Marriages Made in Heaven
Our brothers and sisters have had a terrific ministry for the past two years at the women's prison where another amnesty has been granted. Some of the sisters who were prisoners have been staying at the training center here for a couple of months now. They are receiving Bible training and practical help as they try to adjust to living outside the prison walls once again. For some of them, it has been a number of years since they were free and the transition is neither automatic nor easy.
Some of them are trying to get back in touch with family members or find children who have been cared for in orphanages while they were behind bars. One woman who is ethnically Turkmen and who came to faith in prison has found her 15-year-old son but she is still looking for his two younger brothers. The prison officials acknowledge that the paperwork for the two younger boys has been lost. She is living in anxiety over their where-abouts and their welfare.
Most of these women came to faith in prison and are still relatively young in the faith. Some, who had taken leadership roles in the community of faith behind bars, are active now in the ministry to their “sisters” who have not yet been released.
Some of those who were not released in the amnesty have really struggled with depression at seeing so many of the others able to move on with their lives. Those who minister to them have been stretched by their extreme emotional needs recently. Pray for wisdom to mitigate the tensions between these women and the prison staff.
The brothers and sisters do everything they can to help the prison administration improve the physical as well as the spiritual environment. The needs are great as the facility has not had an adequate budget since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Virtually no physical improvements in the facility have taken place since then except where the Christians have materially participated. There have been major improvements in shower facilities, meeting rooms, administrative offices, medical facilities and there are numerous projects underway or in the planning stage right now.
Sometimes the Christians participate only by providing materials and the prisoners do the labor. Sometimes the prison administration can bring in skilled labor to do the technical parts and then have the prisoners do the more general labor. And sometimes the Christians bring in specific people to do some of the labor.
They are good reminders of what the ministry leader here has told the warden on more than one occasion as to why the Christians love the prisoners: “We are all criminals in need of God’s forgiveness.”
I think the willingness of the believers here to partner with the prison administration in relieving human suffering is, likewise, a marriage made in heaven.