"Can you come along to the prison tomorrow to teach about purity and self-control?" asked Dutch friend and medical missionary, JakobJan.
I'd seen the prison before. It is more of juvenile training center. Our soccer boys have played a match against them and all I remember was that they looked like men, not boys. They lined up behind the fence, it looked like waiting their release back to the world they were birthed in.
"Absolutely", Sam replied.
"Can you give a testimony about self-control?"
When we got there, my Hollywood education on prison-life began playing in the back of my mind as I watched the boys/men finish up their chores. Some of them looked as old as Sam. Others, not much older than Sawyer. I wondered what life was like for those younger ones.
We met a YWAM couple who had a heart for exactly this and their comfort level immediately put me at ease. JakobJan told me that the girl's prison would be joining us also.
Clad in blue and white striped shirts, the girls began to filter in. Part of me was intimidated, the other part intrigued by how much I missed working with high school students. A couple were almost too cool to shake hands, but most giggled. One grabbed my hand and began comparing our skin color. They all laughed. I took her hand and showed her that our palms looked almost exactly the same. By now even the too-cool ones had formed a bubble of curiosity. I looked into their beautiful eyes and wondered what in the world had led up to these daughters of humanity to end up behind bars. What injustices had they done? What injustices had they been victims of? Right now, they didn't seem to care much, they were too busy butting into each other's sentences to ask me questions. A girl we'll call "Z" translated for the girls who didn't understand. "We want to learn French. We used to have it at our school, but they don't offer it anymore. Do you know any French? We can say bonjour." Yep, yes, I know how to say bonjour :) "Facilitators" a.k.a. prison guards, filtered in and out past us.
JakobJan pulled everybody inside and started off with an ice-breaker game. They hooted and hollered at some new version of Simon Says that I had never seen before. One of the men helping us gave a personal testimony and then JakobJan called Sam up to share the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife. Sam read from Genesis and a friend translated into Sesotho. The kids all stood quietly and respectfully. Sam went on to share about our 5 year dating relationship and what it meant for him to have Christ in his life to help him carry out purity in our relationship. He challenged them to know their identity in Christ and to KNOW what they want to be about before heading into a relationship.
It ended with a meal and some music and dancing. Toward the end, JakobJan pointed over to a blackboard on a wall and said, "That tells you what crimes people are in here for." Out of curiosity, we were compelled to check it out. 45 boys. 2 murder cases. 30 "other" cases. 1 protective services case. I don't remember the others.
At 1 p.m., a facilitator told the girls to count off, "1, 2, 3,......17". I greeted them as they walked off and found myself wanting to come back someday. It was all kind of a surreal way to spend a Saturday morning and I'm grateful for those crazy opportunities God throws in our laps.