The decisions of a Malagasy child and the heavy price of a prison sentence

The decisions of a Malagasy child and the heavy price of a prison sentence

I had seen her among the inmates. She was among the women, sitting in one side of the small covered courtyard. There must have been about 15 of them, as many as I could quickly count by eye. They were sitting on the floor with their legs tucked under them. They were listening intently. Beside them, about 120 rough, scowling men in torn and tattered clothes. Their voices were hoarse, even though it was nearly 40 degrees outside. Suffocating.

I was caught up with some of the organization of that morning’s meeting. I was paying attention out there. My mind was telling me that little girl was the child of a prison guard. Not an inmate. She was an only child. Too small for a prison. Too innocent for the harsh life of detention. Yeah, I thought so.

I was in Miandrivazo prison, preaching to the people. My friends, five men from Bethesda Church in Watford, had made considerable efforts that hot morning to come to the prison.

They had brought with them sacks of rice. But above all, they had in their hearts the best news they could share. The news of freedom, despite the bars. A freedom that the apostles Paul and Silas had experienced in the Philippian prison, despite the heavy bars that bound their feet, despite the chains that hung their arms from the cold cell walls. A freedom you find only in Jesus Christ, the Savior. This is what Pastor Cristian Niță preached about.

We prayed for these men and women, deprived of the joy of freedom. We gave them booklets and Pastor Solofo gave them 5 large Bibles. They were donated to the prison library, so that everyone could have access to them. We hope so. Then we asked the warden to allow us to give candy to everyone. While the team handed them out, they were able to talk to people. To exchange short phrases in English, as they each managed to crochet them, in the short time of receiving a piece of candy.

“Could we see a men’s cell, please?”, I asked the prison governor. 

“Yes. We can. Let’s go in here.” It was the nearest door. 

I was stunned in the doorway. The cell was big. And very tall. And… empty! No bed. On the walls, down along them, but also up, hanging on the few nails, were the men’s meager belongings in nylon bags. On one wall, up nearly ten feet, were large windows, barred with bars.

“Where are the beds, Commander?” I asked in surprise. “We took them out, because they were bunk beds, and some tried to escape.” “And they sleep on the floor?” “Yes,” the prison commander told me firmly. “They sleep on the floor, side by side.”

As we were leaving the prison wing where the meeting had taken place, the London men stopped me, puzzled. Or rather, shocked. I couldn’t understand why.

“Marcel, this little girl is locked in here!” I rolled my eyes! I leaned over to her and asked, “What’s your name?” “Miora,” she answered. “How old are you?”, I insisted again. “Thirteen.” “And you’re locked in here, Miora?” “Yes,” she answered sadly.

I was puzzled. She was younger than my daughters, Alessia (16) and Ruth (15). She was tiny. Skinny. Small. A little girl! Her hair was braided in tight little pigtails, like African girls prefer. What brought her to such a sinister place? I discovered she’d snatched a necklace from someone’s neck in the market and run away. But they caught her. And now she was going to stay in prison.

“Has she received her sentence, Commander?” I insisted. “No, she hasn’t got it yet.” “And what would be the punishment for this theft?” “He could get two to five years in prison.” Wow! I froze. “Isn’t that a bit much for a child?”, I insisted. “That’s the law!”

I was on the car. We were all silent, tired and from the long days we had spent in the burning heat evangelizing people and giving them medical help. But we were troubled by the same thought.

Géza dared to voice it: “What will happen to that 13-year-old girl in prison?” Will she get out of there in one piece? So few women among so many men! And all of them… hungry. What abuse there must be!” “Indeed,” confirms Pastor Solofo, who has been involved in prison ministry for almost 10 years, “there’s a lot of sexual abuse in prison. And a lot of violence. Parents on the outside or spouses can’t stop the abuse against their loved ones, children, little girls or their imprisoned wives. If you want to have a better life, you give in! You take the abuse as a key to a better life in the hard time of detention. That’s why we go with the Gospel there. It changes lives. And some of the changed become advocates for the weakest. I trust that God can do such things for Miora.”

We all sighed, most of us having children, little girls the same age as Miora.

Miora remained on our prayer list. But we decided to inquire about her fate through Pastor Solofo. We would somehow like to “protect” her from the outside, even if the deed was a bad one, which threw her into prison hell. We do not yet have clear steps related to Miora, but we will ask for reports on her as partners involved in prison ministry.

Would you like to pray for Miora too? Would you like to pray for men and women in prisons? They have done wrong things, but many regret these actions. For some of them, prison was the place where God could lock them up for a while to quiet their hearts and listen to His message. To accept it in their hearts. To transform their lives.

The men in Miandrivazo prison sleep on the floor. Right on the cement and clay floor. Some wanted to escape. They’re all paying. Would you like to pray for them too? I’m asking you to make a commitment to pray at least once a week for the men, women and children in Malagasy prisons. If you do at these times, just write so in the comments: I will pray!🙏🙏🙏

 

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