Youth Prison – Let the Children Come to Me – 11/6/13

Today we are scheduled for one prison service. We were hoping for two but Pastor Abel does not have confirmation for one of the prisons and it is far away so by the time we get there if we aren’t able to get in it will be too late to return to the other one so, at this point, we are planning one service at a prison where we already have confirmation.

We are meeting for breakfast at 7:30am. My devotional today will be a reading from Psalms and then we will all watch the “I Believe” video with clips from “Planet Earth” and music from Brian Doerksen.

Today’s prison was a youth prison/institution about 50 miles outside of Ouagadougou. The institution was built in 2004 and can house 64 boys and 24 girls. When we arrived there was a UNICEF truck there already, which left shortly after our service was completed – just a few minutes before we left.

We entered the offices and met with two men, the Director of the center and the man in charge of production, the lady in charge of Social Welfare and Information, and two other ladies in charge of Education & Training and the Chief of Security. We were welcomed warmly and the director explained to us a little bit about the institution. I’m not sure the reason the children are here. After introducing ourselves Pastor Abel offered a prayer and then Brent offered our gift bag. The Director stopped him and told us that tradition in their country is for them to talk to us for a while and then we could present gifts. We all laughed and Brent sat back down. The Director then thanked us and assured us that we are welcome to return anytime.

After some further discussion Brent presented the gifts to the Director. We then prayed for all of the staff (which they welcomed warmly) and then, as we were getting ready to walk out to the children, the director of the entire area arrived. He talked briefly with Abel and his team and then we went out to a covered area about 25 feet square where the children were all seated. One of the staff told the children to stand as we entered the “cabana” and 39 children rose to their feet. They were all seated after we entered and Jeff, serving as Emcee, introduced our team. Then he introduced me to give my testimony.

I think my testimony was quite appropriate for the situation as I explained to them that my parents had been divorced when I was 5 years old. Although I knew my father was nearby and I saw him very often, I still didn’t understand why he left us and moved away. I grew up with two parents that taught me completely different things, one parent holding to solid values and holding me accountable to my behavior, and another parent having very loose values and allowing me to do things that were wrong. I told them I was confused about what was acceptable and what was not and, probably due to an empty feeling inside, I started hanging out with the wrong kids in my neighborhood. I began getting into trouble and drinking alcohol and taking drugs at the age of 11. My mother tried really hard to keep me from doing these things but I made life really difficult for her. After many years of being very disobedient and disrespectful to my mother and getting into a lot of trouble my mother didn’t know what to do with me so she sent me away to school 2,000km from home. I felt very alone while I was so far away from my family. I told the children that I probably felt a lot like many of them feel right now – confused, lonely, and without direction, not knowing what to do next. I told them I got into a lot of trouble at this school and eventually, when I went home, I lived with my father, who continued to let me do a lot of things that were wrong.

I had a lot of fun when I was living with my dad because I enjoyed doing the wrong things, and I continued to drink a lot of alcohol and do a lot of drugs. I told them that doing the wrong things can be fun for a while but it eventually will hurt you and everyone else around you. I had hurt my mother badly by my behavior. I told them that I eventually met a girl and married her and we had two little girls. When my oldest girl was five years old I divorced their mother (the same age that I had been when my father left my mother). I told them that I continued to live a bad life and, although I had known it was wrong all these years, I finally realized that I was hurting a lot of people by my behavior.

I told them that my mother and my grandparents had told me about Jesus when I was a boy but I had ignored Him. I had a bad feeling in me all the time that I was doing these things but I had ignored the feeling and made it go away with drugs and alcohol. I knew in my heart that what I was doing was not what God wanted me to do. He told me that if I would turn away from my bad life and give my life to Jesus, and follow Him, He would forgive me for all of my sins and He would love me as his own son. It was then that I realized that God loved me no matter what I had done, but that I couldn’t keep living like this.

I explained to them that when I gave my life to Jesus he took away my desire to do the wrong thing and he gave me a new heart, a heart that desired to please Him. I told them that God loves them, too, and if they give their life to Jesus he will forgive them for anything and everything wrong that they have ever done, and he will love them as his own children.

I then introduced Carol and she came up to tell them more about Jesus. I was not aware of it but while I was sharing my testimony with the children Jeff had been told that we only had 15 minutes because the children needed to get back to class. Carol did a great job sharing with the children from John 3:16 and led them in a prayer. Many, if not most, of the children prayed the prayer with her.

Carol then showed them the soccer ball that we had brought for them and she went around to all of the children giving them candy. Jeff got back up and taught the kids our new handshake. All of the kids started laughing and shaking each others’ hands.

As we all grabbed our bags and began to leave the cabana where we had held the service I went up to two little boys in the front row (about 12 or 13 years old) to shake their hands and teach them the new handshake. The first little boy grabbed my hand and laughed as I was teaching him how to grab my hand to shake it properly as a gesture of friendship, how to flip his fingers up and grab my thumb as if we are best of buddies, and then to flap his fingers as our hands flew away together, and then to give each other a high five as if to say “Love ya, man”.

As I reached out and took the hand of the second little boy I could sense immediately that something was wrong. As I lifted my eyes to his face I saw tears running down both of his cheeks, cleaning the dirt from below his eyes and dropping to the ground. As I looked more closely at him I saw such despair, such hopelessness, such confusion, a sense of loneliness. Immediately I felt my heart drop as I imagined his situation. This little boy was separated from his family and in this prison. I was only able to imagine how lonely he must have felt at the time. I imagined that he may have been so glad that we had come to visit them and tell them how much we loved them…to bring them gifts…to tell them about Jesus…to spend time with them, valuable time. We hadn’t come to tell him what a bad boy he had been, not to yell at him or punish him, but to come and talk to him, to love him and show him that somebody cares about him. Somebody had come from the other side of the world just to tell him that they love him, that God loves him.

But he wasn’t sure if that was true. It could just be another lie. He’d been told that before…or maybe he hadn’t. We could just be somebody else coming to try to make themselves feel better about themselves. We could just be someone else that is going to show up with candy and never come back. He could be right.

I couldn’t help but think that the story I had told him of my life as a child may have been similar to his, at least in a minute sense. Perhaps he knew that, just maybe, I could have some sort of understanding of how he felt at that very moment. Perhaps he wanted to talk to me. Maybe he was hoping I was going to stop and talk to him.

I wondered if he could have been feeling like I had come to tell him that I understand how he feels and I want to help him. I thought of how horrible it was that we only had 15 minutes to spend with him and he was hoping we could stay longer and play with him.. and now that 15 minutes had ended. In fact, I didn’t even have 15 seconds to spend with him. I could relate to him but I couldn’t speak to him to comfort him since I didn’t speak his language and everyone else was already walking out ahead of me.

He looked at me with sad, lonely, confused eyes. I immediately let go of his hand and bent over to give him a gentle hug. He was seated and I was standing so I couldn’t hug him as I wanted to. It was a warm hug but inadequate at best for both of us. I wanted to hug him closer but because he was seated I wasn’t able to – so I held him for a few seconds and, as I held him, he began to drop his head toward the ground as if to say “I know you’re leaving me now”.

As I let go of him (not because I wanted to but because I was feeling rushed) I hugged him again, even less adequately this time, and began to walk away as he looked up at me. We looked at each other, both of us knowing that it was the best we were going to be able to do, and I turned and walked away. I hope he could see that I wanted to stay and hold him some more…but did I? I didn’t do it. I was still leaving.

As I slowly strolled away I looked back to him again as I saw the tears continuing to flow. He looked away, down toward the ground, the only area where nobody else could see him, the only place he could hide, knowing that he was alone again.

I wanted to go back. I wanted to run back to him and embrace him with all the love I had. But I didn’t. I kept walking. My head dropped, but I didn’t cry. I didn’t even begin to cry. I thought again of how he must have felt. Maybe I understood. But no. I couldn’t understand. I had been alone, but I still knew that people loved me. I wanted to go back and hug him again. Really hug him. Just grab him and squeeze him till he had no tears left to cry. But I didn’t. We kept walking…and we left…left him all alone.

Is he still thinking of me like I am remembering him? Will he be OK? I wonder if he knows I love him?or does he think someone else was just doing their job?

I can’t close, because the story continues.

He’s still there, and I’m going home.

What did I do?

I walked away…

We returned to our hotel around 1:30pm, ate lunch as a team and rested for the afternoon.

Tonight was our farewell dinner – our American team, Edwige, Blessed, Martin, Abel, Claude and four others from Burkina Faso were all there. Each of the men from BF introduced themselves and then we each shared from our hearts, a few of us crying.

Jeff and i conducted the ministry audit with Abel, Claude was interpreting.

We went downstairs to pay for the rooms so we can depart at 5:30am for Kara. I got to bed at midnight. This may make for a long day.

Military Prison & Training Conference – Nov 5, 2013

We ate breakfast outside at the hotel this morning. Breakfast was a piece of bread (small loaf of French Bread) and instant coffee or tea. All of the local pastors met us there.

Before leaving the hotel we all gathered in the lobby and, in a circle, joined hands while Pastor Abel led us in a song of worship and then prayed a blessing on the day. What a great way to start the day. We all reflected several days later about Pastor Abel’s loving heart and his willingness to praise The Lord anywhere, anytime, regardless of where we are or who is around.

The first place we went was to the SIM office in town where Abel introduced us to a man named David from Canada and an Australian who served as the CFO of the office.

We then went to the government offices, climbed 5 flights of stairs, and the officer was not there.

Next we went to the military offices to get clearance to visit the military prison. This didn’t take much time and now we were off to the military prison. A man met us at the parking lot to exchange money for us and we stopped to get water along the way. We had to go to a few different shops before we found water.

We arrived at the military prison and met with the officer in charge. He was a believer and welcomed us warmly. Greg introduced our ministry and our team. I presented him with our gifts and led us in prayer for him and his family.

We walked across the courtyard to a 20’x30′ room where 29 inmate soldiers were seated and waiting for us. This was the entire population of the prison. As we entered they were commanded to stand at attention. They then sat along two walls on a concrete ledge that went around three walls of the room. The officers sat on the third wall and we were seated on chairs at the entry wall.

Jeff served as Emcee, Greg gave the President/IGL message and Carol shared her testimony. Brent presented the first sermon, speaking about Zacheus, and I preached the second sermon about the rich young man in Mark chapter 10. Jeff did the altar call and 5 of the 29 men came forward. After asking some more I believe there were 19 men kneeling before Jeff as we prayed for them. I feel we really engaged the men and many were truly repentant. Greg offered a healing prayer and we left. We were able to take photographs as long as we didn’t include the inmates in the photos.

We returned to the officer’s office and he thanked us and gave us all a soda. He explained that he would normally give it to us when we arrive but he had forgotten. We believe what happened is he sent one of his subordinates to go purchase the sodas for all of us while we were conducting the service. We had a time of fellowship as we drank our sodas, then we took some photos of all of us and then headed back to the hotel for lunch.

We returned to the hotel around 2:30pm after stopping several places to try to find water. Jeff failed to get a photo of me holding hands with the pastors as we were walking across the street. This is a common gesture in Africa, they were grabbing my hand to make sure I got across the street safely, and to express their love for me. It felt odd at first, certainly.

I have been sitting in the back seat of the van and have found that it is easier to climb in and out of the window that to climb through the van so, since I am treasurer it is easiest for me to jump in and out from there whenever we make a stop to buy something.

My clothes were filthy when we arrived last night from Togo so I started to wash my shirt in the sink. I allowed it to soak overnight. This afternoon when I came back to my room my shirt had been washed and was hanging on the towel rack along with my socks and briefs that had been left on the floor with my sweat pants. My pants are missing, however. An hour later a young man brought my sweats back to me, folded and still hot from the dryer. What a treat!

We had a break time from 3:00 until we left for the conference.

Conference held at a church about 20 minutes away. Began at 5:15 and ended at 8:30pm.
Music blaring/deafening
They had an entire program planned with a mission speech in the middle of it. Jeff explained to Claude what our program was and they adjusted the schedule to accommodate our plan.
Same topics as the other conference. Jeff was Emcee tonight. Approximately 60-75 people in attendance, many of them with little children.
Returned to Hotel de Conference around 8:45pm, ate a late dinner, short team meeting and returned to our rooms around 10:00pm.

Travel Day to Burkina Faso – Nov 4, 2013

We had breakfast at 7:00am and we were on the road by 7:45. Pastor Blessed was planning to return to Lome today but we invited him to come with us and he very excitedly accepted our invitation. He has been a great translator and a blessing to our team.

I gave “Run with the Fishes” t-shirts to Edwige, Martin and Blessed. The latter two are wearing them today. Edwige gave her shirt to Pastor Jonathan, the local pastor that we were working with during our stay in Kara.

The drive to the border was really rough. We had a van for everyone, which was comfortable enough, and we got started early enough that the first part of the trip was cool, especially with the wind created by the moving van. The travel got really rough after about 2 hours when we came to an unpaved section of road that they have obviously been working to repair for a long time. There was a lot of dust flying everywhere and the bushes on the side of the road were painted red, or a rust color, the color of the dirt. It obviously has not rained in this area for a long time, either.

After about an hour on the dirt road, constantly slamming on the brakes and swerving to avoid potholes (craters) we came to a checkpoint where our driver had to pay a tariff. He was claiming that the company he worked for had already paid the fee but he had no proof and he couldn’t get in touch with them on the phone. He was trying to get the company to fax it to them. It took close to an hour to get the driver to give up and get back into the vehicle. Jeff was telling him to pay it and we would adjust it out of the fare when we arrived. He obviously was having nothing to do with that. The tariff began at 22,000 cfs (francs) and soon dropped to 10,000 cfs (about $20 U.S.) because the money wouldn’t get to the government, anyway, it would wind up in the officer’s pocket. We finally convinced him that we would pay the full fare in addition to the tariff, so we left.

The place where we were stopped was an auto repair shop. It was an outdoor concrete pit with steps going down into it. There was grease and oil everywhere. There was a covered area about 10 feet square with a bunch of old junk parts on the ground and a wooden box with a few tools in it on top of a table. There was also a shed with a bunch of used parts piled on top of each other. I took a bunch of photos.

We reached the border about 2 hours later after traveling through a few little villages due to detours because of the construction. The drive was long and very hot, about 100 degrees. It was much less humid now than it had been in Lome (along the coast).

We reached the border at about noon. Immediately we were swarmed by men running alongside the van wanting to do some sort of business. Maybe they were wanting to take us across the border, I couldn’t tell since they were all speaking French or their native tribal tongue.

A few kids started hanging around us. Carol gave candy to a couple of them and the number quickly grew. Jeff got down and had his picture taken with them and then many more started coming around to be in the photo. By the time Pastor Abel arrived there were probably 20-25 kids getting their photos taken with all of us.

Pastor Abel is a big Teddy Bear, a tall man that hugs and holds on to everybody he meets.

Another van pulled up and they transferred all of our bags from one vehicle’s roof to the other. We kept playing with the kids in the meantime. By the time we got done it was about 12:45pm. I broke up a bunch of granola bars so I could distribute them to the kids as we were leaving. I wasn’t able to hand them all out before they all started pushing and shoving each other. One little boy stuffed the bar in his mouth immediately, as if it was the best and only food he has had in a long time.

It took about 2 hours to get through the border crossing. We gave our passports to the pastors and they went into one office to get us out of Togo and then we drove another 100 yards to another office where they got us clearance to get into Burkina Faso.

There were many more checkpoints along the road, probably about 6 or 8, where we had to stop. Eventually we had some sort of clearance to no longer need to stop at the checkpoints. After a couple hours we stopped at a town to try to get change and it took about 45 minutes and the pastors came back having not exchanged anything because the line was too long.

It took us a few more hours to get to Ougadougou, finally arriving around 7:30pm, having driven in the dark for close to 2 hours. It was a full 12 hours in the vehicle today.

We were greeted at the hotel in Ouagadougou by several local pastors. They were taking photos and filming video of us as we arrived and unloaded the van.

Kara Prison and conference – Nov 3, 2013

5:45 rise and shine. I had a great time of prayer and was really burdened for Marissa, crying out to God for her. It was a great time before The Lord and very refreshing. As I read the 3rd Proverb I reflected on the goodness and faithfulness of God toward the obedient and humble. I also looked to the truth of how the Potter will rework the spoiled vessel into another vessel, as it seems good to the potter to do (Jer 18:4). He is so faithful to those who will come to him with a humble and contrite spirit, he who trembles at His word (Is 66:2).

Breakfast is at 7:00am and we leave for the prison at 7:30 in hopes of being there by 9:00am. This afternoon we will hold our second of 3 conferences on this trip.

As we drove up into the hillside along the dusty dirt road we were passed a couple government buildings that seemed very out of place. We brought bread with us to Kara prison, which is a very large prison. As we arrived we went through the most intense security check of any prison on the trip. We were required to leave our bags in the van and we were patted down very thoroughly by the soldiers.

As we entered the prison we passed through a “garage” area where there were a couple vehicles parked there. I believe the visiting area was also in this room. We then walked straight ahead into a area with several doors, one which led to the circular hallway that surrounded all of the inmate housing areas of the prison. We held our service from this hallway, standing above 5 stairs that overlooked an undercover area that seemed to be a central meeting area that intersects the different areas or wards of the prison.

One of the inmates, apparently one of the leaders, began hollering something through the prison and the men began to pile into the room below the stairs. There were approximately 120 continuous attendees (many came and went during the service but about 120 stayed for the entire service). There were drums playing and singing in another area of the prison while we were conducting our service.

Jeff shared the IGL message and Greg introduced the team as he served as Emcee at this prison. Greg also shared his testimony and passed the baton to Jeff for the first sermon. The music ended as soon as Carol finished the 2nd sermon, at which time Brent performed the altar call. It turns out the music was coming from the prison church where the Christian men were worshipping, therefore most all of the men we shared with today were non-believers. The service went great, everyone did their part and we were able to conduct the entire service as planned. There were approximately 40 men that raised their hands to indicate they were committing their life to Jesus. I then offered a healing prayer and we headed down the hallway.

It was at this time that we learned that the music that had been playing was coming from the prison church where there were about 40 men in attendance. We were escorted down the hallway to the right of the courtyard where many men were working, and we came to the chapel through the door on our right. The pastor was just finishing his message when we arrived. After we were introduced Greg shared a message with them about being an encouragement to each other. He told them how many men were saved today and exhorted them that their responsibility is to seek out these men and to disciple them. After Greg’s message I prayed for them to be strong in their faith and to endure to the end. Then we gave them gifts and Bibles and taught them our new handshake. The men absolutely love learning the new handshake at every prison we visit. When we leave we always see men practicing the handshake with each other.

After leaving the prison we visited Pastor Jonathan’s church just a couple miles away where Greg charged them to view the church as their mission field – a hospital with spiritually sick and dying people. After he introduced our team we left to return to the hotel for lunch.

We had fish for lunch, whole fish, probably Tilapia, while Edwige went into town to get food for the conference. We each returned to our rooms to rest for about an hour before the conference.

It feels much cooler today. Greg’s thermometer on his bag said 82 degrees before we went into the prison. He said the highest he had seen it on this trip was 102 degrees, not a surprise to me, it has been brutally hot on a few occasions.

The conference went really well. We didn’t leave the guest house until about 3:00 so we didn’t get started until 3:30 (which actually was the scheduled start time, anyway). I served as Emcee and then everybody taught their assigned topics. We are each teaching the same topics at each of the three conferences:
Greg – Why do Prison Ministry and The Importance of the PFC Network
Jeff – How to Grow a Prison Ministry
Carol – What it is to Be aVolunteer
Brent – Working with Staff at the Institutions and Code of Conduct
Nate – How to Start a Prison Ministry and The 4 Divisions of PFC

Almost every attendee made a commitment to get involved in Prison ministry.

We were back at the hotel around 7:30pm, ate dinner, and everyone retired early since we have to leave at 7:30am for Burkina Faso.

Notse Prison – Nov 2, 2013

I awoke at 5:15am and began journaling my notes from the past two days since I hadn’t been able to find the time to do it until then. I still didn’t have time. Sooooooo much happens on these trips, I can’t get it all down.

We left the guest house at 8:15am. Breakfast was early and we all were wiped out so we didn’t have a team devotional time. We are hoping to visit two prisons this morning before lunch time. The prisoners are fed at 11:00am so we need to be to the second one by then.

We arrived at Notse prison around 10:00am. We agreed to have a very short service and then continue north to AtakpamĂ© Prison in hopes of holding another service there, hoping Edwege would be able to ask permission to get in. Since we kept the service short we brought bibles and a soccer ball but we had no time to get more gifts for the inmates and, since it was Saturday, the OC was not on duty so we didn’t present anything to him.

Greg opened with the President’s presentation and then introduced me. I spoke on the same topic as Thursday in Lome, sharing about the fly and the sheep and then I moved right into the altar call after which Greg prayed for the inmate church leader.

It’s really hot and my soaked shirt is sticking to my back.

As we were driving and looking at all the sights and all the people there was a man standing on the side of the road holding up an old hub cap on a stick, high in the air, showing it to passer’s by. As I reflected on this I realized that this man is standing on the side of the highway hoping to sell a hub cap that he must have found along the side of the road – he’s just hoping someone passing by on the highway will decide to stop and buy it from him. It’s hard to imagine the poverty this man is living in.

We have three cars today to carry all of us, our luggage, and our Togolese nationals Edwige, Blessed and Innocent (who is driving one car but won’t be continuing to Burkina Faso with us). The car I was in was driven by Innocent and it began overheating. He would shut the car off for a few seconds, hoping it would cool down enough to continue. We would coast downhill or along the flat for a while and then accelerate for a minute until the gauge began to climb to the red again. I kept trying to tell him to pull over but he spoken no English. I eventually convinced him to pull over. I lifted the hood to find the radiator was leaking and three cores had been bent over and pinched off. He “borrowed” some water from a home on the side of the highway, which I poured into the radiator, and we continued. The heat stayed down for a while but eventually climbed back up again.

When we reached Atakpame we stopped at a “transportation station” to find a van that we could all drive in. After discussing fares with a driver we were able to get a van for 42,000 cfs. The cost was 4,200 per person and there were 8 of us but, if we didn’t pay for 10 the driver was going to bring 2 more people along. That just makes sense, he needs to make his full fare. Because of the heat and our needs as a team we paid the difference and rented the entire van for ourselves.

We arrived at a really nice hotel (by Togo standards) with large, air conditioned rooms and a refrigerator in the room where I can keep my medication (I’ve managed to keep it cold the entire trip).

We had a delicious “chicken dinner”. We all suspected it was chicken but the nationals told us it was Guinea Fowl – tastes just like chicken 🙂 Properly cooked and seasoned peas and delicious French Fries (chips).

Jeff came to my room and reviewed the budget. So far we are way under budget and getting great value in every aspect of the ministry.

Tsevie Prison – Nov 1, 2013

Today was conference Day in Tsevie, a town about 25 km North of Lomé. We left the guest house around 8:00am and, after fighting heavy traffic through the market area and road construction, we arrived at the church around 9:15am.

It was EXTREMELY HOT under the tin roof in the church today. I was sweating profusely and we were all very uncomfortable. I kept telling myself it is only heat and I have plenty of water to drink. With this type of heat and humidity, however, it is hard to focus on anything other than how uncomfortable I am.

We finished our teaching very shortly after 1:00pm (we rushed the conference in order to be able to get to the prison on time). As it turned out we finished the conference just in time for really heavy rain that was coming down so hard on the tin roof that we couldn’t hear each other speak.

The rain lasted about 30-45 minutes and when it was finished we left for the prison. We had to drive back through the market where there were rivers of muddy water on half of the roadway so deep that all vehicles had to use one lane. It was a total traffic jam and it took us about 30 minutes to travel the distance of one city block.

We arrived to the prison on time as it was just outside of town. As we entered the gates we were directed to the left and we entered the courtyard to find about 200 men singing and dancing. Many of them were believers and were dancing with joy that we were there to share Jesus with them.

In the center of the courtyard was a 15’x15′ covered concrete platform where we stood. I served as Emcee and introduced Brent to give his testimony. Greg then shared a short sermon and Jeff brought the final message. As we were in the middle of our time it began raining again and all of the men came under the cover of the rooftop so we were left with about 5 feet to stand and we were surrounded by all of the men. It took a while for all of them to settle in so we were delayed for a few minutes.

One young man that I had not yet met was translating for us, he was wearing a heavy black jacket (sort of a down jacket) in 80+ degree weather. As it turns out, this young man’s name is Blessed, and he will be traveling with us until we get to Kara. More about him later. What a great young man of God.

Just before Carol began the Altar call the rain stopped again and the men then moved back into the courtyard. Brent then offered a prayer for healing and Jeff prayed for the church leaders of the prison and then I gave them the humanitarian aid and gifts (Bread, Bibles, and a soccer ball). The prison officials and some members of our national team handed each man receive his bread and then instructed them to walk out of the courtyard. This was their way of making sure everyone got some and nobody was without. One man, he appeared to be an inmate (he was in civilian clothes) was carrying a piece of thick, heavy rope and using it as a sort of whip to hit the men when they would get out-of-line and start pushing and shoving for the bread that was being distributed. We brought one loaf of bread for each man.

The red clay soil was very slippery and muddy and the men were walking on cinder blocks to avoid slipping in the mud. After we had distributed the bread there were four men that had not received it…they were the men that were not pushing and shoving and they were patiently waiting. Although they went without bread they told us they were believers and they expressed their thankfulness to God and to us for bringing God’s word to the prison for all of the non-believers. They were gracious and understanding about the fact that they didn’t get bread and they thanked us.

There were three goats wandering around the courtyard and I thought to myself what life must be for a goat in this prison, let alone life for a man.

Our second evening of the “You Are Destined to Win” conference was this evening. Tonight Brent and Jeff both shared with the congregation. The music, as always, was very enthusiastic and VERY loud. I was definitely wiped out today after a long, hot, humid day of all-day ministry. What a blessing, though. Despite the heat the team is in great spirits.

Denis offered his phone to have me call Susan again this evening. She is doing better. Her eye is healing and she is feeling stronger. She had a nice Halloween. Barry and Margaret handed out all the candy to over 400 kids.

2043 Divided by 5 = 40 Central Prison in LomĂ©. 10/31/13

Our plans today, after breakfast and devotional taught by Greg, will be to visit the prison officials in the late morning, followed by a visit to the local prison in the afternoon, and wrapping up the day teaching an “encouragement session” for Edwige and her team of prison volunteers and pastors.

We were scheduled to meet with the prison administrator (in charge of all prisons in Togo) this morning but Edwige arrived after breakfast and told us that he was ill and would not be meeting with us today. She hoped we will be able to meet with him next week after we return from Burkina Faso.

Jeff and I left around 11:00am to buy French Bibles for the entire trip and humanitarian aid for today’s prison visit. Everyone else waited behind and rested. We drove for probably an hour to the other side of town to the International Bible Society. They weren’t able to sell us any complete Bibles for under $8 each so Edwige made a couple phone calls and we drove back to the home/shop of a tailor that sold bibles – he sold us 204 Bibles for 244,800 francs ($510 – $2.50 each). By the time we bought 100kg of rice and 20 gallons of Vegetable Oil to for the inmates we returned to the guest house around 2:15, ate lunch that had already been prepared for us, and left immediately for the central prison in Lome (Prison Civile de Lome).

We arrived late and were, therefore, not given a specific area in which to preach. There are 2043 inmates in a very small area. It was extremely crowded with hardly room to walk between people and from area to area. We were told by one of the inmate church leaders that we would not have an open area at which to preach so he told us to just start talking where we were standing. There were people pressing in from every side as Greg began to introduce our team. There were loud drums playing and dancing and hollering behind us and there were men going about their business all around us as we preached at the top of our lungs in hopes that the 30-40 men around us could hear. I felt myself losing my voice as I preached.

Carol gave the President/IGL message and introduced Jeff who served as emcee. As Greg, Brent, Jeff and I brought our messages to the inmates there was a small group of Nigerian’s that began speaking with Carol. They told her that they did not speak English, they were believers in Christ but they have no Bible. After a very short service (about 15-20 minutes) they began to close the men’s area of the prison so we had to leave.

I was unable to hear what Greg, Brent and Jeff were sharing because I was standing behind them to allow as many people to hear as possible. I brought a message about the fly that continually tries to clean himself only to jump right back into the dung and get dirty again. I shared that a sheep is an animal that, against the green hillside and standing next to other sheep may look white and clean but as soon as it snows the dirt on the sheep will become clearly evident. I asked them to consider which is more like them…do they see their sin and their need for cleansing and forgiveness or do they compare themselves with other men to feel as if they are cleaner than everyone else and, therefore, not in need of God’s forgiveness…do they feel that God will forgive them based on the fact that, compared to everyone else, they have been a good person.

Carol was telling me about the Nigerians as we walked out of the gate but it was too late to turn around and give them my bible. This is why I always carry a “give-away” Bible with me and I don’t carry my favorite bible on the mission field – I want to be able to give my Bible to anyone that I meet that may need one. I could not imagine the struggles I would face being locked up not knowing the language and not having a Bible with me.

After leaving the men’s area we were taken to the women’s area where there were probably about 50 women and (I saw) 1 child. Carol gave the child a kangaroo Beanie Baby. We had limited time so Jeff asked Carol to share her testimony. When she was perhaps half way through they opened the gates to let the women get water from the cistern so all but 4 of the women went running away to fill the buckets. The other 4 women were begging her to continue but we were told by the nationals that we needed to leave because they were going to close the prison and there was too much chaos to continue. This was unfortunate and it ended our service.

We met with the O.C. after our service. He remembered Jeff and Brent from 2012 and was very thankful that we had come and had brought him gifts again. He allowed us to take photos of him and of the front of his prison.

After the service we went to Edwige’s church. We were asked to each share a message of encouragement for the church. She had entitled the session (for tonight and tomorrow night) “You Are Destined to Win”. We will be sharing again tomorrow night, too.

I opened by sharing Paul’s encouragement to the Philippian church in his letter to them. Carol then shared a story about a man who bicycled across Europe, lost hope and decided to quit until he got to a computer and saw many letters from friends and supporters telling him he can’t quit. Greg then shared a message to close the evening.

We returned to the guest house around 10:00pm and got to bed around 11:00pm. We will be starting early tomorrow, breakfast at 7:30am and leaving for the conference at 8:00am.

I was able to use Denis’ phone to call Susan this evening. Everyone at the table sang Happy Birthday and then we were able to talk for about 10 minutes. The connection was poor but we were able to catch up.