From Pain to Praises

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Let me start this one with a reference to one blog I did before, about my heroes.

My heroes aren’t in pedestals,
nor those etched in myths and legends.

Earlier I was able to have a chance to join a local prison ministry led by a friend and a fellow Kairos classmate, Krizzia Yuzon. The reason behind it is because I became curious with all of her posts about her being in this ministry. Just imagine being a woman in a crowd of almost all men, inmates with cases tied with their name. I wanted to first hand see how it is and break some mindsets I personally have.

Last time I was near a prison was in college when I had an assignment to cover a police station. I wasn’t even inside the cell but I could smell the stench, and feel the heat of a place packed with people. I could not imagine nor would I wish to go inside but that’s why I wanted to go with a ministry to at least have a glimpse, and also a bit inspired by this:

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ … (Matthew 25:35-46)

So if Jesus himself, our Lord, had this to say, I took it literally and went on. In reality, Sunday night I was planning to flake because I wasn’t in the mood or getting any details if it will push through but Krizzia did send me a message so I could not just say no to that.

Much like in every story I think that God wants me to see and experience, I tried to be “empty”, not expecting anything. I know God is a God of surprises and I really wanted to observe and learn what is God doing in these places? It’s just within the city I live in yet I feel I haven’t really had the chance nor time or even interest to check it out.

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This is Kuya Richard and he’s the speaker for this session. He looked pretty normal; very jovial and playful when he arrived at our meeting point and he still was when he spoke. But it was the meat of what he said that really was striking.

He was an ex-convict. He had his first case at the age of 15, theft. Each year he gets worse, robbery with extortion, dealing with drugs, and even was able to kill three people. Murder, if we use a ‘better’ term. He was imprisoned for it in Manila City Jail, with four cases, and with that bringing his mean demeanor inside the prison. He continued with his wicked ways until he was met by God inside the prison.

He started out with “fooling” the service providers or the prison ministries by memorizing verses as sharing them in the sessions can merit him money or food, which both will enable him to buy drugs inside prison.

See, knowing verses do not really speak much; it can just show you can memorize things but having a real relationship with God is far more different. Remember that even the Enemy, Satan, was able to quote the Scriptures when he was tempting Jesus. We all know what happened there.

Going back, Kuya Richard eventually came to know who Jesus was through a very personal encounter (I can’t disclose), and after that event, it really propelled him to really read his Bible and developed a close relationship with the Lord. It wasn’t all peachy as he did suffer a lot of persecution inside the jail but with this turnaround, miracles came into his life like him being acquitted with all of his cases (yes, all four including him even admitting murder), and even was given the grace of God to have a lovely wife, a teacher, and true God’s grace, this woman had him as her first relationship.

Now he’s actively serving the Lord through prison ministries, visiting them and showing the way that God has fashioned for him. He’s now being sent to places to tend to people hungry for God’s Word. He gave us his three C’s.

  • Choice – The life that you have currently is brought upon by choice. It is by free will which God have too. So no matter what situation you are in, it is something allowed by God because it was a choice. I am pretty sure it was a hard message for everyone who was able to hear it.
  • Chance – There is the Good News! Chance, that God gives so freely. If there’s someone you can look upon for chances, there he was, present in the inmate’s midst. With the lineup of heinous crimes he did, how could he be given another chance? Doesn’t it remind you of someone who was also an enemy of the early days of the church yet given another chance, and was cited to be the greatest missionary of all time? (Hint: his name is Paul)
  • Changes – With the chance given, the proper response is change. We’ve seen what the ugly side of sin and the hope is that we do change. Reminds me of the story of a writer named Dostoevsky, who was sentenced to die yet the execution did not happen. This led him to live a better life; change was evident with all the books he has written after that.

But with the three C’s Kuya Richard gave, I am going to add a fourth one:

  • Christ – True change can only be found in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” and it was the change that Kuya Richard got. It was the chance he needed from Christ that led him to a true change.

Indeed, that event I witnessed helped me to, at least at a certain degree, understand this ministry. Here are some points about leadership that I got too:

  • When you have a vision, execute it and people will eventually follow. That was pretty evident with how the newly-minted from Theology school Krizzia was able to do. Mobilizing people knowing that this ministry to all about going to the lost, unreached people too.
  • A small talk with Kuya Rodolfo (part of the prison ministry group) had me thinking about my own ministry, about the group of people who I am supposed to bring the Gospel. A declaration — to artists and designers.
  • Also, he helped me be enlightened with a current burden of how to have people help me with this. Reminded to continue in service and God will send people. To remain in the vine.
  • In line with point two, Kuya Richard was able to deliver the message well, and effectively because he too had his share of jail time. His life was the connection thus giving him credibility to speak because he can relate.

casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7

It was a message of hope for the inmates. Jesus knows how it is because he too came here, and was broken, and imprisoned, the difference is that we humans have something to be imprisoned of, spiritually or physically. To think, you who’s reading right now may be free, but not from spiritual imprisonment, bondage to sin. 

Jesus was and is innocent, yet He was crucified. That’s a leader you can count on. True freedom comes with Christ.

Also, Krizzia too was imprisoned way back. You see, the biggest pain points in our lives becomes our biggest praise in the long run. As my leader said to me “Your mess becomes the message.” It becomes our biggest why. Like Kuya Richard who was restored from his dark past. Truly, the old is gone and the new has come.

They are leaders who I look up to. They are my heroes.

My heroes may never be counted,
not in dailies, or history books.
But lo and behold, they fight gallantly,
not for their glory, but for the Lamb to see.

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