Yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to visit the provincial prison with a small team. We went with a Mozambican named Sergio who got saved in the prison a few years ago and now ministers there by running a Bible school and outreach meetings.
The prison is set just beyond a rural village, with rugged block walls and one large metal door that had a small slot in it, through which we requested entry. The guards know Sergio well, he's there twice a week and some of them remember him as a prisoner. Inside the walls is a large dirt courtyard with a few makeshift tables and a lean-to made of rusted metal sheets. In one corner is the warden's office and in the other a long white block building, which holds the prisoners. We waited for a few minutes before being ushered over to the entrance of the prison block. The guard reminded us that we only had one hour, gave us a final look-over for contraband (we were only allowed to bring our bibles), and opened the outer door.
Before us, there was a long narrow corridor, maybe 4 feet wide, and it was lined with the prisoners in the orange jumpsuits. The cells are off this corridor and during our visit they had opened all of them so that we could interact with the prisoners. Sergio, without hesitating, walked down the middle line and headed toward the far end where a group had begun singing. It was a little intimidating walking single-file between a run of men, who had done God-knows-what, with no guards and no escape. As we approached the group singing, Sergio said to me, "the guys behind us are either new prisoners, believers of different faiths, or unbelievers." What a comforting thought to stand with our backs to men who could shank us at any moment.
The group singing was about 50 or 60 men, and the word singing falls quite short here, these guys were worshipping! They were pouring their hearts out to the Lord, all while the acoustics of the prison walls made it sound like some of the best men's choruses I've ever heard. Together, we worshipped singing songs in Makua and Portuguese, while one of them had made an instrument from a scrap piece of wood and a few nails. The presence of God was so thick, that for a moment, you forgot that you were in prison.
Everyone introduced themselves and then Sergio had me preach the Gospel to them. And so I stood, with 100 angry unbelieving prisoners to my left and 60 or so believers to my right, and preached my heart out. I preached from John 8 about the woman caught in adultery and how Jesus had every right to condemn her, but chose to display His wondrous grace. "Neither do I condemn you!" rang through the halls like a clarion call for deliverance. As I asked who wanted to follow Jesus, hands shot up all over the place as men gave their hearts to Jesus. One young man raised his hand as he walked past us towards the exit, under his arm his only belongings. When we caught up to him at the prison wall later, he said " Today I got saved AND I get out of prison." He promised to come see us at church this Sunday. As we left the prison that day, the leaders of the 'prison' church handed Sergio a few pieces of paper on which they had listed all the names of the Christians in the prison and those who were in the Bible School. I stared at that list and wondered about the prophetic potential within their lives, how the enemy has tried to steal everything from them but how God has their best days ahead.
I promised to return and minister to them again, but I don't think they'll ever know how much they actually ministered to me.