After breakfast, Andre, who is the pastor of outreach, and Darren, a member of the young adults group, picked us up and took us to the church for a prayer meeting with the prison ministry team.
|We rode around in two vans like this for the duration of our trip|
What a group of men and women! So welcoming, so joyful, and so passionate about sharing God's love with prisoners. The prisoners here are required to go through restorative justice, which means that they are taught what is right and wrong, they have to own up to what they did, and they send a letter to their victims acknowledging their wrongdoing and asking for forgiveness. Once they are at that point, the prison ministry team works on their hearts and salvation, and the prisoners even have a choice to continue the program to become pastors.
The team goes into the prison every week, and before they go, they meet to pray for the ministry and the prisoners. During the meeting this morning, after praying for the prisoners, they had our team stand in a group in the center of the room and they surrounded us and prayed for us. I could feel the presence of God so powerfully that tears just started running down my face, which tends to happen to me in moments like those. When they were done praying, we switched places, putting their group in the center, surrounding them, and covering them with prayer.
After the meeting, Pastor Andre and his wife, and Darren along with his parents and his 9-year-old brother Jordan took us on a beautiful drive up to a marketplace where we had some time to do some shopping for souvenirs and gifts. I found gifts for almost everyone I was planning on buying for, as well as a painting and a carved Noah's Ark filled with a bunch of animals for myself, and then also managed to solicit the attention of a vendor named Shumba, who emailed me for many months afterward. It appears that I could have African babies if I wanted to, but my mother specifically told me not to fall in love and move to Africa, so I think I'll have to pass on this flattering opportunity.
|People just hang out on the side of the road. A wheelbarrow can make a good chair, I guess!|
From the marketplace they took us to the lion park, where we started with lunch before venturing out to see the animals. I was lucky enough to sit directly across from Jordan, who was sandwiched by the michievous Matt Jones and Jon Stoll. Both men work with high schoolers at Bel Air, and watching them in action left no doubt in my mind that those Bel Air boys are lucky to have such amazing leaders! By amazing, I clearly mean insane, maniacal, and full of shenanigans, while also modeling spiritual maturity and a sincere devotion to God. They can deliver an inspiring message that will leave a listener wanting a closer relationship with Jesus, and then turn around and deliver a young boy's first ever wet willy with speed, procision, and hilarity. It is unreal. Luckily for Jordan, he has lots of sass and could throw it right back at them. I have high hopes for this kid.
|Jordy being Simba|
|Jenna enjoying the shenanigans|
Getting to pet baby lions was pretty epic. We only got two minutes with them, but in that time, one of the cubs fell in love with my flowing skirt and ended up putting a hole in it with his teeth. I mean, not to brag or anything, but a lion put a hole in my skirt and I lived to tell about it!
There were also camps of adult lions and other animals that we got to see.
Once we were finished with the animals, we went headed back to the conference center. One of the things that was pointed out to us on the way was a squatter camp, which is a place where the homeless build shelter for themselves out of anything they can find. They are vast communities of impoverished people, banding together to have a place to live. I don't know why, but the lines of drying laundry along the outside walls always caught my attention. I often complain when I have to lug my bag of laundry to the washer and dryer at my apartment complex, but this really put things into perspective for me. I'm lucky to have machines to wash my clothes. I don't have to wash them by hand and hang them up and worry about someone else taking off with them.
Back at the conference center, we joined our tenth team member, Jenny, and the Maranatha young adults for a night of worship around a campfire. This was when we met most of the team that would accompany us to Embo later in the week. I met Beyers that night, and I knew from our first conversation that we would be friends. He was funny and friendly, and he introduced me to his girlfriend Leanie. I have never in my entire life met anyone so enthusiastic about his girlfriend, and it was very endearing. He also brought me a guitar so that our team would have one to play. I had brought my worship music folder, and would have brought a guitar along if I needed to, but I was assured that there would one for me there.
For me, daily worship music is necessary. It brings me close to God and draws me into His presences like nothing else can. That night I played the guitar and worshiped late into the night.