Hope everyone had a wonderful Easter. The following is an account written by Brent Bishop, of a visit to a Prison Farm in Jamaica a few years ago.
We travelled up the winding narrow road towards the Prison Farm that is located high up in the mountains of Jamaica, away from everything, where our team was booked to share that day. It was like we were in one of the movies I had seen shot in the jungles of Vietnam. At times the heavy green canopy blocked out the sun, and some of the small house plants that we have in Canada, were big enough to climb on.
When the prison came into view, it looked even more like a movie. High fences covered with razor wire, and old buildings that looked like they were made for a Vietnam movie.
As we drove beside the prison that was to our right, there was a deep canyon that separated us from getting near. Just ahead, we could see a small white bridge that we would cross to reach the prison.
There were many inmates dressed in tan shorts, with white tee shirts, waving and shouting at us from behind the fence, as we drove slowly along. From the excitement they were showing, I could tell they did not have many visitors to this hidden place.
To my surprise, when we arrived at the security gate, one of the guards, dressed neatly in green, unlocked the gate and let us drive in. All they did was stop the van long enough to take our cell phones. This was a first for me; I have been in prisons where they almost strip search you, at this one, we just drove in. The guards and inmates were so pleasant to us. They even went to the bother of climbing a coconut tree, and cut off a bunch of green coconuts and lowered them to the ground. An inmate cut a small hole in each coconut, with a long knife and handed them to us one by one, with a straw, so we could drink the coconut water that was inside.
After we parked the van, we walked up a set of stairs that went through a tropical setting of flowered plants and small palm trees, leading us to a long camp style building. With a wide open veranda, and a roof that provided much needed shade, this building contained a few of offices. Here we were introduced to the Warden. After the introductions, we were taken to the chapel. Any time we moved into any of the prisons, they always provided us with a body guard, who always walked behind us and watched closely for any trouble.
When we arrived in the chapel, it was close to being full, approximately 60 men, and the prison only held 114 men. One of the inmates started the service with praise and worship. I started to pray, but I felt the Holy Spirit so strong I did not ask for His help, instead I thanked him for letting me be a witness of what He was going to do in the service, and for allowing me to take a part in it.
The service went on in our usual order with each one on the team sharing. One of the team sang a song of worship that we all enjoyed. Our driver shared about how he was once a dope dealer, and had done time. He had an intriguing testimony; it was not hard to see the men related to him and clapped vigorously for him as he finished.
Then came my turn, and the words came pouring out of my mouth. Words of hope and love, words of forgiveness and understanding, words that exalted Jesus to the full extent. I could hardly believe what God was doing in that little Chapel, with its home-made benches, open ceiling to a sloped roof, and alter that was made of 2X4’s and a piece of plywood to lay our bible on.
It was one of those moments that you had to be there to fully understand. When I gave the men a chance to open their hearts and let Jesus fill them with His Spirit, sixteen men came to the altar, raised their arms into the air, and prayed to God for the salvation that His Son so freely gives.
After the prayer was finished, the chaplain came up and instructed the men on what to do next. While he was speaking, an inmate that had never been inside the chapel before, asked if he could come in and say something, so the chaplain let him share. He said that he never wanted anything to do with the chapel, but as he was standing outside he could hear the message, and as we prayed the sinners’ prayer, he also accepted Jesus into his heart.
We found out this man was in and out of prison all his life. Praise the Lord, another soul was saved for Jesus! Before we left, I prayed with a man who was getting out in a matter of days, and wanted so much to stay out. We also left books and prison newspapers to give out.
This was the last prison on our mission in seven days. We had shared at six Prisons, two churches and at an Overcomers Graduation. We had seen many lives ministered to, too many to count! We helped over 120 souls find Jesus and His love. I was filled with mixed emotions as I missed home and my dear wife, Sheila; I was glad to be heading home, but at the same time loved every minute of what we were doing in the name of Jesus.
As I was leaving the prison, one of the wardens shook my hand said, “Thank you”, and finished with, “My peace I give you”. At this time I would like to do the same for everyone who reads this report, “My peace I give you”.
Be blessed and know you are loved. Brent Bishop.