Sunday, August 7, 2011

M1: When I was in prison...

M1 Remand Center

Before leaving for Uganda, I tried to prepare by reading about Sixty Feet and a man named Moses. This Christian organization and man seeks to minister to the imprisoned children in Uganda. Several government "remand" and "processing" centers are set up to house children and teenagers. Some are guilty of stealing food, being on the streets after being sent out to beg, and not going to school. Others have been simply dropped off or accused of stealing from relatives who no longer want them.   

I had read about M1 (code name) and knew in my head kids are routinely placed in solitary confinement to "break them down." However, my heart was not ready to walk the dank corridor and to see this: 

As we approached,  he dropped his arms through the bars. Weeping, I grasped his arms and silently prayed for God's comfort and protection. We later learned he had been in solitary for a few days with little (if any) food or water. We also learned that he is 10 years old. As best as we understand, his  offense at the remand center was dumping out trash. Through the intervention of Moses, he was brought out, clothed,  allowed to play outdoors with our team, and did not have to return to solitary.

After we saw this cell for children/teens who are allowed outside during the day

we were led to the space where 40-50 boys were being held for "processing" and not allowed outside:

Most of these boys had been in this room for more than a month, again with little food and water. Their pieces of foam for sleeping (in the back corner) had no bed frame and the room was empty. Some things the heart just cannot understand! 

After a brief introduction of our group, the boys spread out across the room. I silently prayed for God to lead me to speak with some of them. These three teens caught my eye and I made my way to them.

We became acquainted as they posed and asked me to take pictures of them. Our conversations slowly turned to their frustrations. The 17 year old (in the middle) spoke with passion and angst about clean clothing, food, and his desire to return home to "dig" (farm) for his mother. 

After sharing and being heard, they allowed me to share scripture and my heart with them. Before going to worship, they asked me to lay hands on them and to pray for them. What an humbling experience! 

The rest of our day consisted of worship and prayer...

(Did I mention how joyful and grateful many of them were?)
teaching by Moses...

handing out clean clothing and shoes donated by many back home...

and playing with those allowed outside.

We are all grateful for the ministry presence Moses has in 6 of the remand centers in Uganda. God is using him to share God's word and love with hundreds of children/teens, to help provide medical care, advocate for those who are not justly placed, and to seek housing & schooling solutions for those who have no family to which they may return.  In addition to his wife Betty and two children, his household currently includes 5 girls (previously in prison) who have no place to go. 

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