The following report, written by our South East Asia cooperative, Rina Miller, is based upon her experiences in the female prison in Tacloban City where she visits once a week. Prison ministry has been a focus of our efforts in the Philippines, in keeping with Jesus' inclusion of the prisoner in the category of 'the least of these.'
The Tacloban City Jail Female Dorm had 42 inmates when I visited in August 2016. Since the War on Drug Campaign ordered by the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte began, the number of the inmates has grown drastically. From 42, now the dorm has doubled to 84 inmates trying to fit themselves into the small space. This space is intended for 30 residents, only now that they are obliged to share it, one small bed is for two people, some sleep in the hall and some just use a hammock.
Every Tuesday morning I go to the jail to visit, conduct Bible Study, do group dynamic games, teach a new song, and sometimes a seminar. I bring midwives once or twice a month to do prenatal check-ups for some women who are pregnant or demonstrate some medical needs there. I went to several court hearings of the inmates to make them know that they are loved and supported. A lot of them are in waiting for their cases to be dismissed or have a speedy trial. It is my heartache whenever the inmates get a cancelled court hearing or no appearance from their lawyer. It is a privilege to be with them even during those times, sharing their frustration and hopes.
Female residents are the sweetest. They love my visit each week, not only because they have a snack for the that day, nor solely to listen to an encouragement from the God’s word, but for the friendship I build with them. The conversation, smiles and hugs they give me really lighten my spirit. Many of them don’t have visits for a few months and some of them have had no visit since the day they began there, not even from family or friends. So they really appreciate that each week they get someone to ask them how they are doing and what I can pray for. I’m so thankful for the wonderful opportunity to work with them showing the love of the God to them.
Doing ministry in the jail will not only make you gain friends from the inmates, but also with the officers. I am so thankful for the officers of BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) especially the Jail warden of Female Dorm who is so gracious, accommodating, and so kind to us, giving us the favor to do work with the inmates in the jail.
And just this past month of August, G.O.D. Int’l was given an Appreciation Certificate for being a consistent service provider and partner of change. I was honored to receive the appreciation certificate on behalf of G.O.D. I am happy to serve there and will continue to do it. And also with that, just this Tuesday, the IWDO (Inmates Welfare Development Officer) for Male dorm has showed interest to welcome us to be a service provider and probably allow us to start this December. May the LORD be with us always as we show the love of Christ to those who find themselves imprisoned.