A Couple In Prison - Part 1

The residents of condominium unit 2407 are frequently in and out of jail. Romy and Susan Ramos are not felons, though. They simply love doing the Lord's work for prison inmates whom they call “our brothers in the Lord.”

Romy has been serving as the National Coordinator of the CFC Prison Ministry since 1997, taking over the assignment from Ben Donato, a CFC missionary who gave his life while on mission. Romy was Provincial Area Head of CFC Abra prior to this assignment. He recalls going from one difficulty to another at the start of his prison mission. There was the cold reception from, and the indifference of, the inmates themselves. There was the heartbreaking experience of listening to endless litanies of inmates' needs, heartaches and cries for justice. Most frustrating of all, there was the impression that he stood alone in performing this God-given mission.

Susan too felt somewhat “lost” at the start. Her initiation into the mission was a virtual baptism of fire , especially since she was informed that there would be a CLP at the Correctional only on the first day of the CLP itself! “When I got to the correctional, everybody had a task to fulfill except myself. I prayed to God, telling Him that since this was obviously His plan for me, He had to take care of all my concerns. After the Orientation Talk, imagine my surprise when I was called in as the sharer since the original sharer backed out! But the Holy Spirit was truly present. My sharing touched most of the participants since they could relate to what I had been through. They found a kindred spirit in me because I too was once in spiritual bondage. When I accepted Jesus, everything was transformed. I gave my life to God in gratitude to Him.”

The Prison Ministry Council was created in 1999 with Romy as Chairman and with Nides Respicio, Oca Lagman, Man Buyco and Boobom Laracas as members. The adoption of clear guidelines governing the prison ministry made the work a bit easier. Also, more and more people began to give their support.

Highly personalized

Seeking to establish rapport with the women inmates, Susan decided to spend regular time with them every week, giving up the luxury of simply staying at home. “In the beginning, I would go to the correctional everyday, just interacting with the women. A touching moment for me was when one inmate affirmed how my sharing inspired those who heard it.” Until now, Susan visits the women twice a week, sometimes even more, especially if there is a concern that needs to be addressed. One needs to be cautious though, Susan said, because these women are fed up with being corrected! So she attends to them as a trusted friend who is genuinely interested in their lives, and not as someone in authority.

Susan likewise discovered that for the sisters there, the need to grow in spiritual maturity is just one of their concerns. “They also have practical needs. The inmates would tell me that though they had been there for 15 years, their actual needs had not been really addressed. They would tell me, 'how can you tell me about God's love for me, while I'm here worrying about the family I left behind, without any relatives to support them?” Susan discovered that the inmates worry not just about forgiveness from those they have wronged or about being rejected by family; they are also burdened by physical illnesses. Susan found an avenue to address this particular concern by constantly sharing the inmates' plight in Elders' Core Group gatherings of CFC. The response was overwhelming. Members donated cash and basic necessities such as shampoo, toothpaste, bath soap, sanitary napkins, laundry bars, and coffee.

We keep them going!

Aside from providing the inmates spiritual nourishment through weekly prayer meetings, the Prison Ministry sees to it that their physical needs are also met. Susan and her group provide toiletries to the inmates every month. The Medical Mission of CFC conducts twice-yearly missions at the Correctional. “Through the services of the Medical Mission, we discovered several cancer cases, and praise God all these were addressed before it was too late,” Susan beamed. She admits however that there are certain items they have no way of addressing such as bed mites, viral infections and asthma attacks. Nevertheless, total health is the goal, that is why Susan and Romy regularly give vitamins to both men and women inmates to strengthen their resistance and promote general good health.

“We also give them livelihood programs at the correctional,” Susan said, “such as crocheting and card-making, since boredom is a major concern.” Susan has helped them sell their finished products, giving them back the profit. For the first time, many of the inmates were able to send hard-earned money to their families. Susan has issued an appeal for sewing machines for the women inmates in order to further improve their opportunities to earn.

There is even a program for prisoners who are eventually pardoned or who have completed their sentence. Upon release, the prison ministry members led by Romy and Susan visit the inmates at their homes to check their condition and to provide help in whatever way they can. One important function of the ministry at the post-release stage is to make sure that the men and women are integrated as members of our community in their respective areas. Some have even been given jobs.

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