by Jason and Jessica Wilde
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels. Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment, and of the ill-treated as of yourselves, for you also are in the body. (Hebrews 13:1-3)
Our morning schedule with Family Missions Company was usually pretty tight. Every morning, we woke to the crowing of roosters, dogs howling, and the singing wake up call of one of the full time missionaries as she marched the halls of Canossa.
But, that first morning was really tough. The kids were up late the night before helping count and package vitamins, and we didn’t quite have our morning missionary efficiency mastered yet. Through a bit of God's grace, we were downstairs ready to pray and eat breakfast with everyone at 6:15. Since we had read and committed to memory the FMC rules of a missionary heart, the kids each sat at a different table with the nursing students so they could make friends. We ate oatmeal, bananas, Milo and coffee. Then, we went to the chapel to sing praise to God, reflected on Matthew 25:31-46, and prayed as a community.
Our service on that first morning was at the local jail where we celebrated mass and provided medical care and prayers for the people living in the crowded prison. With a light drizzle falling on our faces, we packed into three little cars and headed to the Malaybalay City Jail. The drizzle progressed to a light rain as we waited outside the large concrete wall to be admitted in, 5 at a time for security screening. They inspected our bags and patted us down before escorting us in. Along the way, we walked past some gardens and an assortment of roosters and duck before entering through a barred door into a metal roofed gazebo in the center of the prison complex.
Homemade Christmas holiday decorations made from egg shells and various food wrappers hung from the rafters, each one with a different cell number posted on it. We were later told that they have a contest every Christmas where each cell competes for best decoration, and many prisoners take great pride in their creations. Wooden benches were lined along a center aisle for Mass. The leaders of our group asked for volunteers to sit in the front of the makeshift church and serve as the choir, so I volunteered myself and the kids. As the prisoners filed in from across the courtyard, everyone else dispersed themselves among the crowd for fellowship. We waited a few minutes for the local priest to drive up with an assistant, and then we began as soon as everything was set up. After Mass, the kids and I helped pass out pan (bread) to everyone.
The benches were then pushed against the walls, and the gazebo was transformed from a church into a medical clinic. There were five stations: vitals, diagnostic, pharmacy, prayer, and a barber. We were each assigned a station.
Jason socialized with the prisoners while they waited in line. We didn’t get to meet all of them during the clinic, but afterward we visited the cells and found a very crowded and indignant life behind bars. We were told that due to the recent political changes in the Philippines, most prisons were well over capacity, and this one held over 300 prisoners, men and women, in a space that was probably about the size of our small condo home. So, it was a welcome break from the stuffy life for them to come out into the rain and get a medical checkup.
Brecklyn, Grace and Alex rotated between the different stations. The nursing students taught them how to take the patient's vitals like blood pressure, temperature, and pulse ox. They even taught our kids how to check reflexes and eye dilation. At the pharmacy, the kids helped count out, bag, and label different medications.
Chi Yu had the most important job of all. He made the prisoners smile. He walked around very independently looking at the baby chicks, giving the prisoners high fives, and helping the guards with their keys. But the cutest moment was the friendship Chi Yu made with an inmate named Stuart. We noticed that Chi Yu seemed to be constantly eating cookies and crackers. About halfway through the clinic, we noticed that he would go up to the concession stand within the gazebo, tap on the glass, and point to the cookies. Stuart, who worked in the concession stand, would smile broadly and then give him a cookie. A few minutes later, Chi Yu would be back asking for another, and another, and so forth.
My job was to pray with the prisoners. We had a translator who would ask the prisoners for their prayer intention. Their prayers were filled with petitions to God for freedom, prayers for their families, and for their health. But, one prayer request brought tears to my eyes. An elderly gentleman asked us to pray that when he dies, he would go to heaven.
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.”
He told us his crime. This man had sinned! But just like the thief who was crucified with Jesus, this prisoner humbled himself not only to us but to God in his desire for God’s merciful love. He bowed his head low during our prayer and we prayed for his salvation. We were all moved to tears. Like this man, we too are sinners who seek God and desire our heavenly home.
God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. (1 Corinthians 1:28-29)
On a Mission
Two passionate parents and their four children are excited to bring His Word to everyone in need while living a life of Gospel poverty as missionaries. They invite you to join them on a journey to encounter our global neighbors that Jesus commands us to love through works of charity and service.