Now, remove all preconceived notions about these mandatory liberties. Ugandans are not given such luxury when in prison. A prisoner once captured does not even get a phone call to let them know where they are. Often times someone may be imprisoned wrongly on a false charge but have to sit in prison before they see the judge. In a country where the justice system is logged with more pressing cases, a person may be wrongly held without anyone even knowing it. It’s as if they just disappeared off the earth.
If the prisoner was lucky enough for their family member to find out they are in prison, sometimes the family may not even visit because they don’t want to be associated with them. This presents a major problem because if the prisoner is not given food, water, blankets, soap or other provisions they are at the mercy of “the system.” Prison guards barely have enough for themselves…
World Outreach Ministry Fellowship in conjunction with their Ugandan ministry called Ugandan Christian Outreach Ministries has developed a special ministry outreach designed specifically to reach these prisoners. A western missionary, Mike and his wife lead it with a veteran nurse (a Ugandan lady with over 20 years experience), nurse assistant and any other help they can get.
They visit over 60 prisons on a regular schedule ranging from small prisons with short-term sentences of one day to 12 months all the way to large prisons with maximum security and life sentences. When they arrive all the prisoners are lined up in a large group while the team sets up. Ministry begins with a few songs of praise and worship. After, those most in need of medical care are called forward to receive attention ranging from deworming pills to malaria medication to receiving advanced wound care. While the most needy prisoners are being called forward, the other team members give an encouraging message, share their testimonies and give a gospel message. This is all well received.
As time nears to an end, we distribute encouraging gospel tracts in their local language as well as give everyone food, soap, clothes, blankets and other needs. These might be the only assistance in addition to what “the system” provides until the next time visited by the prison ministry team.
A major goal of the prison ministry team is to visit each prison at least once a month because some of the medications are complex and need to be monitored on a monthly basis. Also, it is good in order to disciple the believers. One can quickly see there are 60 prisons they visit and only 30 days in a month. That means they visit an average of two to three prisons a day! Some prisons are a three hour drive from the city. This makes for some long days…
But, the ministry is effective despite the hard work. Usually that’s the way it is, the harder the work the more rewarding. How great it is to see prisoners physically set free from the spiritual prison of sin and Satan. These prisoners when released become church leaders and thriving ministers of the gospel! If it weren’t for their time in prison they may have never been transformed physically but more importantly spiritually!
It was encouraging to be the hands and feet of Jesus when going to these prisons. We were reminded about what Jesus said in Matthew 25:35-36, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.”
These men and women are hungry, thirsty, strangers (to us), naked (well half naked at least), sick and in prison. When reading that verse before our several trips out to visit prisons we were struck at the weight of this verse. Because later in Matthew 25 it says, “To the extent you did not do it to the least of these you did not do it to me! These will go away to eternal punishment… “
We were privileged by the honor of serving these prisoners with physical assistance but it does not profit them a thing if we don’t give them the true assistance they need, that is sharing the gospel and giving them the word of God. Like any humanitarian aid or assistance, it does no good to keep someone alive physically if will eventually die spiritually. All that is being done is prolonging death. It sounds negative but really should be a wakeup call! We all will die but as sure as we can’t cheat death and taxes one day we will either go to heaven or hell. God has given us a permanent pardon of a guilty charge from the condemnation of eternal imprisonment in hell, forever.
Praise God for the three days we had the opportunity to minister with the prison team (that goes out everyday including some Sundays!) Over fifty people accepted Christ and more than three hundred prisoners were touched physically, encouraged emotionally and moreover spiritually. We look forward to future times of ministry with Mike and his dedicated team.
We are so anxious to see God everywhere on this continent… We want to be the hands of feet to everyone we can… especially to the most overlooked, despised and neglected.