Life is tough for the women of Chissue Prison in central Mozambique. They spend most of their days locked in a dormitory, some sleeping on the floor. Five children also live in the prison, where most of the women are illiterate with no teaching to help them to learn to read. Most of the 35 inmates are in prison for murdering their husbands. They have been excluded from society. Forgotten.
28 May 2013 was a day the women of Chissue Prison will remember for many years to come. Allowed out of the dormitory to sit in the fresh air under a tent, the women received visitors bearing a precious gift. A team from the Mozambique Christian Lawyers Association (AMAC), including BMS World Mission worker, Annet Ttendo, had travelled over 200km from Beira to be with them.
Annet and her team carried caplanas, metre-long strips of material that are a traditional covering for Mozambique women. For a woman, the giving of a caplana is a special event, something done by your husband at your wedding or at the birth of a child. It is the ultimate demonstration of love. Could these caplanas be for them?
One by one, Annet and her team tied a caplana around each woman and gave her a Bible donated by BMS. They embraced every woman and telling her that Jesus loves her. For Annet, the moment was incredibly moving.
“It was so emotional for me,” says Annet. “It is hard to explain what went into my heart, but there was a warmth I can’t explain. Every woman I hugged in there needed God’s love. It was special.”
It was special for the women, too. In the prison grounds they sang and danced for joy. For a few minutes they were free, they felt valued, they felt loved.
A few kilometres down the road the male prisoners may not have danced for joy but they experienced an inner peace. Earlier in the day they had packed into the hall at Chimoio Prison for a visit from Annet Ttendo and the AMAC team. Pastor Moises Quembo told them how they could receive God’s grace and forgiveness by putting their faith in Christ. Many were moved.
“I saw that some were really touched, you could see that touch in their eyes,” recalls Annet. “So I interceded before God, asking that he would transform them, that he would bring a change so they could come out of there as different people, that he would give them a second chance in life."
Annet challenged the prisoners to respond to the message by praying for Jesus to come into their lives. When asked who had prayed the prayer, there were almost too many raised hands to count – around 150 prisoners.
Every prisoner received a Bible donated by BMS which will help them grow in their understanding of their new faith. The director of the prison has requested 1140 more Bibles so that every prisoner has a copy.
These visits were only the start of what is hoped to be a long and fruitful relationship with each prison. It has opened up opportunities to provide more Bibles and much needed legal assistance, to make life for these prisoners a little brighter and to ensure that they know – they are not forgotten.
Pray for offenders, victims and families, the future of the children in prison with their mothers and all those working within the justice system in Mozambique.
Pray for the work BMS, AMAC and Baptist Churches in Mozambique are doing to provide justice and hope of a better life for prisoners.