Monday, December 03, 2007

Juarez Reflection: Walls Cannot Contain

I try to hide my shivering from the others who had come more well prepared than I have. The pastor has leant me a jacket displaying the allowed and appropriate colors, but it does little to fight the biting chill created by the shade of the building we are forced to stand in. As we make our way inside the penitentiary, things become very real and very sobering. All along the way, Mexican police officers garbed fully in modern war armor and SWAT gear stand guard with their fingers taut against the triggers of their M-16 rifles. Drug dogs run the line sniffing out any who might try to breach the borders and parameters of this guarded community. With me the pastor, the mother whose son we were to visit, and the pastor's assistant. We heave the weighted load of food and supplies for the young man to eat, bathe, and do laundry on to the inspection counter, and the undying love of this mother hits me for the first time. Without her, this man would starve. Without her, this man would die.

As we enter numerous inspection lines, and give our lives and identities basically to the whims of the Mexican prison system, I can't help but lean my entire being on the hope that God would safe guard me – that the sayings of Psalms 121:8, displayed proudly on one of the walls of our apartment, promising He would secure my path for eternity, would not fail me now. I am helpless to all but trust in Christ.

Once through these seemingly unending security checkpoints, and with my visitor card tucked safely inside my clenched and white knuckled fist, I proceed into the courtyard. In Mexico, there is no separation of inmate to visitor. Once one is in the gate, he is directly in the prison community. As we walk past starving and begging addicts, gangsters, and swindlers (who apparently were not as lucky to have caring family on the outside), and made our way to the young man's cell, It becomes strikingly obvious that, for some, prison might be the better option. For, inside these walls is a small community; inside these walls is a virtual paragon of commerce; inside these walls, men are free to sell, trade, and barter without all the hassles of having to worry about needing shelter or providing for family. That is to say, they are free to do so if they are given the proper provision which all are not. We reach the young man's cell, which is not unlike some of the two person dorm rooms of my university, where he has just risen and his cellmate slumbers continually never showing his face. His mother hands him the package of supplies which his shame permits him to take. I see a mother's heart breaking.

He walks us to the courtyard where we buy some coffee and cookies from one of the inmates there, and watch some of the men cook their breakfast on the gas stoves provided. We talk of various things. We converse about the recent riots inside and some of the horrors of death and violence the young man had seen, we spoke of the differences he has noticed in serving time in the States and serving time in Mexico, but most of all we spoke of God's undying love for him – we spoke of the liberty that Christ can offer.

We leave, and I am overwhelmed. My whole being, everything in me and of me, desires to scream and yell and pray as loudly as I possibly can for this young man:

Father! Show him the freedom these walls cannot contain!
Father! Show him the freedom these walls cannot contain!
Father! Show him the freedom these walls cannot contain!

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