While hundreds of men are waiting for their cases to come to court and others who have been convicted are serving their sentences, there have been several in our “Learning to Read to Read the Bible” Program who have completed their prison time and have gone home. Two of them are near and dear to us; Cipriano, C.P., and Francis Okello. Cipriano, completed a 10 year sentence and Francis a 5 year term.
Cipriano was one of the graduates in the very first graduation class in all of the Lango sub-region which happened to also be the first graduating class in Lira Main Prison. In this photo, C.P. is on the left, moving toward the reception line for his certificate. All of the first graduates and teachers received a Lango Bible. Carolyn, HAN co-director was blessed to be one of the first to congratulate them along with 2 Bishops and the Prison Deputy Officer in Charge, Mucunguzi in his uniform.
Cipriano, had been a featured musician on the thumb piano for several HAN literacy program graduations. His profuse thankfulness for learning to read and write, touched our hearts deeply as he promised to pass his knowledge on to his family.
Victor, our translator who is from the same clan, called the clan leader to arrange a welcome home for Cipriano. Two of them met him at the prison to let him know that they were preparing for his homecoming in the village. C.P. after being in prison for so long, had no clothes, shoes or money for going home. HAN was able to outfit him, provide a mattress and soap, and staff member Jonathan (far right) to take him back to his home village.
Far left is C.P.’s wife and standing in the middle is his 10 year old son who was only months old when his father went to prison. Hopefully their father-son relationship will develop quickly and strongly. At first everyone was a bit shy and wondering how to react to each other.
Shortly, the family began to show their excitement and happiness at the return of their Muzee (elderly person). It has been suggested that Cipriano was falsely imprisoned, and he is just happy now to be reunited with his family.
Francis was Head Librarian at the small Lira Prison library and one of the English teachers Jean Homer trained last year.
Francis (on the left) was “ever cheerful” (as the expression goes here) with a wide, welcoming smile whenever we visited the prison. He also had no clothes to wear home and no money as the inmates are released expecting the families to provide whatever is needed for them to return home. Unfortunately, many families are in faraway villages and have not been to visit the inmate for years, not because they don’t care, but because they are so poor they cannot afford to come to Lira for a 5 minute visit (all that is allowed) Monday through Friday. Communication between inmates and their families is extremely limited. Our staff often helps them by contacting families by phone.
Francis and head teacher trainer Peter were more than happy on the morning of Francis’ release!
Francis gets a “lift” from a “Boda Boda” (motorcycle taxi) to his home village. (notice the absence of helmets) Motorcycle accidents are one of the largest causes of injury and death in our area. All of our staff have had at least one accident or near miss since being on our team. We thank God that their lives were spared.
Both Cipriano and Francis, went home with their heads raised, feeling that their time in prison, though extremely difficult and long, contained a large benefit from what they learned through the HAN literacy and English as a Second Language programs. They now have special skills which could be used to lift their entire families and even communities from illiteracy and poverty. Both have said they will teach others in their villages to read and write using what they learned during their incarceration. Please pray for them to be able to carry that dream to completion.
The verses in the Bible that keeps coming back to us are in Matthew 25: 31-46. Part of what Jesus says in that story is that when we feed someone who is hungry, give a drink to a person who is thirsty, clothe the naked, invite in a stranger, look after the sick and visit those in prison, we are doing it for Him and will be rewarded with eternal life. Those who do not, have not done it for Him and will go away to eternal punishment. So we know that God will bless those who have helped in taking care of those in prison and all the other ways of caring for the poor.