Tuesday, August 5, 2014

my first day in prison

What do you think of when someone mentions the word prison?

If I am being honest, my thoughts before this summer would have been negative, fearful, judgmental of the kind of people that would end up in a place like that.  I am sure I pictured a movie or TV show I had seen that took place in prison, maybe something like Con-Air or Shawshank Redemption.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would start to equate the words hope and faith to the idea of prison.  Funny how your view can change after spending time with the people who live that life day in and day out.

Friday, July 18th, I entered Medium B for the first time at Pollsmoor Prison.  And I honestly had no idea what to expect.  Steve, the missionary we were working alongside, had given us lots of information about the prison.  For instance that Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned there for a stint, that currently there were over 7000 inmates in the prison, and that the facility was grossly understaffed.  He shared stories of violence, gang culture and secret languages.  He shared about the high percentage rates of inmates with HIV/AIDS and TB.  And again, if I am being honest with my self, at that point, I wondered why in the world the Lord had brought me, a sheltered girl from NC to spend time in this place.

On Thursday evening, the night before we were to enter the prison and meet the young men in the Adopt a Cell program for the first time, I was a nervous wreck.  My mind was racing, I was fearful, anxious and contemplated many times how I could claim jet lag and get out of serving.  I spent some time praying that night and asked the Lord to replace my uneasy feelings with feelings of peace, confidence and strength.

When we drove up to the gate for the first time, I read the sign where the mission statement of the prison was clearly displayed. "A Place of New Beginnings".  I prayed as we entered the property that God would use our team to help the boys that He had called us to work with see that in their own lives.  That it wouldn't just be words on a sign, that they would come to believe that they were more than than their decisions, more than their backgrounds and that they would feel loved and valued.

We entered the building and were introduced to wardens and escorted to the "White House" where we would spend the next 4 hours with the boys.  Steve went to gather the boys and bring them to meet us and they immediately shook our hands and greeted us with smiles and good mornings.  I was ashamed that they could sense my anxiousness as one friend quickly asked me if I was afraid to shake his hand.  Deep down, yes I probably was and that makes me sad to say, in that instant, the Lord reminded me that these were His children, and that they deserved to be treated as such.

When we introduced ourselves to the boys and their immediate response when I told them my name was Brooke, was "Oh, like Brooke from Bold and the Beautiful."  This made me smile and giggle!  They told me later on that that was the only TV show they watched, well that and Days of our Lives.

During our first day with the boys one member of our team shared her story of how the Lord has worked in her life in difficult circumstances.  The boys hung on to every word and were anxious to ask her questions and know more about her story.  We shared information with them to educate them more about HIV/AIDS.  We talked to them about the Lord.  One of my favorite moments with them from the first day was playing a silly Minute to Win It Game with them and hearing the laughter and seeing the smiles.  They boys were respectful, full of questions about America and why I was single!  :)

As our time came to a close, my feelings of fear, anxiousness and worry had turned into feelings of friendship, care and love for these new friends.  When were gathering our things to leave for the day and saying our goodbyes, one of the boys quietly came over to me.  I shook his hand and told him that we were excited to see him again on Monday.  He smiled and then asked if he could ask me a question.  Of course I said yes and he asked a question that I will always remember.  He said, "Brooke, why would you come to prison, why would you come to a place like this?"  My answer was simple and but I think he understood, "I came here for you, I had been praying for you and wanted you to know you are loved and cared for."  He shook his head, smiled and moved into line with the rest of the group.

My heart was forever changed by that first day in Pollsmoor prison.  And this was just the beginning.


  1. Sweet Brooke. You are a special person, very special :)


  2. Wow, Brooke. This is so powerful! Thanks for spreading the love and mercy of God. And thanks for sharing. :)

  3. As I read this, sweet daughter, it truly brought tears to my eyes e ven tho I had already heard this part of your trip. You are so brave and stepped out in faith as The Lord calls us all to do and look at the blessings He brought to you for doing that......love you so much!!

  4. Oh girl, your have my cheeks streaked with tears! Love this story! Wow! I have so much to learn from you.


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