Friday, December 15, 2017

A Divine Purpose ~ The Story of Justine

Life Transforming Prison Ministry: Saphan

“My name is Justine and I’m from the western region of Uganda.

I was a business woman dealing in onions and passion fruit. One day my friend and I were in a taxi. I met a brother in this taxi who was a Lt. in the Army. I hadn’t seen him in a long time. We talked and talked. He catered to my needs along the way, buying me food and other items. We had gone a long distance, nearly 100 miles, when he told me that I should probably get out. I was near home. I told him that no one would buy the merchandise I had with me here. He insisted that he did not want me to see what was going to happen. I didn’t know what he meant. I did not suspect that he could do anything bad.

As we continued the journey he told the driver to stop. He said that he wanted to have a short phone call.

The driver explained that this particular area was not safe, there were armed robbers along the road.

He insisted the driver stop. When he got out of the taxi another man in the back did the same.

Suddenly, both men pulled out pistols. The driver and passangers were told to get out of the vehicle and to strip down.

In a very short time everyone was completely naked, except for my friend and I.  We were told to get back in the taxi.

As we entered the vehicle, another taxi had passed by on the opposite side of the street. Unknowing at the time, the vehicle saw what was happening and went for help.  The men got back in the vehicle and headed toward Kampala.

After about 15 miles the police caught up to our vehicle. The men noticed the police approaching.  They parked the vehicle and ran into the swamp.  When the police finally reached the vehicle with my friend and me inside, they had begun helping us, suspecting that we were victims.

Within a few minutes, the group of people that had been robbed reached our vehicle. They wanted to tear us to pieces. This confused the police. These passangers began to explain that we were a part of the robbery because we had talked with and eaten with one of the suspects the entire trip and that we were not stripped and left on the roadside.

We were arrested.  After a few days we were taken to court. I admitted that I knew one of the robbers, that he had been a friend of mine. I explained to the court that my friend with me was just a victim of circumstance. She did not know either of them. She was released. Because I knew the robber and was in the vehicle at the time of the robbery, I was considered an accessory to the cime and was condemned to death. The year was 1992.

There were so many of us in the condemned section. So many were executed at one time that I remained there frightened and alone.

I too was given my execution date and when the day came, I was told that my file was missing.

It was shortly afterwards that a group of preachers came to the prison, found me alone and told me about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. That day I received Christ as my personal savior. Suddenly, I had Hope.

One of the circumstances of my imprisonment was that no one knew where I was. My husband, children, friends, and relatives thought that I must have been killed. As the time passed, the grief stricken family and friends all gathered for my funeral.

In 2008, my husband remarried. I would find this out later.

Also, in 2008 a woman came to the prison to do interviews of woman and air them on her televison program called “Untold Story”. I was interviewed on her program. This is how my family realized that I was still alive. No one including my husband and children believed it was me. Only one of my daughters said, “this is my mother!”

In Africa, prisoners are typically denounced by the family. I was no different. I had no visitors apart from the occasional brethren that would visit the prison. Then one day God brought a friend to me. I call him dad even though I am older than him. His name is Pastor Saphan. He began visiting me every Thursday. He brought me meat to eat, after going without it for seventeen years. He cared for me, ministered to my needs, and I felt loved once again.

During my seventeen years in prison I have read the Bible many times. I would pray to God day after day. One night, the Lord told me that I’m not going to die in prison. I was here for a divine purpose. He said that he would bring people here and that I would minister to them. They would accept Him and be released, but I would remain here. And, indeed the Lord has done it so, many times. Praise God.

A miracle came in 2009. I had a meeting with Saphan and he requested that I pray and fast for a few days, that the Lord was going to pardon me. I did it, and after a few days the government declared that it was going to pardon all the prisoners that had been incarcerated for long periods. I was to be one of them! I was taken to court, not knowing what would happen. I was told that my release date will be in May 2013. I look at the days remaining as a few weeks to go. I have one challenge, and that is where will I go after I’m released?

Pastor Saphan has promised to take me to his home. I am wondering if I will be a burden to him since I am now very old.

I trust that my God that opened prison doors for me will make provision for me. I thank everyone that is praying for me, and has helped in my provision during my time of distress. I pray that God will bless you.”

“So if you are suffering according to God’s will, keep on doing what is right, and trust yourself to the God who made you, for he will never fail you.” I Peter 4:19 (NLT)

Denise is the Founder and Volunteer Executive Director of Heart of God Uganda, an outreach of Heart of God International Ministries, Inc. She is also the Kinder Developer/Coordinator for Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church. Denise is married and has 5 children. Denise is devoted to God and my family. You can reach Denise @ dmatthews@heartofGodinternational.org

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