Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Charlie Lasa's sharing in our Community Conference

I am Charlie Lasa from North B and I am here to share with you an update on our Prison Ministry. My involvement at the QC Jail started last year with a visit to Jopet Tecson, son of Joe and Flora Tecson from North B, who was jailed on drug charges. Later in August 2009, a group of seminarians vacated a 2-hour time slot for religious instruction at the jail. Other religious denominations wanted to come in and get that time slot, but it was first offered to Ligaya, our community, because we had previously donated chairs to the jail.

At that time we were reflecting on the theme: “An Open Door! Walk Through It!” and my wife Peggy thought that this could probably be the “Open Door” the Lord was inviting us to walk through, to be fruitful, multiply and occupy! Here, literally, was a space we could occupy, if only for 2 hours every Thursday. So she asked if we could go.

I wish I could tell you that I answered, “How wonderful, honey! Let’s go! Let’s walk through the open door, and occupy Quezon City Jail!” However, that was not the case. Instead, I said: “What? Are you crazy? Ano ang gagawin natin doon? Hindi naman tayo magaling magdasal sa Tagalog!” (What are we going to do there? We're not good in praying in Tagalog!)

So what is a husband to do, if his wife seems so intent in going to a place that could be dangerous to her? Leave her alone with the lions and the wolves?

But in the days that followed, I was led to reflect on Matthew 25 where Jesus says:

‘I was in prison and you did not visit me.' And when we answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you in prison and did not take care of you? ' He will answer, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'

I felt convicted, and eventually, I decided to go, but only until other Ligaya members, who could better pray and preach in Tagalog, will be available to take over. One Thursday led to another, and we have now been serving in QC Jail for the past 5 months.

So what have we been doing?

We take advantage of the fact that we have a captive audience for 2 hours. There is no escape from us. We start out with worship, ably led by Ben Salvedia from North A, and supported by an inmate music ministry group. Then as the Spirit leads, we give teachings, exhortations and personal sharings. Every week we provide a simple snack and give basic necessities, such as soap and other toiletries.

Little did I realize how God had been working in us and using us for His mission, until one Thursday, I received a letter scribbled on cigarette wrappers, and I quote:

“…Nawa’y huwag kayong magsawa sa pag-tulong at panga-ngaral sa katulad naming kapos palad at nakalimot kay Lord. Pero unti-unti akong nahuhubog sa mga aral at pag-intindi sa mga salita ng Diyos. Dito ko nalalaman ang katotohanan, ang tungkol sa mga salita ng bibliya na dapat sundin ng mga taong tulad ko, na naligaw ng landas…” (I hope you will not tire of helping and teaching us who are underprivileged and who have forgotten the Lord. Little by little I have been formed by the teachings and understanding the Word of God. I learn the truth here, about the Bible verses that we who have lost our way, should obey...)

Brothers and sisters, we have learned firsthand that indeed God will empower us beyond our limitations and use us to do His work. And in doing so, we have experienced many delightful moments in this ministry:

  • We have heard inmates share how prison life became better for them when they started reading the Bible.
  • We have heard them share the joy they felt after forgiving those who put them in jail.
  • We have seen men wanting to accept Jesus and asking us how.
  • We have experienced the joy in leading them to Jesus.

They have so appreciated what we have shared with them that, believe it or not, there have been some inmates who have approached me, asking me how they can join Ligaya after they get out of prison.

We thank you, brothers and sisters, for the support you have given us. Many have taken time off from work, simply to just be there for the prisoners. Some of you have chosen to celebrate your birthdays at the jail, sharing food and drinks with the inmates. Others have expressed their commitment in other ways, such as praying for our ministry, or donating in cash or kind. We continue to pray for your support.

Monday, February 8, 2010

One World, One Heart


Congratulatons to GAIL who won the bead bracelet. We sent it off right away and I hope she likes it!

Hello, fellow travelers, almost didn't make it! This is my blog for our prison ministry. We visit the QC jail every week, on a Thursday, from 3-5 pm. We share the gospel, we bring HOPE and minister to about a hundred men. While we do this, we are amazed at how God shows US His face and how His Spirit is guiding us! Even if we don't know what we are doing, even if we don't plan, God takes care of our meetings!

My art blog, HeARTworks, has joined OWOH before, and this year, I decided to offer a prize here too- we are hoping to provide livelihood for the prisoners so they can have money for their basic necessities. The prison here in the Philippines is pitiful! My prize is what we are going to teach the prisoners to make- paper bead jewelry. The bracelet has one paper bead amongst other kinds of beads.
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners. Hebrews 13:3

For those who don't know what OWOH is, you can visit Lisa Swifka's blog, and read all about it. There are over a thousand blogs participating, all offering prizes to be won! And all you have to do for a chance to win is, make a comment! If you have a prayer or a suggestion for our ministry, I'll be glad to have it!

January 31, 2010

I can't help myself- have to share about our last visit to the prison. :^)
Usually we discuss before the meeting who is going to give a talk, what theme, who will share or lead a prayer, if we're going to divide into men's groups, etc but last Thursday, we forgot! When we were at the jail chapel already, Charlie asked Ben to teach a new song and Ben thought for a while then wrote on the board the lyrics for "Worship the Lord , in Spirit and truth..."
Charlie's eyes got big and he asked, "Does Ben know the talk I prepared?" None of us told Ben, and when we asked Ben, he said he didn't know what Charlie was going to talk about. Charlie said, "Why am I surprised? I should just expect it."

Charlie's talk started with reading about the Samaritan woman, John Ch.4. He used it as an introduction to his talk on how to worship the Lord. John 4, verse 24 reads "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth." I thank God for this and the many other times He has shown us that His Spirit is the the one running the ministry we are doing in QC Jail!

Charlie asked some of our brothers in the jail questions and some of them had really good answers to "What does it mean to worship God in spirit? What does it mean to worship God in truth?" Some of them sounded like preachers!

I'd like to tell you about Tikyo- he's a funny guy. I don't think I saw him look serious until last Thursday when he shared. He's full of tattoos and even told Peggy he had a tattoo in a place he couldn't show her (ka-men's group ni Peggy!). He's also an artist, and he made a paper sculpture of a man in prison with an angel, and he even managed to make the thing light up! All this with just the meager resources in jail! Anyway, he's one of Jopet's friends. When it was his birthday, he wished he could have pancit. Well, because of Jopet he had more than pancit and he was ecstatic. Jopet and Tikyo had a pact- if Tikyo shared, Jopet would share too. So when Jopet saw Tikyo go to the front, he said, "Oh no!!

True to his word, Jopet got up and shared. You can imagine how the others listened to him share. He emphasized that he was suppose to be free already as the Dept. of Justice gave him release papers but "The president put me here. The most powerful person in the Philippines. But in Isaiah, it says, my thoughts are not your thoughts. I will change you. I saw all the miracles He did. In PDEA, I started drawing. Here I paint. I pray that with this talent I can help those I draw. I really pray now, and kneel before God and say there is no one I worship but Him. He is making us strong. Let's just continue to pray. It's not important if we're in or out. The important thing is we're with Jesus!"

Jopet said there were lots of things he wanted to say but forgot, and we said that's alright-there's always part 2. That's a giant step forward that Jopet volunteered to share because before his reaction was, no way! Praise God, he's using his time in jail to help others. He now teaches painting lessons to the 15 inmates Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

As a body, we were also able to pray over Aldrin, who shared that he received his sentence already- life sentence- so he was going to be moved to Muntinlupa. He was teary eyed as he admitted his crime, and his sins against his family. What he wants is to be forgiven by his family, so Peggy asked for contact details so we can try and contact his family.

Thank you for your prayers and continued support! There are many more Aldrins and Tikyos who need our prayers and encouragement. If you would like to pray for particular prisoners, you can approach any one of us and we can assign a prisoner for you to pray for.