As we now sit just 96 hours until departure I can’t help but reflect on some of the past overseas trips with Prisoners for Christ. I can’t wait to meet my brothers and sisters in Christ at SeaTac airport and board our long flight to Paris en route to Lome, Togo. I recall my first PFC trip to India – 10 hours to Amsterdam followed by another 11 hours to Hyderabad. It seemed like an eternity. The return trip being far more brutal than the outgoing trip. I’m sure that is partly because I was eager to get home to Susan and I was not feeling well for the prior week due to the pollution.
Each trip the flights get easier and easier. Our last trip, to Republic of the Congo, was only a little bit shorter but was easy, uneventful and quite comfortable. I only pray that our flights this time are equally pleasant.
Greg, Jeff, Brent, Carol and I will depart SeaTac Tuesday afternoon at 5:20pm and, after a stop at Paris-Degaulle we will arrive in Lome at 7:10pm on Wednesday. Our host, Edwege, will meet us in Lome and accompany us the entire trip along with her small team of prison ministry volunteers.
Plans can and do usually change rapidly but we plan to visit prisons in Togo beginning in Lome and continuing north until we reach the city of Kara where we will hold our first of 2 prison ministry training conferences on or around November 4. The following day (or that same evening) we will continue to travel by car, visiting prisons along the way, to our next training conference in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. We hope to visit at least one prison each day we are on the ground and conduct two training conferences.
Our prison crusades are designed to train the nationals to serve the institutions in their countries, introduce the prison officials, inmates and local community to Prisoners for Christ, provide humanitarian aid and bibles to inmates, share the gospel of Jesus Christ with inmates, establish long-term relationships with the nationals and the institution staff.
Our hope is always to establish long-term ministry in each country we visit, identify local believers to establish and grow the ministry in their country, and raise support to provide for their needs so they can continue the ministry for years to come.
The purpose of our training conference is to bring critical teaching and training to the nationals regarding effective, safe and fruitful prison ministry. Attendees usually number between 30-75 from the surrounding area and nearby countries. Our ministry usually grows as visitors from neighboring countries, usually invitees of our hosts, invite us to train in their home countries.
Our conference topics for this trip will include:
Why do prison ministry – We provide biblical, practical and purposeful reasons why prison ministry is vital.
How to Start a Prison Ministry – An in-depth outline of the necessary parts of an effective ministry, how to plan and pray, the needs and members of the team and the building blocks to get a ministry started.
How to Grow a Prison Ministry – How to recruit new members, how to introduce the ministry to other laborers, how to train the laborers so they will feel essential to the team and the ministry, etc.
Working with Staff at the Institutions – How to communicate effectively with the staff, how to minister to the staff (they are also our mission field), understanding our role as a guest in the institution, assisting the prison officials and ensuring that we don’t cross the boundaries of conduct.
What it is to be a Volunteer – Defining the term volunteer, understanding our role in the ministry, our need to be self-sufficient, understanding that the ministry will only be effective when volunteers commit to the completion of the goals.
The Four Divisions of PFC – Training about the PFC Life “VEST” – Visiting inmates, Equipping disciples, Supporting families of the incarcerated, and helping inmates to Transition back into society.
Code of Conduct – How to behave inside the prison walls (contraban, proper conversations, forbidden behavior and being salt and light.
The Importance of the PFC Network – Why we must all work together – we all count on each other to be effective.
The greatest blessing of all, besides sharing hope with inmates in often-destitute conditions, is the lifetime friendships we develop with our brothers and sisters around the world – people we know we will enjoy eternity with.
After completing our conference in Ouagadougou we will return to Lome by car. We expect to drive in excess of 2,000km in our 9 days on the ground. We will be wiped out and beat up, but refreshed and blessed all at the same time.
We will return from Togo on November 9, arriving in Seattle mid-day on Sunday, November 10.
Lord, we pray your blessings on us as a team as we serve in the name of your son.