Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Out on Bail

(repost February 2107)

Did some time in our National Prison recently! Our national Baptist Women wanted to do another project this year there.  Since I'm usually game for a project, we went in with them.  Thanks to generous giving to a great organization called Baptist Global Response, we were able to prepare 700 kits containing food, toiletries and some comfort items for the youngest at the prison.  Prisoners here are and depend on family to survive.  Those that don't have family to help them, suffer greatly.  Those who do have family still lead very difficult lives.  We wanted to share the love of Christ in a physical way with those incarcerated.  My team and I were chosen to visit and share with the minors as well as buying for and packing the kits beforehand.  In addition to the normal hardships one would expect in prison of being separated from society at large, our inmates face serious over crowding problems and lack of provision for very basic human needs.  They eat VERY little that is given by the prison itself.  Most family members try to get to the prison often to help out with food.  A dear friend with an incarcerated brother spent months going to the prison each day to take him food to eat.  So we wanted to meet some basic needs while going with the gospel in an attempt to share Jesus love and carry out his desire for us to care for the "least of these."
Just one of the loads bought and taken to the Mission for storing and packing
The weeks leading up to the event were incredibly busy just trying to locate, purchase and transport that many goods.  So many days we worked from before dawn until past midnight.  I really do like projects like this, so some of this was fun for me.  There is a point, though, where you can have too much of even a good thing!  I wore my team out on this one.  Day after day, I shopped and loaded down our pickup and rented other vehicles to help haul the load.  The only storage space we had was on the second story of our office building.  After several days of hauling, I was headed out to buy more.  On the way out the door, our 17-year-old Caleb said, "Mom, when you get back I'm not going to be here."  "Oh, where do you have to be today?" I asked a little surprised because there isn't too much going on.  "Anywhere but here!" Ha!  We did everything possible to make it all fun, but hauling tons of goods up a flight of stairs is just plain old hard work.  We had throwing contests for distance, speed, record numbers at one time, record numbers caught, etc.  One big challenge everyday was finding small loads that Ty our two year old could carry.  Can't leave him out of anything!  On pack day, he insisted on being quality control!
The parking lot was turned into a warehouse on packing day.

Dried fish went into the women's kits as they are able to cook a little.
To get our warehouse sorted and ready to ship I called in 10 of my closest personal friends (also known as anyone that would answer their phone and not hang up on me after hearing my request), my sweet African sister, my JourneyGirls, and my kiddos to sort and pack.  We made kits for minors, kits for women, kits for little ones housed with their mothers, kits for those in the prison hospital and kits for those that receive few or no visitors.  Merely tying the top of the bags at the end of the day took an hour or so.  Unfortunately we couldn't finish the task in one day even though we started well before dawn went way past dark.  I worried that we may not even get all of the bags made before the big day, but thanks to a lot of hard work, we finished on the eve of the trip.

My sweet African sister, kids, journeygirls and precious friends showed up for a day of dawn to dusk packing.
 This was my second trip to the prison, but it was nearly as nerve wracking, if not more so than the first visit.  Those that have followed me for a long time remember the last trip.  This time we added some new stressors to go along with all of the usual ones.  Because of the 700 kits, we had to rent a huge truck and driver to help us get them all to the prison and we still had to load up the mission pickup.  The truck should have been at the mission before 6 AM to start loading, but the driver we hired called at 6:15 to say he was having trouble with his vehicle and couldn't get there.  He had called a friend with a truck but that friend was 30 minutes away on a good traffic day! Some might say I get a "little" high strung as we approach a big project, but let me just say that I nearly LOST it when he told me that! I had only one phone number of someone that might be able to help us and he didn't answer his phone at 6:15, go figure!  I was obligated to take this unknown guy that was WAY too far away.
Rented truck on the big day
I counted each second until his arrival as I paced our mission yard.  Mind you I could barely move from days of loading and unloading and lifting and moving and sorting, but I did laps anyway.  Finally he arrived and we all worked to load the goods into the vehicles.  As we completely filled our rented truck, the driver said, "Lady, you are lucky I came instead of my friend." "Why's that?" I asked.  "Because my truck is much bigger than my friend's.  You never would have gotten all of that in his," he returned.  Luck, my friends, had nothing to do with anything.
Mission truck taking on more than its share
So a little later than we had hoped we headed off with out mission pickup loaded down and the huge rented truck loaded.  The trip to the prison is a 45 minute drive and I tried to get my thoughts straight for the presentation to the minors I was to do.  Our Baptist Women President had asked me to do a backyard Bible club style lesson with singing, games and story.  That might seem like a good idea to some and when she calls the juvenile detainees, children, it seems like an OK idea, but when you are thinking through with the two young ladies assigned to your care to work on your team, it doesn't really sound so great.  I mean we are talking about teenagers that have done something bad enough to get themselves thrown into the national prison.  We were brainstorming about games a couple of weeks before and after about 20 minutes of what about... uh, no that's a bad idea... we finally came up with a few possibles.  Our initial short list was "quiet mouse", "I spy" and "statue"! ;)  We ended up going with blind man's bluff.  I can list at least 15 solid reasons we will NEVER play that one again!!!

(story continues in next blog)

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