of these women gave their hearts to Jesus.
Praise the Lord for he is good.
After the service was over we gave out the books, Karla Fay Tucker, There is a way out” and the prison newspapers , as I was doing this, the young lady that was brought in while we were waiting to be cleared came to me for prayer. As I finished the prayer another came to me for prayer, she was going to court the next day. There was an older lady that asked Judy for prayer, her sixteen year old son was shot to death two weeks earlier, there is a picture attached showing her with Judy.
This day was so special, and for God to pick me to help in his work sure is a humbling experience.
Be Blessed in Jesus and feel his love.