Sunday, January 21, 2018

Day Two Women’s Prison “The LORD extended kindness and favor…” Gen. 39:21

Day two – Women’s Prison Ministry (part one)

It didn’t take long before our team hit the ground running.

Our day would always begin with a group devotion by a team member, breakfast, our daily number and prayer. Today would be no exception. Our daily number was based on 1-10. One being the lowest you could feel, and ten being the best you could feel. This allowed our team to get a feel for how each person was handling the day, and would also allow for us to encourage and edify those that were on the low scale. We had a few that were on the scale of five today. Some entered the country not feeling well, others were already dealing with culture shock/stress.

For some, this ministry was a bit frightful. Luzira women’s prison is the largest women’s prison facility in Uganda. Most of the women brought here are convicted of higher crimes, such as murder. While that sounds horrifying, the sad fact is that many are only accused and most (not all) were in self`defense.

The schedule for the day included breaking into groups and ministering to specific women inside the prison. The groups included women with babies, the elderly and sick, the students, and special needs group. What wasn’t expected was the large group session where the entire team would meet with the women of the prison as a whole and the leader would give them a message of encouragement.

This was definitely not something I had planned for. Oh, but don’t you just know that God did!

Jan, our President of Heart of God International and resident women’s ministry leader, was asked if she was prepared to give a message to the women. Although she hadn’t expected this either, she was ready with a word from God~ or so I thought. As the time grew nearer to depart to the prison, Jan approached me and said “the Bible says to be ready in season and out of season. I’m not feeling well enough to go, so you, my dear, need to be ready to give a message”. My heart sank and fear swept over me. “I’m not ready!”

Scott, Saphan and I began to joke around that I had better be ready. Oh good Lord, can it be? What about Sharlyn, surely she would be ready. She’s a teacher, after all. The simple fact became very clear. I was the Director and leader of this group and it was my position and place to give this message. I was a nervous wreck! I was pacing and convincing myself and anyone who would listen, that I was just not ready.

The crazy part is that in reality, I was ready. God had already prepared me for this in advance. I’d had in mind a few scriptures from even before our trip. My small Bible study group had been studying the patriarchs and Joseph immediately came to mind.

Many of these women, like Joseph, were in prison falsely accused. Even though Joseph was imprisoned God was still with him and extended favor and kindness to him. What could be more encouraging than those words from Genesis 39:21!

When we arrived at the prison we were all escorted upstairs to the OC’s office. Her name is Priscilla. Priscilla went over the official protocol of our visit, and welcomed us to the prison. It was my hope that she would allow me to go inside the prison walls and see where the women slept. The team had provided mattresses for some of the inmates. The women don’t typically get a mattress, they sleep on the hard ground. Many don’t have blankets either.

I spoke with Priscilla privately and asked her what could be done so that I could see their living conditions. Unfortunately, there was nothing that could be done. She did agree, however, that I could take photos outside the prison gates to share with those that God had used to provide the mattresses.

Soon we were escorted inside the prison gates to a room full of women waiting with anticipation for a word from God. The women were singing and praising God before we even entered the room. You wouldn’t know that you were in a prison, save for the fact that you entered through a prison gate. The praise and worship leader, a woman named Susan, was so full of the Holy Spirit that you couldn’t help but smile and rejoice with her. She had a zeal for God like no one I’d ever seen. Actually, you see that a lot in Uganda. A true spirit of praise and worship unlike anything you’d see in America. At least on my part. But for her, the zeal and spirit she had would soon have me in tears.

The team was introduced and a word was spoken by Priscilla, Saphan, and some of the other prison officials. My hands were beginning to sweat as I waited for my turn to give the women a message. As always, it felt as though I would die having to get up in front of 300+ women, but alas, I survived. God has an uncanny knack of doing that. The message was clear. God sometimes places women (and men) in prison to fulfill his purpose.
The same God that allowed Joseph to be placed in prison, was the same God that also placed some of these women in prison as His messengers. God is not a punisher, but a giver of life and freedom. Freedom that isn’t always accepted, even outside of prison walls. God was with Joseph in prison and granted him kindness and favor. The God of Joseph is the same God for these women today.

The women of the praise and worship team began singing again. It was at that point that Saphan leaned over to me and informed me that Susan, this woman of high spirit and zeal for God, was sentenced to be hanged in November. How could it be? How could this woman who was singing with such enthusiasm and praise to her almighty God be sentenced to die in a few months? It didn’t make sense. She should be sad, fearful and terrified, shouldn’t she? The answer is No.

She was believing God, her God of kindness and favor to grant her freedom from her sentence. Either way God decided to do it, she was a winner. If it was to be that her sentence was carried out, she would be in the presence of her maker and LORD, and if He was to grant her release from prison then she could spread the good news of God to those around her. A blessing in her life either way.

God was with Susan and it was evident! We go into these mission ministries with the thought and idea that we will somehow transform the lives of others and ultimately God has a way of changing ours. Thank you, Jesus for your kindness and favor to all who will seek you, find you and listen!

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 @

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