Written by Kristin Bennecker
This afternoon, Leafa, Rina, Austin and I went to visit the women’s prison here in Tacloban. For the last few months, Leafa has been consistently visiting the women, teaching them from the Word, playing volleyball with them, and learning their stories. For Leafa, today’s visit was particularly meaningful because it was her last day coming to the jail before she returns to the states after being in Tacloban for the last 10 months.
Many of the women in this prison are young—the majority between the ages of 18-30. They are mostly in jail for drugs or petty crimes, but remain in jail (often for years) due to a slow and corrupt justice system. It isn’t uncommon for a woman to be scheduled a trial date, only for it to be postponed an entire year. A lot of them are mothers who are then separated from their children for years on end. One can only imagine the impact this has on a person’s psyche. For them, having a consistent visitor like Leafa, wasn’t insignificant.
Today we wanted to do something special for the women, so we brought them a nice meal that Rina prepared, as well as combs, nail clippers, and fans for each woman. This type of pampering is not something they get to experience often. The jail is overcrowded and understaffed, which clearly impacts their living conditions. Their daily food consists of coffee and bread for breakfast and fish and rice for dinner. Today we had them sit together at tables, served their food ‘family style’, and fellowshipped together.
In the book of Luke, we often see Jesus sharing a table with people his society would have considered to be too low of a status and therefore shamed to eat alongside them (Luke 4:12-15). Jesus taught that the table was a place for equality, not exclusivity. What happened at the jail today was a beautiful picture of banqueting according to the way the LORD intended. Even though we are leaving this week, Rina will continue to visit the women weekly, doing educational seminars, teaching the Word, and being a source of encouragement to them as they endure a challenging situation.