Don’t ask me how it happened but the discussion arose in Sunday School class. Our teacher looked at me and said, “I know you worked in a prison,” but the question really was, “Have you ever visited anyone in prison?”
I responded that I had worked at a jail, the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio, but a jail is different than a prison, and, yes, I had visited in a prison as well.
Quite a number of years ago, while on a mission trip to Quito, Ecuador, the opportunity arose to visit an American who had been imprisoned there for five years already but expected to be released soon.
Two of us who worked in the jail here were invited by our host missionary to accompany her to visit this American in the federal prison in Quito. As I recall, he was imprisoned on drug charges.
The three of us were directed into a sort of reception area. (Note the “sort of”.) Here, we were greeted by uniformed officers and directed to remove our fanny-packs which carried a camera, a bit of money, and passport; watches; other jewelry, if any; etc. We were then sent, singly, into a small room, where a female officer conducted a pat-down.
As I waited my turn to be patted down, I noticed the officer who was directing the removal of our personal items was in a wheelchair. However, he was a big guy and wearing a side arm. I had no desire to make him suspicious or angry.
After the pat-down, we were taken to meet the American in his cell.
Interestingly, his cell door was not locked as we expected, but was standing open. Obviously, there wasn’t anywhere for him to go anyway. His private (?) cell was small and cramped, every square inch filled to the max. I suppose this was all he had amassed during his five-year occupancy.
Since prisoners were fed only once a day, and nothing more than a bowl of some sort of thin gruel, he was always in need of money. If he had money, he could manage to buy additional, more palatable food.
Though I’m sure he would have described his experience differently, the visit was interesting and informative for us.
When we left and our personal items were returned, we were greatly relieved to get out safely and with our belongings intact. We were really uncomfortable being without our passports in a foreign land!
Don’t want to go to prison? I don’t either, but all of us have been (or ARE) held prisoner by sin unless or until we accept the forgiveness and freedom purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for us.
As we look ahead to the Christmas season, let’s be sure to look past the warm and fuzzy feelings of the Babe in a manger to the grown man hanging on the cross of Calvary, for in Him we can be set free from the prison that holds us captive.
Come to know Him and you will know freedom and the Peace and Joy of Christmas.