Monday, August 8, 2011

Bibles in Bugembe Prison

Let me help you with your luggage, Robert said. When he opened the boot I saw the two boxes of Bibles sent by the church in South Carolina and asked if he had use of Bibles in Bugembe. Robert paused and looked at me… Bugembe Prison houses just under 100 prisoners at any given time and Carpenter John is the chaplain there. My friend Robert introduced me to Carpenter John and mentioned the Bibles. John paused… Robert went on to explain that earlier this week he asked John to price Bibles for the prisoners and found that the cost was out of their budget. Yea to God for having sent these Bibles at just the right time!

When we stepped through the front door of the prison building I saw an open gate separating the prisoners from the front reception hall (a small room about 6’ x 8’). The gate was like those used to close off businesses in the mall but this one opened from the side instead of sliding down from the top. This gate looked as though a truck tried to drive through it and stood wide open. At the floor I saw a woman crouched on one side and a man crouched on the other. Robert informed me that a wife was visiting her husband. No private visitation rooms…just squatting there with an open gate between you and all the world listening in.

A small group of prisoners filed out and headed to the courthouse just across the yard. I observed that the traffic police on Entebbe Road are more well armed than the prison guards (who seemed not to be armed at all). Following a brief discussion with the OC (something like the warden), John, Robert, and I passed by the sleeping quarters and stepped into the courtyard where the prisoners were gathered all dressed in yellow. I couldn’t help but sense the resemblance to Alcatraz.

I’ve never done prison ministry before. Do I shake their hands? Do I stay far away? Ignorant but convicted that God loves these men and women and that under grace they deserve to be treated with respect, I began shaking the hand and offering a warm greeting to each individual. Formal introductions were made and a worship song with accompanying drums rang out. I love worship in Africa, even in the prison!

I talked about John 1:1 and how Jesus was the Word and that Jesus could be found in the Word. I talked of 1 Peter 1:3 and that Jesus is the living Hope and that the Word is alive for us today. I then talked about 2 Timothy 3:16 and that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching. After setting up the Bible gift-giving and before distributing, I told the story of these Bibles and that each one had significance to the giver, that prayers for these men and women as receivers were sent along with these Bibles. In the end, Robert and John commented “well-done.” I don’t know if that’s true but I do know that I felt a stirring in my Spirit after that visit. Wow!

I didn’t have enough Bibles for everyone but I asked John if any of the Muslim people asked for and received Bibles when I handed them out. He replied that they did. Yea again. What a wonderful opportunity to water the seeds already planted by Carpenter John.