Wrote this last week and with the very spotty phone lines only got it in tonight.
My wife and Mrs. Okello go and visit different people on Friday afternoons. This last Friday she returned to tell me about the testimony of a woman named Rachel. Rachel is the sister of one of our strong members of church. She has come to many church services, she has prayed, but church really was not what she wanted. She took a journey to buy game meat to sell and was caught by the police, brought to trial and sentenced to a year in prison for illegally selling game meat. I knew Nellie, her sister, had been visiting her in prison, but Joan’s retelling of her experience was intense.
Prison is not your first choice destination in Zambia. When I first arrived in Mazabuka I wanted to take a photo of the local prison. As I was focusing a guard came out and confiscated my camera. Fortunately, it was a digital camera and I could prove that I had not taken a photo yet. My camera was returned and I was released with a warning to not try and take any photos of the prison. I am including this to illustrate how serious the guards take their jobs.
To survive in prison, the family has to help. Rachel had her baby with her in prison. She describes different levels of abuse, but mainly lots of beatings from the women guards. The low point came when she was desperate to get some medicine for her sick child. In the exchange with the guards she found herself collecting salt and ashes and sprinkling it on the cement. She was stripped and ordered to role in the mixture while the guards beat her. She broke down and began to call upon God, as the guards mocked her jailhouse conversion.
What is the demarcation of a salvation experience? “Anyone who calls out upon the Lord shall be saved.” Is it a rote prayer? Is it a cry from the heart? Rachel’s life immediately began to change. She found herself sharing her struggles with God in prayer. She saw herself as a Christian depending upon God’s help. From that moment on the guards began to treat her differently. The beatings stopped, the mockings discontinued and the guards began to show her small favors. As time went on the guards would take turns holding her baby and would tell her to make sure she came and visited them after she was released. Her sentence was shortened and she was released.
She had just gotten out of prison when she shared this story with Joan. I didn’t see her in church Sunday and asked about her. She sent a message that her baby was sick but she would be at the next service for sure.