On the 3rd October 2012 we the Tamar Staffs Korat along with the Pastor of Korat Church went to Korat Central Jail for ministry and fellowship with 10 Christian inmates. This is the first time in my life visiting a Jail for ministry and lots of things were running down my mind – how will the place look like, how will the prisoners look like, how will the atmosphere inside the prison be, will it be like the prison movies that I used to watch? It’s not the image or pre-concept of jail that I had in my mind. But it was a well set-up place, clean and to some extend even beautiful with the green surroundings, decors and well maintained. The only thing that compels me to think and accept that it was a jail were the High walls fortified with electric barbed wires, CCTVs, high security gates and security guards at every point.
What I am going to share with you here is not some make-up stories or fictions or some stories passed down to me by friends. It is all that I see and experienced happening right before my eyes. A few minutes before 9 AM after the Paper Works and the security procedure being done we were allowed to enter the jail accompanied by security guards.
I love photography but inside the jail we have to surrender all our possessions at the entrance. And this very day my eyes served to me as the best camera that goes beyond what human have produced in history J. My eyes zoomed every possible corner to tell me stories of what is going inside the other side of this world.
We make our entry towards the inner compound but still the sideways, the tiled foot-paths, the beautified plants in various shapes, futsal ground and the tall trees kept me wondering is this really a Prison? Yes, it is. As the guard leads us to another gate we could see a swarm of prisoners out in the open surrounded by thin fences and guards. Some with full body tattooed, some were playing Mau-Thai, others playing Sepak Takraw, while others were reading books and chatting with fellow prisoners. At one end I saw some prisoners standing in queue and receiving their parcels and letters from a counter. Some prisoners look normal and human while others look wild, rowdy and fearsome that I could not even stare at them for long.
Passing by them and we now ascended a stairway to another block of civilized world where things seems to be normal, we passed through a computer room, an empty class room and then finally we entered a room where 10 ladies were sitted unshackled and anticipatingly waiting for us with our chairs reserved at the front. We sitted and introduced ourselves to them, the room inside was cool, calm and silent unlike the outside which we have come across hot, noisy and rowdy. These ladies don’t look different from my own sisters, mothers and grandmothers. They look normal and calm from outside but I bet they have many hidden untold stories inside which they never want to think of or share with anybody even with us.
As Waew (our staff) strummed her guitar to the tune of some Thai worship songs the prisoners too joined us with their hands clapping and some even singing to the tune of the songs. Some were so young to be in prison while others were in their mid-life and we could see even some worthy to be grandmothers too. After the worship Tooktik (our staff) shared her testimony and encouraged them through her life story. They were still a bit uneasy with us until Yoyo broke the ice with a game called Samson-Delilah-Lion which everyone enjoyed and participated actively. After making them feel free and friendly with us he shared about the Prodigal Son and his Forgiving Father from the Bible- all I can see was they were all ears to the sharing and feeling themselves connected with it. He shared further and encouraged them that God does not care whether you are in Prison or outside, He doesn’t care about your past if you come to Him and ask forgiveness and give your heart to Him to His will. We shared our side of stories in testimonies, songs, games and words of encouragement that there is Hope and Forgiveness from God as long as we are alive and willing to accept Him and Believe and Confess.
Now we turn our ears to their side of stories, how they ended here in the prison, what sort of life they had before and how are they feeling now as a convict and so on. To keep their identity confidential I will just use Alphabets instead of names. Mrs. A as I remembered shared her story of how she landed in Jail just because she was accompanying a friend in a van stuffed/loaded with drugs. She was a kind of leader among the prisoners and further more through her many are coming to know about God and changing their lives too. Mrs. B was in jail because she killed somebody but to my utter-surprise her looks were not like a killer in anyway but more of a motherly figure. And after coming to jail she seems to be serious with God which indeed is a blessing in disguise. They have a type of church inside the prison where they come and worship, share and encourage each other. Miss C was here in the prison for stealing a bike. Miss D and E were two innocent convict who were in prison because they were being cheated by their high authorities. It will be so painful for them to bear all these injustice and being convicted as guilty for nothing. One of them shared while she was following Buddhist religion she could not think of anyone whenever she have problems but after coming to know Christ, in every circumstances she now have someone whom she can think of and it’s a real testimony. Feeling closer to God in the prison than anywhere was today and I believe some of them have faith that cannot be shaken by anything else after all the things they have been through.
Hearing their testimonies and life-stories some of them hold high post, one was a Broker, some were graduates and the prison seems to be an odd place for them. There is a lot the world outside can offer them and they too can contribute their part. There was a lady who did her graduation from Australia 10 years ago and she speaks English well and their stories goes on until the clock was nearing 11:30 AM which was set by the authority as our time limit. So we prayed for them personally one by one and sang with them with the Pastor encouraging them by distributing some Christian Booklets which they received heartily and not to forget we sang Happy Birthday to the oldest lady (50 years+) among them whose birthday falls this month.
Ever since I heard this very song of Don Moen ‘He Never Sleeps’ the song is speaking to me on and on and I want to say again that our God is working in ways we cannot see and this is one of it. After listening to their stories I still can remember one lady among them sharing that today is her first day crying inside the prison and you know the reason why she is crying, God is working in her life even inside the Prison. The love of God goes beyond the locked cells and shackles. Giving them a hope amidst the hopelessness they had. There is someone who loves just the way we are and in Him there is forgiveness and healing. With these words of encouragement we bade them goodbye and hoping and praying for another time of fellowship if the authority permits us in future.
I pray and believe that this very night for some of them will be different and meaningful not because we went there but because of what God is doing in their life inside the prison. I never feel God so close in such a place as this but today is a day I feel it through their tears, stories and testimonies and got blessings just even with my presence with them. There is a world outside that needs them, that depends on them, that needs to hear their stories and testimonies, that needs their service and blessings and I wish and hope that Good Fine Day will come soon. To this very day I’ve never experience such a moment like this. It is one of a day that has been set apart by God and it will be in the history and never a day will come again like today and I feel good, blessed and encouraged to be a part of today in the making of a meaningful history in the book of life. Thank You God for this Day. Amen!