End of Semester Party, July 2018
Last year when my mom came with a team, we decided to visit the hospital and pray for the sick and then go to the jail and share the gospel. We stepped into a whole new world, a sea of tattooed skin, drugs and gambling, all crammed into half a city block. I wrote about my experience meeting a man with black eyes, who was in prison for killing someone and who told me that Satan was asking him for more blood. He was sick with digestion problems too. He wanted medicine from me and to confess. He didn’t know what to do because he did not want to kill another person in prison. I quickly said, “Let’s pray!” I prayed with my new tattooed, black-eyed, steel-faced friend and something happened. The demon that tormented him left. He was set free and he received Jesus.
I remembered the jail being an oppressive place. It felt dark. There were drugs everywhere, people doing their thing. When we tried to hold a service, many were not listening. This year, Pastors Octavio and Maria Luisa, and pastor Rafee came back with my mom, and again we visited the hospital and the jail. This time our worship congregation and several students came with us to the jail. The ladies from discipleship decided to make food for all 230 prisoners and the police. Between everyone in our congregation we donated the ingredients and they made 260 chicken sandwiches! We planned on sharing food and also holding worship.
When you go to the prison they don’t let you take cellphones or anything to record inside. So we have never been able to get any photos. But when we entered the jail, it was different, more organized, and the heaviness we felt last year was not there. We met with the current church leader inside, and he gave us his keyboard and microphones. We had not held worship the previous year, but jumped right into preaching.
This year, I brought my guitar and Mario had the cajon. Carlos, my English student who came, played piano. So we accepted the mics and started to praise God. It was an incredible moment! We started singing and about fifty inmates joined in singing with us. Within a matter of minutes the presence of God could be felt. We kept singing and the energy was electrifying! My fingers were flying and I was strumming as hard as I could. Buckets of sweat poured out of me from the heat and the energy. It was like being in a concert. When Rafee and Octavio came up to preach, everyone’s attention was on them. As he concluded and people raised their hands to receive Jesus or prayer, our whole group activated. I saw our women from worship all talking to these rough, tattooed individuals who were then crying and receiving Jesus with them.
I saw my friend from last year too. He was cutting the other inmates hair, like he was the barber in the place. As soon as he saw me he smiled a big toothy smile with his heart was full of love. We embraced and I told him I wanted to pray for him. As I did, the Lord filled him up with his spirit and I was able to give him words of encouragement. Rafee came to pray too and loved the moment as God’s presence poured out. This man was completely different from the man who got delivered last year. This man was whole, happy, and free. Iker is his name. He told me that when I had prayed for him last year all his gastral problems had left him. He had been well all year!
As we were leaving, the women from our group found a cell that was full of women. They went inside and started to pray and minister to the prisoners. They ended up making friends. We are planning to return as a congregation to bless them again.
The day after our visit, I received an email from the social worker at the jail asking for a donation of sodas for a party the jail was going to have. I didn’t know how the service would be receive the need since we had spent all our tithes and personally donated for the chicken sandwiches. I mentioned it and our group again was excited for the opportunity and everyone gave. I picked up the sodas at the supermarket and drove them to the jail to deliver. The social worker was so excited and informed my mom and me that the event was that day. If we weren’t busy she really wanted us to come inside as her honored guests.
The event was their end of the year school promotion. Those prisoners that studied during the year in the educational program were getting certificates for passing their grade. There was a main table set up inside the prison where we had played worship a few weeks before. Sitting at the table were many directors from the city, somehow involved in the education, the chief of the fire department, and also the chief of police. Each person gave a speech about the importance of studying and finally they started to give out the certificates. My mom and I were sitting in the front row with Walter, an inmate we were getting to know, watching the proceedings when they asked me if I could hand out a diploma. I stood and gave it to a man graduating from sixth grade. They took my photo with him for the news. They cycled through a few more certificates and then asked me again. I stood wondering who it would be and it was my friend Iker, the one delivered from the demons. We got our photo taken together!
After the ceremony, Iker came and found me. We hugged and with a big smile on his face he said, “This very morning I was thinking about you. I was thinking if it was going to be another year before I saw you, and then you showed up at my graduation and gave me my certificate!” It was a really cool moment and I was able to get the photograph from the press.
Everything with the team was amazing. We saw healings in the hospital. We saw God use Rafee’s family conferences to heal emotional wounds. Octavio and Maria Luisa went with us to our first ever staff retreat. We took all our staff and their families to an amazing hotel up the coast for a few days of relaxation, team building, conferences and fun. For most of them it was the first real vacation they had ever had. Our welding teacher and his wife loved the surprise because it was their anniversary and they felt like we were celebrating that with them. Our conferences were really good and I feel we came together as a team. It has set an amazingly good tone for this next semester and I am excited about the results. God is good.
We celebrated our big end-of-semester party with 240 students friends and family. We had a team of decorators from the English classes decorate everything Hawaiian. Carlos and Mario helped us with worship. Brayan Madrid and his friend performed a special break dance for all of us. Rafee shared his testimony and we were moved. We had an amazing time of worship and prayer and after all the games, two students were baptized.