“We thank everyone who gives to the Great Commission Fund (GCF)!” exclaims Esther Schaeffer, who serves with The Alliance in Burkina Faso, West Africa.
Esther and her husband, Andrew, are among 700 Alliance international workers supported by the GCF, who are able to minister in some of the world’s most spiritually impoverished places.
“This Christmas, 700 inmates heard the good news of Christ’s birth for the first time and enjoyed a meal provided and served by local believers,” Esther reports.
As Esther’s prison ministry team has served for many years, “We have noticed that very few here care to be associated with the inmates,” she explains. “Fewer still reach out in kindness to them.”
One female inmate told Esther, “If we are sick and taken to a local clinic, everyone turns their back and moves away from us. No one greets us or smiles when they see us.”
A New Message
But this Christmas, inmates at a local prison experienced the Christmas message of God’s love and acceptance in a powerful way.
Beginning early Christmas morning, prison team members began cooking huge pots of rice, meat, and green beans in the local Bible school. The pots were then loaded onto three-wheeled motorbikes to transport to the prison along with boxes of soap that had been collected.
Food and soap are prized gifts in an African prison. As in many prison systems in the developing world, Africa’s inmates depend upon extended family members to supplement their basic needs, including food, clothing, and personal items.
“If they have caused their families shame, inmates will struggle to eat, stay healthy, and feel loved and wanted because their families don’t want to be associated with them anymore,” reports an Alliance prison ministry worker in Senegal, West Africa.
Something Good Is Coming!
When the team members received clearance at the prison’s front gate, they began carrying the pots of food and boxes of soap up the prison’s long drive. Word passed quickly throughout the yard that something good was about to happen.
Once the team was inside, prison guards assigned individuals to bring out the large cooking pots and distribute the food in each area of the prison. Then the boxes of soap were unloaded.
“Watching the prisoners begin to smile and laugh—and to see them exchange laughter with our team—was quite a miracle,” Esther says. “Christ’s birth was all about great joy for all people. He was born in poverty and welcomed by humble shepherds. Isaiah prophesied that He would be numbered among the transgressors.
“Because of gifts to the GCF, we were able to bring this message into a local prison, where many had never heard or understood the meaning of Christmas.”