by Mark Lim
“I am thankful to God that he brought me to Makati City Jail!” (inmate, MCJ)
Those unbelievable words were uttered by more than a few of the residents of MCJ – yes you read it right! Prisoners expressing gratitude for one of the most undesirable of outcomes – landing in jail. Those words have never left me since. The irony and absurdity of the statement has made such an impact on my perspective.
I’ve always gravitated towards ministries that got me face to face with the people we would normally describe as less fortunate – holding feeding programs for school aged children from a poor parish and at one point doing tutorials at Gawad Kalinga (I did this for 3 years). So when I joined SYA and heard there was a prison ministry I quickly joined (back in 2013.)That went on for a few months until I got too busy and eventually stopped.
But as fate would have it ( we call it God’s plan) I found myself “back in prison” earlier this year. As I reflect today about all this and the turn of events I am grateful to be given another opportunity at this – now richer with more life experiences and in a very different place spirituality and personally from 2013. It’s as though I can approach the sessions we conduct with more honesty, humility and empathy.
Back when I was head of a different community’s outreach ministry in 2003, we constantly discussed if we were making a difference in the lives of the people we chose to help. I realize now that we were looking at it wrong. We failed to see how our being involved was having a lasting impact — ON US! Such is the miracle of giving…Jesus cannot be outdone!
And so as I go about my weekly appointment with Jesus in MCJ I am filled with an anticipation of His powerful presence that happen in the mundane tasks involved in this special ministry – while preparing my manila paper materials, while searching for the song for the week, or when we exchange sometimes nervous but always grateful smiles knowing that we (the residents, fellow volunteers and I) are forever changed by a simple Monday afternoon well spent.
The words aren’t so ridiculous anymore – how truly blessed I am …How grateful we are to God for bringing us to MCJ.
As published in the April 2 issue of the Parish Bulletin.