It was a three hour drive to Freetown from Makeni and we had to leave at 5:30am because we had an appointment with the head of the Chaplains for the entire country and the OC of Pademba Road Prison, the largest prison in Sierra Leone. Before arriving at the prison we had to purchase Bibles. Our budget allowed us to purchase 100 hardcover RSV and 20 NIV Bibles. I also bought a new ESV Study Bible for $17, one-third of the lowest price I’ve ever seen for it. I will place it in the customer lounge at my shop.
Arriving at the prison we were met by a lady in clergy attire, in charge of the Chaplaincy in the country. She led us into the administration grounds and, after a ten minute wait, she invited us into the O.C.’s office.
He was a large man, especially by Sierra Leone standards. He was a Christian man who spoke very good English and Nathan told him about our ministry, thanked him for receiving us, and presented him with our gifts. He told us his wife is currently visiting the USA and his daughters are both in college in New Jersey. He then made sure we understood the rules of the prison and granted us permission to go to Pademba Road.
We had to drive several blocks to the prison which is located in the center of Freetown. It is a very large and highly secured prison with brick and concrete walls at least 30 feet tall. There is a sign on painted on the outside wall with drawing of prohibited items such as guns, drugs, gin, ladders, cell phones, and rum. Interestingly, there was no mention of gin or pick-axes or shovels.
We unloaded all of the aid and waited a while before we were granted entrance. Walking through the enormous steel door we found ourselves in the guard station where they searched us thoroughly and we waited about 15 minutes for all of the formalities between our national hosts and the prison officials before being escorted into the prison.
We walked through the double gate into a very large prison complex. There were many buildings and many different retention areas, all numbered and fenced. Steve commented that the buildings looked really old – It turns out the prison was built in 1814. We had to walk past several areas and buildings and through a couple gates before reaching the area of the Chapel where our service would be held.
There were about 250 men in the chapel loudly singing worship songs and when we walked in they were extremely excited to see us. We walked down the middle of the aisle shaking hands and giving high-fives on the way to the front of the chapel where we would be seated.
They finished their singing soon thereafter and Mark gave the IGL presentation and introduced me as the Emcee. Steve gave his testimony followed by Mark and Nathan giving sermons. Dan then did a great job on the altar call to which 16 men came forward to profess new-found faith in Christ. Mark offered the healing prayer to a much larger group of men – probably 40 or 50. Tom prayed for the inmate church leaders and charged them with discipling the men that had come forward a few minutes earlier. I told them about the gifts we had brought for them and then we were able to distribute them to all of them. There were many, many left over that would be later distributed to the rest of the prison.
This was a very lively service – we were in the chapel so most of the men are the church in the prison. However, as in every church, there are those who are coming week after week or day after day but don’t have a saving faith in Christ. We are so blessed that we can come to Africa and preach a message of repentance and faith in Christ and see God turn the hearts of men to himself. 2 Tim 2:25-26, Titus 3:4-5.
The power went out toward the end of the service and it immediately felt like it heated up by 20 degrees because there was no air movement from the fans. We were trying to hurry to go but Morris kept greeting and talking with all of the officials and the chaplains. We finally dragged him out of the chapel and, after some photos outside the prison, we departed for our hotel about 20 minutes away.
The hotel is nice by African standards. There was a trickle of water from the faucets – enough to fill buckets and take splash baths. The beds were reasonably comfortable and the A/C worked, albeit it very poorly at times due to the power grid of the city. We almost changed rooms because we were told the A/C worked better on the upper floor but then they wanted to charge us more money. The decided, instead, to run the generator so the power would be sufficient and stable. It was fine for the rest of our two-night stay (for most of us).