Today I had a chapel visit with about a dozen women in the Falfurrias Detention Center.
It is the fourth prison/jail/detention center I’ve seen this year. This experience was much like the other three but, this time I was allowed to be with the 48 women being held in one of two rooms for women in the Falfurrias Detention Center. It holds over 622 persons. It is stark, clean, relatively new, and lonely.
I had no idea what to expect when I walked in. At first no one approached me, so I just moved forward slowly. One woman came toward me and said “Bienvenidos” (welcome). I greeted her with a hug and she said her name was Olga.
God kicked in with my best Spanish (as no one spoke English except for the guards), and we began to talk. Other women began to drift over. I again welcomed each one, asking her name and giving her a warm hug. Soon six of us stood and formed a circle holding hands as they wanted to pray. I asked Olga to lead us in prayer. Each of the women bowed her head, closed her eyes, and together we prayed the Our Father, and then each began to pray aloud quietly in her own words. Words of prayer were bathed in silent tears. I have witnessed and participated in this kind of prayer multiple times among women and families while in Guatemala. I have never been among persons of greater faith.
After singing a song, a guard entered the room and called for “la conta” (head count). Everyone lined up against one of two walls in silence. I was allowed to stay while each name was read aloud. After responding, each woman was allowed to leave the wall.
Following this the women brought their Spanish Bibles to a large picnic table. We had 14 women sharing and our hearts were even closer. God was yet closer. Olga selected the first passage and Victoria who sat next to her read the passage aloud. She selected the parable of Jesus forgiving the sins of the paralytic and then curing him so that he could walk. The Word was powerful. I then asked the women to share their words regarding the passage, what it meant to them. Several shared. We repeated this with two other equally moving passages. The Word was close to these women. The sharing took place among smiles and tears.
I learned that those sitting with me today were all from Mexico, Honduras or Guatemala. After that introduction, one of the women said that we are all sisters, that color or country does not matter here. Indeed, I could feel that. I encouraged them to be Sister to one another. I felt that in this place and at this moment, truly the Kingdom of God was alive like in no other.
Ninety minutes after arriving and before leaving, we prayed together again holding hands, this time in words of gratitude to God. I proceeded to stand up and to give each one a big hug before I left.
Thank you for your support and prayers….especially for these women. I am curious, which words of the Scriptures or words of Jesus came to your mind as you read my story today? Sr. Pam