April 3, 2019 – Makeni Central Prison – Audit – Leadership Conference

Eggs for breakfast this morning, yummy. It was a small omelette with peppers but I don’t think there was any cheese. 

We met with the Chaplain and his direct supervisor when we arrived at Makeni Central Prison. The chaplain is a typical sized Sierra Leonean man, lean and standing proud. His supervisor is in charge of the Chaplaincy of all prisons in the northern region. He is a large man – well-fed and tall. He was seated in a chair on the porch outside his office dressed in a peach colored African-style gown. Initially I thought he was disabled and, therefore, seated. I later realized that he was able-bodied as he walked with us to the prison across the street. While seated he welcomed us in proper English and expressed his thanks for us being there. He relayed the rules of the prison and said that they applied to all prisons in his region of the country.

The prison officers carried all of our gifts and supplies to the front gate of the prison and assembled them for a team photo. We were prohibited from taking any other photos so the cameras were left in the car with all of our personal items. We entered a room inside the prison where several guards/officers received us. Six members of our American team, five or six members of the Sierra Leonean team and about eight officers made for a very cramped room. They inspected all of our supplies and aid patted us down thoroughly before allowing us to enter the prison. The OC was not there today so we bypassed our traditional meeting and presentation of gifts and moved directly into our crusade.

As we walked through the door we walked down a couple stairs into an outdoor hallway that led to a half-wall that overlooked the prison yard. Standing there waiting for us were about 150 inmates. As I waved to them they all became excited and began smiling. I have learned that people in Africa rarely smile at us and, actually, look very uninterested until we wave and smile at them. Once greeted their smiles grow big and they are very welcoming. This is the case when walking down the street, as well. Culturally they show little expression or emotion unless we engage with them.

We began our service with Nathan giving the IGL message and me serving as the Emcee. Steve gave his testimony and Mark and Dan presented sermons. When I gave the altar call about 1/3 of the hands were raised until the Chaplain got involved and told everyone to raise their hands. He clearly didn’t understand the point of what I was saying. Very often I think this is a matter of poor translation but we have a strong interpreter this time, Jeremiah Benson, so I’m pretty certain that was not the case. 

We had been told when we arrived that we had to stand in the hallway above the half-wall and we were not permitted to mingle among the inmates. It was sort of like a podium elevated above the inmates. It had been a perfect place to preach and speak to them. However, during our service the officers and the man in charge had called Nathan aside and told him that they had inventoried the medical supplies and they stated that these were the highest quality supplies they had ever received. They were overjoyed with all of the gifts and aid we had provided. I believe this is the reason they decided to invite us to distribute the aid to the inmates.

All of the inmates were called to enter one cell block and then the gifts were placed in the courtyard. We were then able to distribute them to the men as they came out of the cell block one-by-one and then lined up behind us in the courtyard. 

After giving each man a tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush and a bar of soap Mark addressed them all to tell them about the medical supplies and the soccer ball. It was a really good service and encouraging to everyone in attendance, including our team. The biggest frustration we had was the inability to conduct the service they way we have designed it – we will need to have a discussion with the Pastors and the Chaplain so they understand our expectations at the next prisons.

We returned to The Bridge of Hope compound, our home base, and conducted our audit with Pastor Micah. We were very pleased to learn how much he is doing for the body of Christ and for the prisoners in Sierra Leone. He is overseeing six pastors and churches and has organized an accountability group of pastors and an Advisory Council for the prison ministry. He told us that he meets with the other pastors weekly. They all work together to discuss sermon topics, they work together to develop a sermon for their Sunday service, and they each preach the same sermon in their churches. Monthly they also invite their wives and both groups break off together for prayer, fellowship and accountability. This is also an opportunity for the wives to hold their husbands accountable before the other pastors. 

Following the audit was our first leadership conference. Nathan introduced us and then Steve taught about Examples of Good and Bad Leaders from the Bible, I taught the Five Levels of Leadership and Tom taught a course on Discipleship. We had each spoken a little too long so Mark closed with a brief teaching on Leadership Principles. We finished a few minutes later than expected and distributed certificates to each of the leaders in attendance, about 20 men and women.

After dinner we had a short meeting to review the day and plan for Wednesday and we all retired to our rooms exhausted.

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