I met S two weeks after her arrival. She was scared. She was tired. She was frustrated. She was heartbroken.
It was her first time in prison. She was separated from her family (including her four kids) and her imprisonment was sudden and unexpected. Beyond that, she was in Guadeloupe – a place that is not her home and is far from her family and friends. She was entering a time of despair, wondering when light would shine through the darkness.
It was my first week on the job as a prison chaplain. I felt prepared and yet completely unprepared at the same time. I took deep breaths. She shared her story. I listened. And at the end of our brief first meeting, I offered to pray. We agreed to continue meeting as often as circumstances would allow.
We were two women sitting in an activity room in the largest prison in the French Caribbean. We were both starting on new (totally different) adventures. And we were both missing family and friends back home, but finding strength and confidence in that shared moment.
For a year and a half now I have been meeting with S about once a week. She has shared her fears, her desires, her hopes, her downfalls, her anger, and so much more with me. Another chaplain and member of Men a Lespwa (the benevolent organization of the Reformed Protestant Church) has gone out of her way to search for clothing and requested hygiene products for S, in addition to also regularly checking in with her in the prison. In March, the chaplains prayed and cried with her as one of her family members entered the prison as well. Later last year, Men a Lespwa worked tirelessly with her social worker to get the electricity in her house turned back on so that she could have the possibility to return home with an electronic monitoring bracelet. And, thanks to the chaplaincy program and Men a Lespwa, she has received Bibles and books full of encouragement and reminders of God’s love.
In Global Ministries we like to use the word “accompaniment” quite a bit. It means journeying together. Walking together. Learning together. Loving together. Serving together. And so much more. That is exactly the model that the Reformed Protestant Church, Men a Lespwa, and the Protestant Chaplaincy use here in Guadeloupe as well. It is not a method of judgment or anger, but one full of love, compassion, and strength. The partner recognizes the need to journey together, and S’s story is a perfect example of that.
Now, as she is just weeks away from returning home to be with her family, we celebrate with her. We cry tears of joy with her. And we pray for her continued resilience and newfound spirit of strength and desire to be the woman God created her to be. We know that the road she is about to take is not an easy one, but we remain hopeful for her future – knowing that God is with her.
I give thanks for the continued work of the partner and I give thanks for all of you who accompany us in your prayers and with kind, encouraging words. I am grateful that we are on this journey of sharing God’s deep and great love together.
Beth Guy serves as a Global Mission Intern with the Reformed Church of France as the Pastoral Assistant for Diaconal Ministries in Guadeloupe and Martinique. Her appointment is supported by Week of Compassion, Our Churches Wider Mission, Disciples Mission Fund and your special gifts.