Oh, I wish we could take a camera into prison, so we could share some of wonderful ladies with you and the conditions of the prison itself. 

So, no photos to go along with this story, but you can visualize it.

We go into the Women's Prison, Buen Pastor, every Tuesday to teach Bible Lessons and Celebrate Recovery to a group of English speaking women.  Just getting into the prison is a challenge and each week we are approached by different guards with new and different rules.  Once we get the approval to enter, everything else is more or less the same from the week before.  Sure, there are the usual room changes and new faces of the prisoners, but the smells, the room conditions, the rules and the guards are usually the same. 

We have a good relationship with the female guards that we encounter as we enter the courtyard to head to our room.  We never walk pass them without greeting them with an "Hola" and the proper kiss on the cheek.  They unlock our room, send someone in to clean the pee smell out of it and that is about the last we see of them until we leave.  Class time can be quite distracting- women walking by our room and their conversations are loud enough for those in Panama to hear.  They peek in our room occasionally to say hello to one of our gals and the names of prisoners are constantly being yelled out by other prisoners or guards.

The norm changed a couple weeks ago, as one of the guards repeatedly checked in on us.  While we were talking and praying for the girls, I noticed she was hanging around.  She didn't interrupt, but waited until we were done to ask if we were going to break for the girls lunch.  Another time she asked if we were staying over the lunch break.  This was strange, because the we always allow the girls to leave for lunch and we stay to wait for them to return.

It wasn't until we were packing up to leave that we saw this guard again.  This time when she approached us, it was clear that she had something on her mind.  After a couple uncomfortable moments, she asked us if we could pray for her and her son.   As we listened to her story, she broke down crying and poured out the details of her home life.  I realized how much she had let down her guard to tell us her story.  I'll admit, while we were praying, I kept one eye open to watch behind her because I didn't know what the other guards or prisoners would think or do if they saw her crying and praying (with her eyes closed) and her hands in the air.

I had carried a couple extra Bibles in with me that day and only one was in Spanish.  Our girls prefer an English Bible.  One of the other leaders remembered that Spanish Bible and offered to the guard.  She admitted that she didn't have one and took it with her.  She doesn't know English, so I guess God had that one picked out especially for her.

What an honor it is to work with these women, to see their lives being transformed and to know that even the guards are thankful to God for us being there.

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