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Encouraging Stories From Christian Community Members - Part 4

It's No Picnic

When Ben [Donato] died, we took over from him the fledging Prison Ministry. That is, all of Romy, who had the New Bilibid [Philippines national prison for men], and me, with my Correctional [short for Women's Correctional Institute]. My prayer then was “If this is how You want it, Lord, so be it.” I was fully aware of the great spiritual warfare involved.

Recently transferred from CDO (Cagayan de Oro City), I had no Household group to support me. I had to visit the women by myself in their prison cells. When Oca [a local CFC leader who worked with the Mandaluyong City Mayor's office] called me to the first CLP organized at the Correctional, a group was ready to serve. Everyone had a part to do, except me. At the last minute, I was asked to share. After that, prisoners would come up to me and say “Hey, that's my life you're sharing.” Yet, not so strangely, it was my past, my life, I was talking about. I was beginning to see how God was going to use me.

117 made it through that first one. When the CLP finished, the team endorsed all the graduates to me. Then I was alone again. The Lord blessed me though two weeks later with Lydia Untalan and Annie Alvar.

It took 6 months just to form a team from the CFC members in the locality. But that was not all of the spiritual warfare yet. Romy suffered a heart attack and was down for 2 months after his quadruple bypass operation. I fractured my left foot completely on the 2nd and 3rd toes - I am a nurse by training. When I served at a Handmaids Enrichment Retreat by cooking for them, preparing the vegetables, I cut my left middle finger, nearly severing it. Our 7-year lessee, whom we had already graciously extended 'de facto' credit for nonpayment of 10 month's rent, unilaterally and without warning, ended the lease.

I continued on with my service, missing none. But that is only my side of the story. Please see it from the other side of the fence.

About spirituality, the prisoners got lots of religious organizations coming in. They're very familiar with them and might have already seen them all. But since they come from all over the Philippines, the farther they come from, the lesser the possibility of visitors. Relatives could not afford to travel to visit them. They are forced to join whatever group would comfort them, even switch religion if need be.

They ignorantly admit to crimes they didn't commit under the mistaken belief that they will get off on a lighter sentence and time already spent in jail. They need work to do: crocheting, rug-making, card-making. They need the materials to make them with and an entrepreneur to pay them the labor. Some are ostracized by their own families. They write letters that never get answered. When they rejoin society, they need to get their dignity back, preparing themselves psychologically and emotionally.

Consider these cases: A credit guarantor was sentenced to life imprisonill.ent when the creditor ran away with the money, reportedly out of the country. A prisoner's child turns to prostitution to make ends meet. A prisoner gets sick, needing 16,000 Pesos worth of medication DAILY!

Once, I visited a prisoner's family living by a site for a flea market. The six kids were very hungry. But before feeding them, they had to be cleaned of dirt all over their body; they smelled like dead rat.

Personal hygiene is a difficult task; for the simple womanly cycle, they couldn't even afford their napkins. When an inmate finally calls her husband after 7 years, he answers with a cold “Hurry up! I've got somewhere to go.” Another never gets a visit for 5 years now from her husband. Still another, an illiterate, is sentenced to life.

Now, I have Lily Guanzon, Mila Hernandez, besides Annie Alvar to help me. I hope many more will help. As told by Susan Ramos

My Christian Brethren

The concept of God dawned on me at 6 years old as I tugged along with Mom for Sunday services and listened to Grandma sing arid pray every night. However, commitment to Him happened in a wide expanse of rice field at about one in the morning as I watched in awe the wonderful view of God's creation - a dome of pitch-black sky, studded with shining stars, and wondering why I was there while the world was raging with hatred and war. I wept all night after surrendering my life to Him and when dawn came along, I tracked back to our mountain hideout with peace and quietness in my heart. Instilled within me was courage and joy to overcome trials and sufferings the war was bringing about.

The ensuing years was not that dramatic, but God has always taken care of me as I attributed to Him whatever consequences my obedience to Him brought along. He enabled me to finish school and prepared me to worked for the Canadian government as meteorologist, the same job I had with PAGASA [the Philippines' weather bureau].

During the 70's the Holy Spirit quickened my life through Dr. Charles Stanley's teaching as I sought to fill the emptiness (I knew I'm still missing something, and I want to have them all, God!) of my soul. God had blessed my family so much that today all my children are very much involved in God's work (through CFC). That had always been my prayers. After reading Frank's books I became aware that his vision for CFC is not only in line with Dr. Stanley's teaching, but the members also live it all out for God's glory, strengthening local parishes and showing how to build with childlike confidence a growing, loving personal relationship with God. I'm all for that. That's why I've supported CFC's crusade: sharing my time, talent, and treasure; giving my testimony as I went through my trials; using the Bible as text and having Jesus as my teacher (all T's for easy remembering). Today I am at peace with God because as John 15 says - all we need to do is remain in the Christ. We abide in Him and He lives in us. We as branches are empowered only by the Holy Spirit to bear fruit; that is our responsibility as CFC. Our salvation is a done deal in the Cross purchased with Christ's blood. And our life in the flesh, we live by faith in Christ, our Lord and Savior. Blessings! By Leo Mapanao

Continue to Part 5

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