For these newsletters we are asked to reflect on times of growth and transformation. Since I last wrote, I have certainly gone through my own periods of growth and transformation. After all, I’ve been spending my time learning a new language (French) and beginning a new role in a new country. However, that’s not the story that I want to share today. Today I want to talk about the possibility of growth and transformation.
Here in Guadeloupe, I am serving with the Reformed Protestant Church and their organization, Men a Leswpa (Hand of Hope). The RPC has a heart and passion for serving vulnerable populations, but they are particularly passionate about working with prisoners and those reintegrating into life outside prison walls. It is an exciting and interesting ministry.
Because prison work and ministry is such a large focus for the church here, it is also a significant piece of my work and ministry as a Global Mission Intern. Currently, all of my work is meeting with English speaking prisoners. There are actually a significant number of English speaking prisoners (one of the two jails estimated that 25% of their prison population speaks English) and it tends to be an underserved group. These prisoners primarily come from Dominica and Saint Martin and some speak very, very little French. This can be a significant problem and frustration when almost all of the prison staff only speaks French and all of the activities offered at the prison are in French.
In learning about this reality, Jean-Pierre, the pastor of the RPC, suggested that we start a Bible Study for English speakers at the prison in Basse-Terre and the prison in Baie-Mahault. I excitedly agreed. It can be a long process starting a new program in the prison, but we both felt it would be worth the effort and it would definitely serve a population in the prison that is generally overlooked. We began planning and solidifying our ideas to implement the program.
Recently, after determining a day and time for the Bible study with the prison staff at Basse-Terre, we met with a handful of prisoners to invite them to the gathering and to gauge what the interest level in the program would be. We knew that there would likely be some people who would be interested, but we also assumed that we would likely get some rejections. Instead, what we found was an overwhelmingly positive response and zero rejections.
Each man that we spoke with declared a desire to participate in this English Bible-study. Each and every one.
I’m not certain why they said yes. It could be a curiosity about Christ. It could be because some are often bored and this would give them something to do each week. It could be out of a thirst for further Biblical knowledge. It could be due to a strong desire to speak English and connect with other English speakers. Or, it could be for some other unknown reason. Regardless, I was struck by the incredible notion that each and every one of these men would have an opportunity to learn about the grace and love of God each week.
Each week there will be opportunities to learn about the life and ministry of Jesus. We’ll have the opportunity to learn about forgiveness and hope. We’ll learn that we were indeed made in the image of God and that God made us on purpose. And we’ll learn about the joy and life that comes from following Christ. That is a beautiful, powerful thing.
I’m not sure what our time together will bring. I’m not sure what transformations will come in the lives of these men and in my own life. What I do know, though, is that it is very difficult to spend much time in God’s presence without being transformed. I am excited to see what God will do how God will move in our midst.
Beth Guy serves with the Reformed Church of France as the Pastoral Assistant for Diaconal Ministries in Guadeloupe and Martinique. His appointment is supported by Week of Compassion, Our Churches Wider Mission, Disciples Mission Fund and your special gifts.