A tall African woman approaches the immigration counter smiling tentatively in an effort to hide her nervousness. Taking a deep breath, she reminds herself that this is a simple task, she’s been assured it’ll go smoothly. Back home, drought has raised the poverty level in her village and it’s hard to make ends meet. But soon she’ll have money to provide for the children in her care – the abandoned ones.
But the plan goes horribly wrong. In a frightening whirlwind of activity she’s arrested for drug trafficking and transported to prison. She faces the probability of years behind bars in this foreign land. She also discovers she is HIV-positive and pregnant.
For weeks, she weeps. She weeps over her own foolishness. She weeps because she’s sick and pregnant. She weeps because the children are alone and have no idea what’s become of her. She weeps because she cannot carry this burden alone; she wants to die.
Have you ever been asked to do something you really do not want to do, something good and worthy but something that’s just not you?
My friend Linda and her husband, Tim, head up Christian prison ministries in this city. Two years ago Linda asked me to visit a young imprisoned African woman. The idea unnerved me but I told her I would pray about it. I hoped that God would confirm this is not my gifting. He had other ideas, however. He made it clear that I was to say “yes.” (The sermon that week was from Matthew 25:33-45 – read it and see what I mean!)
And so it began. I now have passes to visit for four female inmates. As volunteers we do our best to encourage each one to look to Christ for all they need. We take clothes, food and toiletries on our strictly monitored one-hour visits. We lead Bible studies and have seen growing purpose and hope in some.
Eighteen months on, the tall African woman has her healthy one year old son living with her in her cell. He is a beautiful ebony skinned little man with gorgeous eyes and a bright smile. He does not have HIV. She teaches him to sing and dance and, more importantly, she teaches him about God and how much he loves them.
One day she wants to go back to her village and talk about the things she has learned, about how having God first in her life is the most important thing and that, with him guiding you, all things are possible.
She wrote this in a letter:
“Karen, I don’t know how much I can extend my appreciation to all of you but you are really a blessing in our lives. You have parented us spiritually and physically. We no longer have many sleepless nights as before. And we believe everything is done for the good to those who trust him. At least our faith in God is uplifted.”
– Karen works with tranzsend in East Asia.