Friday, July 17, 2015

Palace Prison

Hello, it has been a long, long time since I have written.  I returned to Liberia on May 1.  It is good to be back.  I spent last Sunday at the Palace and wanted to write about it:

A day in the Palace of Liberia
The Palace Correctional Institution is Liberia’s highest security prison that houses the most violent of offenders.  When Wordsower Liberia first entered the prison in 2009 it was filthy, violent and corrupt.  The guards mistreated the prisoners and they did not provide them with proper medical care or feeding.  It was a place of great suffering and hopelessness.  

We have been working weekly in the prison for almost 7 years.  We go into the cell blocks, into the cells, and sit on the floor with them.  We share the Gospel without fear of disease, the filth or violence.  Our love and boldness has been a shock to the guards and prisoners.  Many have come to Christ in the prison over the years. The guards have all taken our courses and received Bibles. A church was started within the prison 6 years ago by the prisoners with our assistance.  Even some of the guards attend the church.  Today that church is my favorite church to attend in all of Liberia.  The corruption, violence, mistreatment and hopelessness have greatly decreased, medical care and adequate food is provided.  Today, when you walk through the prison grounds you can see pods studying the Bible, others carrying Bibles and our study lessons.  There are weekly scheduled Bible study meetings that are well attended.  
There is an albino Liberian, they call him Mountain, which I have witnessed to for years.  I would hunt him because he was easy to find and with him I knew that I would find the heart and center of evil within the prison.  When found, I would often smell cigarette (cigarettes are not permitted in the prison) and sometimes even pot smoke.  Usually they would be on the floor gambling.  For years when visiting I would sit with them and share the Gospel.  In shock they would respectfully stop and listen.  Mountain, the albino, would never participate but would patiently wait for me to leave.  The look in his eyes was that of lifelessness, hopelessness and of spiritual deadness. 

For 6 months we were not allowed to enter the prison because of the Ebola epidemic.  Last week I attended the prison church’s 6 year anniversary celebration.  I was shocked!!  I saw Mountain worshipping our Lord with great fervor!  Praising our Lord with dancing, clapping, raised hands and loud uninhibited singing!  WOW!  Joy and tears flooded me.  Our eyes met, now we were both filled with tears and joy.  Our embrace will not be easily forgotten by either of us.  Even now the memory of his smile and spirit of thankfulness and hope brings tears.  Paul said, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.” 1 Cor 3:6-7.
There were probably 60 or more inmates attending the service.  Also attending the celebration was Victor.  His sentence was 7 years to life in the prison.  But after the 7 years he was released and has been out for over a year.  I met him there, now as a visitor, with a huge smile.  All the inmates crowded around him with excitement.  He showed me his old beat up Bible and said that I had given it to him years ago while he was in prison.  The first 3 years we came to the prison evangelizing, teaching and worshipping he refused to join in.  But then our Lord touched him with belief in the Gospel of Christ.  Soon he was a leader in the prison church.  Today he is an assistant pastor of a church we work with.  There the church and the lost love him.  They love his heart of compassion, his preaching and teaching.  Jesus said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.  All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.  As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29.  
What a great reward it is to be known, accepted and even invited to the Palace of Liberia. 
(Other prisons directors have heard about the changes experienced at the Palace and now have WSL working the same way with them.  The national minister of corrections has met with us and has written us an official letter of invitation to enter and minister in all their prisons and has personally sent the letter to each prison in Liberia.) 

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