10 Nov Day 30: Free at Last
Like too many Christians, I’d always played it safe—volunteering in every capacity but not venturing out to connect directly with a population that suffers. Shortly after coming on board with Hope, Philip insisted I visit the ministry firsthand. I could write 30 prayers based on my five days there! I’ll share just one memory.
Philip invited me to the children’s prison, which is directly across the valley from Hope Mountain. Led upstairs, the guards swung open the heavy iron doors. All I could see at first was rows of outstretched arms coming through bars along the corridor. In my former life as a lawyer it would have been easy to see these teens as criminals, duly tried and convicted. They definitely looked mean, mostly shirtless, with scars, missing teeth, and homemade tattoos. But I knew they’d never experienced any other way of life. Since the day they were born, all they’d known was abandonment, poverty, abuse, prostitution, and gang membership. I could not help thinking, “There but for the grace of God go I.”
Through a staff translator I asked the boys if we could pray for them, and they eagerly agreed. Mustering my courage, I reached through the bars and laid my hand on their heads or shoulder, hoping to connect through physical touch. Asking their names, we prayed for each, and as we prophesied their future restoration, tears streamed down their cheeks. They were so hungry for a touch and an encouraging word. Some of them, we learned, after their release, would end up at Hope Mountain and become part of our family—another one of our own sweet, precious children. What a powerful image of “before” and “after!”
During the last four years traveling to Brazil, I’ve experienced many powerful moments like this and spent more time on my knees than in the rest of my life combined. Seeing the miraculous transformation of the children, the faith and dedication of the staff, and the chaos and hard times the Smiths and others have been willing to accept over 29 years—all this renews my faith on a daily basis.
And this is why I support Hope. Not just as Executive Director, but—along with my husband—as a prayer warrior, connector, volunteer, and donor. Supporting ministries in faraway places can be messy and unpredictable, with ups and downs and challenges. I used to pray the Lord’s prayer and ask for daily bread, but I was really relying upon my own strength and talents—not God’s. Now when I pray, I mean it from the bottom of my heart. God calls us to serve and follow Him—not to be comfortable and in control.
Lord, our hearts break for children in prison, feeling alone, forgotten, and hopeless. Give them your comfort, and raise up prayer warriors to minister to them in prison, so these children can come to know Your truth and be set free. And help us trust in you. Help us follow Your call without needing to know what tomorrow, next week, or next year looks like, and surrender comfort and control knowing You are with us on the journey, and that only in surrendering to You can we experience freedom.