This is a must read from Abby, a team member who just returned from a Honduras impact trip with Boaz. It was so powerful, I asked if I could share it here.
What do I expect to see when I am told we are going to visit a teen girls high security prison in Honduras? In my head I have an image of this dark, ominous building surrounded by fences with row upon row of barbed wire. Instead, it is a large, high brick building, painted pastel green and yellow. The only indication I have that this building is a prison, is the barred metal door. Walking into the building I expect to see armed guards around every corner, keeping careful watch over the inmates. Instead, all of the workers are dressed casual. Jeans and a t-shirt. Then the biggest mystery of all: What do I expect to see when I walk through the metal door, leading into the back yard where all the prisoners are? Orange jumpsuits? Heavily tattooed girls? I try to mentally prepare myself for what I will see in there, but none of it does me any good.We walk through those doors, and a dozen girls run up to our group, and greet us with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I stand there dazed, trying to comprehend what I am seeing. Standing in that prison I see sweet, carefree teenage girls. I don’t see girls who have committed crimes; I don’t see girls who are part of a gang, or girls that lead a gang. I see girls who love to sit around and do each other’s nails; I see girls who love to run around and play soccer, or swing upside down off the top of the soccer net; I see girls that just want to know that they are loved. I see girls that got pulled into a lifestyle where they don’t even understand right from wrong, a good deed from a crime, until it was too late, and suddenly they are in prison but they don’t know why.
It doesn’t take long for me to feel greatly out of place. My limited knowledge of the Spanish language – that being where is the bathroom? and how are you? I am good – does me little good trying to communicate with these girls. After mingling with the girls for a while, they lead us up a set of metal stairs into a large, square room. The floor and walls are all concrete. There are few items in the room; against the far left wall is a small box tv sitting a top a desk. Positioned at the middle point of the back wall is a small stereo. Lined against the front wall are several plastic chairs. About a dozen girls take position in the middle of the room, and the rest of the girls sit along the wall, and we ushered to take the plastic chairs. One of the girls who – is fluent in Spanish and English – explains to us what is taking place. They have prepared several dances for us, all of them done to worship songs. Song by song they dance, some with great joy, others with emotions hidden under a tough face. Every dance was well done, but it is the last dance that touched my heart.
It started with one girl, a Styrofoam board strung around her neck with a hole the shape a heart in it. She pouts her lip and hangs her shoulders; there is something missing, and without it she feels lost. Another girl comes up, and places a word into the empty slot: Violence. They act out life full of violence, in hopes that that will fill the empty hole in her life, but it just doesn’t fit. Violence falls away and she again is left alone, looking for something, anything, to fill the void. The next girl comes up and puts in the next word: addictions. One by one they act out different things that we place in our hearts, the things that we put on the throne of our lives trying to find satisfaction but only find disappointment and loss. Violence, vanity, exercise, addictions, sex. One by one they come, and one by one they go, none of them being able to fill that empty space, until the last girl comes up, and fills that void with Jesus. Tears fill my eyes as I see that these girls have already figured out the one thing that we struggle with day after day. Jesus is the one thing that will fill the void and won’t disappoint. He won’t fall away or abandon us; Jesus has always and will always be there for us.
So what did I expect going into a teen girls high security prison? I think it may be easier to say what I didn’t expect. I didn’t expect to be greeted literally with open arms. I didn’t expect the life lessons that I would learn from these girls. I didn’t expect that a high security prison would become my favorite place to be.