On my birthday we were inside a maximum security prison and did multiple performances for smaller groups because of security. There was a prisoner there who was blind and had a very long sentence. He placed my hands on his head to let me feel where a bullet had entered leaving deep scars. He had been involved in a robbery where he ended up getting shot, almost dying and blamed for the crime when he was barely involved. I just can’t imagine not only being in prison, but being completely blind and vulnerable. I asked him to dance with me when we do a cultural dance and at first he hesitated, but after I encouraged him to trust me, he really enjoyed it and was very good at leading me. His name is Walter.
One prisoner, who had learned it was my birthday the day before, drew this picture for me of Jesus laughing that was beautiful. He said that he had always thought of Jesus in a boring kind of way, but after seeing what we did, he saw Jesus as full of joy, hope and life. It really touched me and meant a lot. This definitely will be a birthday I will remember for a long time. Another prisoner baked us empanadas for lunch and served us coffee.
In one of the acts we do I have a picture of a door painted on the side of a collapsable changing room (the kind that are used for camping). I first show it as just a black circle, then pop it out to reveal the door. I share how even in the darkest, worst place, we can find, another “Place” (Jn.14:3). Although these men cannot leave the walls, the can find “a Door” beyond them, which is Jesus. No matter what situation we are in physically, there is a door out, and we can find a beautiful “place” even in suffering if we choose humility, because God dwells with the lowly (Is.57:15).
After we are done with our performance, if time allows, we always spend time talking and listening to the guys one on one. I was translating for my dad and we were asking the guys to tell us some of their best childhood memories. It was a beautiful moment, all remembering the joy and innocence of being a child. One man told us he remembered making a sling shot out of a tree branch and hitting targets in the woods. One man said he remembered climbing a hill by the zoo and looking at his house far below. One young man said his favorite memory was at his 8th year birthday party at his grandparents house. He said that day everyone knew him and he was important, now he was nothing. We encouraged them that all though in a sense, we left the child, the child did not leave us and we can go back to being children, trusting our Father.