Rosalva is 17 years old and has been living at the JCI discipleship house for about 3 weeks now. He was born in a small community called Pon Son De. At the age of 5, Rosalvas parents split up and he and his siblings went to live with their father because he had a job; the ability to make sure they had clothes and food as well as the means to send them to school. But some years later Rosalvas father passed away. His mother refused to take him and his siblings back under her care, so he went to live with his uncle. The lack of money, when his father was sick, had already forced Rosalva to drop out of school at the age of 10 and it wasn’t long after that, at the age of 14, that he ran into a pretty serious problem. One day he was on a bus for a short trip from one town to the next. The bus was going on a longer trip but he was getting off before the end of the line. He decided he would just pay 1/3 of the total price, but still twice as much as what his trip would cost by other means of transportation. Some other people on the bus decided that because he had taken up space for someone who could have gone the whole trip and paid the full price, that they would punish him. They started yelling at him and decided that they would take him to the next town and put him in jail. He spent the next 5 days in the city jail before they transferred him to the main prison. This is where Rosalva spent the next 3 years of his young life.
How Haiti’s prison system works is like this: Someone is accused of a crime. They are put in prison until their court date. This sometimes can take years. Then after they are sentenced, their sentence is tacked onto the time that they already served. But that’s not where their troubles end. In some prisons, there can be 40 or more men per cell at one time. Cells range in size, but with that many men there is no room to sit comfortably, let alone lay down to sleep. Meals are rare. Sometimes they may go days without eating. In a lot of prisons, the prisoners depend of their families to bring them food. Now we come to the end of their sentence. The men now have to pay a specific amount of money, determined by the prison. If they don’t have the money to pay, they sit in the prison until they have the money. For some men this can be years.
Now we come back to Rosalva. Some friends of ours had been visiting the prison in St. Marc where Rosalva was imprisoned. They had been praying with him and many of the other men. One day after they visited the prison and prayed with Rosalva, he told the other men in his cell that he felt that he would be leaving soon. They just kind of laughed and went of with their day. But a few days later, the head guard came to Rosalva and told him he was free to go… without making his payment.
Now, Rosalva had nowhere to go and we heard through our friends that he was looking for place to stay. He had goals of going back to school and learning English. When he had been in the prison, he had come to know the Lord through this group that had been coming and praying with them and encouraging them. So he was also looking for a place that would allow him to grow in his faith as well. After hearing this, we decided that it was something that we wanted to help him out with. So, Rosalva has been living alongside us now for about 3 weeks. He’s been attending out English classes and bible studies, and on Wednesday started attending school. We’re very excited to see what God has in store for his young man. He’s very excited to visit the prisons with us and encourage men who are in the very situation that he knows all too well. We ask you to pray for Rosalva. Pray for his schooling and his spiritual walk. We also ask that if his story has touched your heart at all, to think about supporting him to go to school. We feel this is a worthy cause, to see that this child of God is looked after and cared for as best we can.
Thank you all for the prayers and support.
So it’s been quite awhile since we have updated this blog and that is because so much has been going on since then. We had the Soccer Camp with Ron Rhoads in Borel where 100 kids were blessed, many received salvation, and the church there was empowered to continue to reach out to the community of Borel. Also, we spent time working with Thomas Rosten, a class mate of Thad’s who spent the last year ministering in Peru and other places in South America. Jeff’s family spent a week with us visiting the tent camps and seeing Haiti first hand, and as of now Alex is back in the states starting to make plans for fundraising so we can continue the work we are doing here in Haiti even past July. These are the things been going on in short but I want to spend this blog giving you guys a deeper look into one of the main ministries we’ve been doing here in Haiti; the ministry in the prison of Arcahaie.
“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering,” Hebrews 13:3. Over two years ago Diesmy Garcon read this verse and was struck as to how he had never visited the men and women who sit in the cells of the Haitian prisons and from there he sought out to show these people love and share the gospel of Jesus with them. When Thad came to Haiti for his first six months in 2010, Diesmy and him decided to visit the prisons and when he returned to America he promised to raise money to come back and do more. Many of you reading gave money to JCI specifically to minister to those in the prisons, and over the last four months we have visited the men in the Arcahaie prison almost every week.
Let me give you a little idea about what the prison in Arcahaie looks like. Around 125 men are held there at any given time, most of them serving long-term sentences, but some serving only a few months. You can find anywhere from 6 to 14 men in a single cell and twice a day they are fed a small bowl of flavorless glop. A lot of the guys in the prison there have been moved from large prisons some hours away so they rarely receive visitors because it is just too far for their families to travel. A man could be in prison there for murder or for debt, but all are housed together. They are let out of the cell once a day to shower and move around a little. This is the extent of their lives and for some this will be their lives until they die.
A typical visit looks like this: we go into the courtyard of the prison and the cells are all around us so the guys can look out and see and hear what’s going on. We sing some worship and then we pray. We spent a few weeks teaching on prayer and encouraging the men in the prison to engage with lifting their country through prayer and many of the men there have responded. They pray with fever for their country and for each other. After we pray we often share some teaching or encouragement and then we take time to go to each cell, pass out food and drink and pray for individuals.
As we’ve taught on the works of Christ and his desire to give new life, we’ve seen it start to take place in the hearts of the men in Arcahaie. One of the most powerful things has been to see some of these men get out of prison. We were able to meet with a gentleman named Henry after he left the prison. I can’t express the joy it was to see him clean shaven, color in his face and not behind bars. We knew he had freedom in his life, but to see his physical freedom was indescribable.
About five weeks ago we began to teach these men about baptism and how it is the next step to take after you become a Christian. We spent two weeks teaching them and answering questions and then we planned a very special day. We received so much favor with the men who ran the prison because they allowed us to bring in a blow up swimming pool and use their water to fill it, and let me tell you something, you never know how much water is in a pool like that until you must fill it by hand. We filled the pool by hand with five gallon buckets and got the new believers around to baptize them right there in the prison. To our amazement we baptized forty-one men that day, ten of whom became Christians the same day, and one of those men, Wilfred, was able to get out of prison the same day he was baptized into his new life with Christ. Talk about a power way to start a new chapter of freedom in his life.
God is doing amazing work in the prison of Arcahaie. We plan to continue visiting men there and Jimmy (the Haitian man who works with JCI) will put together a team to go even beyond July. Pray for deeper discipleship for these men and continuing growth of their faith and love for the Lord.
"Pic of the Day" #20 Last week we visited the prison in Arcahaie and baptized 41 guys! God has been working in some crazy ways! Its hard to comprehend all the things He’s doing. I’ll be posting baptism pictures for the next couple weeks!
"Pic of the Day" #18 This little girl is showing off her new gold shoes! We got to go to a school and fit the children for new shoes! Thanks to Haitians Helping Haitians for letting us be a part of this awesome experience! God’s provision allowed us to give each student a new pair of shoes!
"Pic of the Day" #17 We spent the past week in Port Au Prince, in the tent camps. We partnered with Haitians Helping Haitians to do a children’s crusade in a large tent camp!