“I went to jail because I was charged with murder, twice for attempted murder and the last time was frustrated murder. During those trying times, I didn’t care. All I wanted was to get even.”
The man next to me said these words and looked at me intently, without blinking an eye.
I listened with interest and smiled.
If I had stumbled upon this guy out in the streets, I would have trembled in fear upon hearing his statements. But no, not in a setting like this.
We were in Marikina City Jail – the nearest haven for prisoners and detainees in my hometown. We visited the inmates to conduct a preaching campaign to interested detainees and inmates, thirsty of guidance from God. In coordination with mature organizers and elders in our team, the City Jail warden and officers were very much cooperative in this endeavor.
There were two areas (male and female section) and visits were scheduled on a regular basis. Upon entry, we had to surrender our mobile phones, umbrellas or any violence-triggering tool.
I noticed that not all in jail committed heavy crimes. Some were just accused of things they have not committed (such as stealing, money matters, etc.). Some were sentenced to short prison terms because of minor acts (offensive acts to neighbors, etc.) while others remained detainees if their cases stay unsolved.
Nevertheless, it was very heartwarming to see the inmates listen, embrace the truth, and apply these changes in their everyday living. Truly, “...the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.”—Hebrews 4:12.
Yes, reading God’s “word,” or message changed a lot of the inmates' lives. It helped them to examine themselves as never before. The way they reacted to the message revealed their true thoughts, even the very intentions of the heart.
The inmate returned my smile. He never blinked an eye because he felt inner peace and happiness after sharing how he changed for the better.
“What I did was very bad,” he said contritely.
It took some time before he ‘forgave and forgot’ and I’m sure he’ll continue improving.
Some of the inmates are released for good, but as they leave, they also leave shadows of the bad past. Some inmates stay in prison, but now they face life more positively and look forward to a brighter future with Jehovah God to back them up.