November 27, 2018
Tuesday’s Scripture: Hebrews 13:3 (NLT)
“Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.”
Morning Praise and Worship
The prison schools were closed until January, so the boys were available to spend time with our team all day for drilling and Bible classes. Surprisingly, we didn’t see kids playing soccer or basketball. Most just hung inside or outside their bunk buildings. My thought was that idle hands and minds are never a healthy combination, especially not in prison. Let’s get these boys busy!
I asked Charles, Darin, and Roberto to join Norma, Kathy, Peggy, and me to share their testimony and talk about leadership. From our limited time with the boys yesterday, I felt they really needed positive adult male interaction and conversation. Many of these boys don’t have fathers in their lives, and many are themselves absentee fathers by 16. As a leadership coach, I was prepared to lead a discussion on what it means to be a leader, but I knew my words would not have the same impact as those spoken by a man. Darin, can you help?
We were escorted through the secure gates and into a one-room building across from one of the bunk houses. The boys shared set of instruments, and the musicians setup the keyboard, drums, and a guitar. Twenty-five younger boys, ranging from 12 – 15 years old, walked into the room and gradually took seats in the plastic white chairs. As each walked in, I would intentionally lock eyes, smile, and say, “Hola.” I wanted to validate him. I see you. You do matter.
When the room was nearly full, one boy stepped to the front of the room to lead us through 3 Spanish worship songs. When I closed my eyes, it sounded like a cacophony of Christians. Although many couldn’t sing on key, they such sang with heart. God shared with me how beautiful this cacophony sounded as we praised and worshiped Him. He doesn’t care how well we perform. He only cares what’s in our heart.
He reminded me that we are a cacophony of Christians such as Catholic, Protestant, and Baptist, and He loves us all regardless of how we choose to worship Him. I thought of our diverse team, a cacophony of Christians, called the Dillon’s Friends. We are beautiful in our diversity representing age, ethnicity, and gender.
Charles blessed us with an a cappella rendition of Amazing Grace followed by much needed encouragement to the boys that their current circumstances did not define their future. Charles’ testimony was the proof, and Peggy followed by sharing her experience of being in emotional prison during that time when Charles was serving time. The boys needed to hear the heart-felt story from this mother/son duo and how proud Peggy was of Charles. With their arms around each other, they inspired hope.
Pastor David of Orphan Helpers is an influential leader for these boys. Using the soccer balls we brought, he taught us some creative games to play inside the four concrete walls. We laughed and cheered for each other. We prayed out as a group before the team left for lunch. One of the boys, Emerson, claimed he was prophetic and wanted to pray for Darin, Charles, Peggy, and me. What a touching and special treat.
Back at the well site, the team hit a big rock which was limiting drilling progress. After lunch they returned to work with the boys who were now getting dirty and acting like old drilling hands, taking over much of the work of the drilling team. Many of the drillers became “supervisors”—watching the boys haul pipe and shovel mud. While the drilling continued, the teaching team went back into prison to visit with another group of older boys. We decided to repeat the winning messaging from the morning and add Darin to lead a discussion on leadership and purpose.
What surprised our team was the older boys’ lack of response to Charles passionate question, “Do you want life or death?” Our team all raised our hands to “we want life,” but the boys stayed silent. We knew many were Christians based on the Bible study discussion yesterday afternoon. The peer pressure to hold the line was a formidable force. Hopefully when their heads hit the pillow, they will think of their day and make a commitment. We ended the afternoon handing out toothbrushes, toothpaste, and Spanish Bibles.
We joined the drillers! Slow progress! We walked up to Angel, who was sitting and talking with Rafael. Rafael had a unique story in this prison, although I would guess, not as unique by general Salvadorian standards given the proliferation of gang membership throughout the country. He was free to roam near the team and drill site for a couple hours. Rafael lived in a room near the guardhouse that looked like solitary confinement. Most of the day, Rafael was able to look out of the vertical bars of his locked half door. We learned Rafael had a 5-year sentence, spent 1 year in the general population, and had lived 2 years in this solitary confinement.
Why solitary? Rafael was retired gang, with a RET tattoo signifying his choice to leave behind that life. He was secluded from the general population for his own protection from the gangs would wanted to kill him. We obviously didn’t yet know the whole story. Angel had been talking with Rafael for an hour and asked that we pray for him to make a decision about accepting Jesus. We prayed and then Angel asked me to share my testimony and explain who I was before and after accepting Christ. I hope that tonight as Rafael lays his head down and reflects upon his day that he will pray the prayer that will change his life.
The drilling team finally called it a day. The sun was setting, and they couldn’t penetrate the big rock. Angel and Enrique weren’t sure whether the problem was the compressor or the drill bit. New morning plan—leave the hotel at 6 am to get to drill site and figure it out. Pull out all the pipe and check the bit. Chances of completing the well and dedicating it on Thursday is at risk.
Photos were restricted. For the safety of the staff and youth no photos of their faces are allowed on social media.
About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, and financial coaching. She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.