Saturday, 6 September 2014

Witnessing in Ecuador Jails...

I posted a photo on Instagram yesterday about having experienced what witnessing in a jail is like here... I obviously couldn't explain in too much detail what happened... so here it is..

First, let me explain the jails here are almost like little communities inside. I've never been inside a jail back home so I don't really know how much different they are. But I'm 100% sure they're not like this!....

Most women are in for drug possession or trafficking... Most are serving years of sentencing... which gets me confused.... is it a jail or a prison??? ... anyways... My mum has been witnessing here weekly she has been doing this for a while now and has been able to start many studies, so far she has about 4, but the day I accompanied her, two other ladies asked for a study....

As we arrived, a place which I've walked and driven past many times, I had never noticed it was a jail, we entered a door to what looks like someone's house. We had to register and our bags got a full inspections along with all our books and literature.. We then were let in further, women guards had to personally search us and our clothes to make sure we had nothing hidden (by this point, I started to feel nervous). The guards then opened the door and let us in..... and that was it.... we were inside!! no guards were with us and none that I could see in sight to at least calm me down....

As we entered, there were about 5 ladies at the door just staring at us, they had hoped it was family members coming to visit. We went through what looked like a beauty salon, down a hall way that had a small dinning room and passed many little rooms which I thought was the library, kitchen, and bathrooms. We then went to an outside courtyard where most of the women where, all huddled in small groups. My mum immediately spotted her studies sitting in a little corner at the back and she headed straight there.

I was trying to take everything in, being the first time in this type of environment I had expected it to be different. They seemed to be allowed to have some personal belongings and none had uniforms as I had expected. Many visitors had already arrived, most bringing food with them. Many children were also there visiting, I was surprised at how many there were... I suppose it is a women's jail.

Most were doing each others hair and makeup... passing time I suppose... before I knew it, mum was asking me to open in prayer... I found myself really unfocused and very nervous...  There were many times my mum had to focus my attention... she encouraged me by telling me that it gets easier to concentrate in time... she mentioned she had also felt the same way when she started... Mum studied with them individually, having to go searching backwards and forwards to find them, once she found them, they would stop whatever they were doing and the study would begin.

I tactfully chatted with the women that were studying after we were finished, most had been there a year, some more.... they all had very similar stories. The main reason why they ended up there?... Bad association - it was either a boyfriend, a friend or a family member who had introduced them to a type of life they found very hard to leave behind and eventually it caught up with them. As soon as one would finish telling me their story another would begin, I was surprised at how open they were about personal details and encounters they'd had, It almost felt like watching a documentary.... most just wanted to have their story heard and some wanted bible council as well.  I watched as my mum handled the Bible and opened to scriptures I hadn't before considered would apply to these situations. She was very good at giving them comfort from the scriptures. Their stories are truly heartbreaking and the ones who suffer the most are their children.

I thought about how protected we are in Jehovah's Organization. Jeremy and I don't really have much to do with the world apart from when we're out witnessing and our studies... but right now, I was exposed to so much of the bad that happens daily in this system, I would be lying if I didn't admit that my thoughts were... wow, it's really really bad out in this world!! - It was an huge reminder of why we are in so much need for the Kingdom to come.

I asked mum why all the women were huddled in groups, she said that as soon as a new inmate is brought in, she has to quickly pick a group as there's more protection in numbers, she was still getting to know all the different groups herself, but she knew which ones she had to be very careful around and which ones she had to stay away from...

I was relieved when mum told me she had finished all her studies, I though ok good, I survived and now we're going home but mum had other plans... she said "now, we go witnessing in here".... my immediate thoughts were... what?... how?... I wasn't sure what she meant... but I watched as my mum... my mum... walked up to these women  huddled in their groups and very courageously offer them the current magazines...she would do a normal presentation like she would door to door.

Imagine a little girl who's pocking her head out from behind her mother, hiding so to speak.... well, that was me!...  as I observed my incredible mum talking to all these ladies, I found a new sense of respect and pride... I caught myself thinking....wow, this is what I want to do when I grow up!!... hahaha... I'm 31 years old!!!...... but I truly felt like a little kid again...

I'm not sure if it was because I was really nervous but by this point I really needed to use the bathroom, I lent over to mum to tell her and she cracked up laughing and said "OK, it's time to go..." As we walked out, I immediately felt a sense of relief. When I checked the time it was only lunch time, we had been there only three hours, but it felt much longer.... does something happen to time in there?? does it slow down???...

Hopefully they will all continue to study, it's not an easy environment to stand out as being different... mum mentioned, she's so happy when she sees them again and sad when she leaves as she doesn't know if that will be the last time she sees them.. the way the system works here means they could get transferred or released at any time and that might be the end of the study... I understood why in her concluding prayers she asked Jehovah to look after them no matter where they were, and also why she encouraged them to continue to look for Jehovah no matter what happened.

That whole day afterwards, I couldn't help but thank Jehovah I was brought up in the truth.... I couldn't stop thinking of my mum and the incredible job she is doing for Jehovah...and how Jehovah's spirit can help us do amazing things.... it also made me think of all the brothers and sisters who do this work around the world... wow... we have an amazing job to do, Jehovah is using us - mere humans - to help people change their lives... I had all these thoughts running through my mind of what the world would be without these places... and how much the truth can help these women if they just allow it... I thought about my new found appreciation I had from this experience... and how glad I was to have been let out....

As I thanked mum for taking me, she asked me... do you want to come next week??? ..........hmm.... at least I'll be better prepared for what to expect......haha....

We had these stamps on our arms to show we were only visiting, we had to show them on the way out.