A voice cries out in the wilderness. Do you hear the cry? Do you go? If you go, what do you bring with you? For the voice cries out from so many people and places; it’s in the poor, the lost, forgotten, abandoned, the widow, the blind and so much more. Can you hear the cry?
Last Friday, several missionaries and I went to visit a detention center (Jail by Piura standards). It consisted of 190 young men ranging in ages from maybe 15 to 21 yrs or so. The center is very primitive. Brick walls, barbed wire, dirt floors, and wire fencing. The young men were broke up into four groups based on age and reason for punishment.
The crimes range from drug and alcohol offences all the way to rape and murder. Then there was a final group consisting of 12 young men in solitary confinement due to bad behaviour. Four young men crammed into a tiny cell. It was dark and dirty. All of them appeared so desperate.
I found out that of all the missionaries that come to the Mission here at Santismo Sacramento only missionaries from our group at St. Patrick’s go to visit the detention center.
So for our parish it’s been an annual visit. My first time was by chance about 8 years ago. I went with another missionary name Reggie. If you know Reggie than you know he has a huge heart for Piura, the lost, abandoned, and forgotten. On that day it was just myself, Reggie and Ginet the Director here from the Mission.
We brought with us soccer balls and ice cream. Reggie preach boldly about Jesus and moved my heart to tears. A unexpected moment inside the walls of a prison. What surprised me most is that when we left, I received several gifts from the young men. They didn’t give it to the man who brought the ice cream, soccer balls or the one who preached, but to the woman Reggie said you must honour.
He told them if they were to know true love then they must respect & honour women as true love only comes when a women gives of her self totally and freely to you. Love never comes from taking advantage of a women. At the time, I was a wounded woman who had been taken advantage of emotionally, mentally, and financially. That day healing happened behind that barbed wire for me. And the many young men present. Many of us met Jesus that day.
So it has been a ritual to visit these men. So once again we brought ice cream. A rare treat for these young men. In addition all received a t-shirt. My mom spoke with the tender love of a mother & grandmother and how their families must miss them very much. I then spoke about Jesus, how he loves them, and wants a relationship with them.
I lead them in a prayer of surrender. Because I used a translator I read from my friend, Keith Strohm’s book. Jesus, The Story You Thought You Knew. Excellent book that I highly recommend, it can be found on Amazon.
We spoke to all four groups and then ran out of time. Our driver was in a rush to get us back to the parish, but my friend said, “Lisa you must go in and talk to those in solitary confinement. They so need healing!”
There was no time to think or read from the book so I just went from the heart and let the Holy Spirit do all the work. I spoke about Jesus and the love he has for each of them and that they are special. “God created you in His image and likeness and no one in the whole universe is exactly like them.” I said, “you are unique”.
I talked about knowing men on the outside whose hearts are more imprisoned with no bars and that true freedom comes from Jesus. That’s freedom no one can take from them whether they are in here behind bars or outside these wall. I shared that there is power and freedom in the name of Jesus and a relationship with Him. I told them about Nelson Mandela and how he was unjustly imprisoned for many years, but found freedom in his heart through forgiveness and that too is available to each of them.
I slowly walked back and forth past all three cells crowded with 12 young men making eye contact with each of them. They clung to the bars desperately and hung on my every word. They were dirty and barefoot. At least three or four were moved to tears. One had his hands up in full surrender and another looked so very sad and desperate, but stubborn. Either way, the Holy Spirit used me to get their attention. I’m grateful for my friend, Maria who insisted I go in.
I have no words for the thirst and desperation I witnessed in their eyes. Their hearts were crying out, and yet they had no voice at all. I could see it in their eyes and in their faces. There was no joy and no peace in that place. I left by asking them to pray for me, my missionaries friends, the staff at Santismo Sacrament, the guards, and one another. I told them I would pray for them.
I will never forget two of their faces. The one in a place of full surrender and the other with his heels dug deep into pride and stubbornness. It’s always our choice. God calls and invites, but we have to say yes.
Where is God calling you today? A voice cries out from the wilderness? Do you hear the cry? Ask the Lord to prepare the way for you….