There were a number of prisons in a city a long ways from the center that they wanted us to visit. They had planned for us to go up and back three days but since gas is expensive and we also had other events scheduled, we decided to combine these visits into one trip up there and one day, one looonnngggg day. We first went to a prison for young adults, all under 21 and spent a while with them. They loved participating in Capoeira and also learning a little Tae Kwon Do which we use to teach about the power and necessity of discipline. We try to link a specific idea with each act that we do, even some of our magic routines, so that they will remember things when we leave and have practical help and answers. The directer here was so warm, kind and accommodating it was a welcome blessing after many times of going to prisons a dealing with people that just dont care. Often we will drive way out to a prison only to find that no one communicated we were coming to them and we have to start from scratch to try to get in, wait hours and sometimes have to come all the way back another day.
After the young adult prison we went to a maximum security complex with multiple prisons inside. They wanted us to do five performances, each in a different facility. It was 1pm and we only had until 5 to present at all of them. One had to be canceled due to a fight that broke out, so we had four hours and four prisons. Setting up and breaking down all our equipment is no little task and to do it quickly takes a lot of work. To get it all in and out we had to lift it over a type of turn table gate and carry it up stairs (it totals around 500 lbs). We have many different acts, dances, routines and videos in our repitar and so we vary what we did and which members of our family did them so that we could all get a breather here and there and make it the whole day(barely:).
The men were so very grateful and many were in tears when we left. This one man named Cladio will always stay in my head. He said that he got mixed up in a series of robberies and was going to get out of it all but loaned his cell phone to someone who ended up committing murder. They traced it back to him because all they found was the cell phone and now this man was serving a life sentence. I could tell he was telling the truth. I have not met many prisoners that have a life sentence and it is hard to know what to say. He knows that he will die in prisons. He said his son is fighting for his innocence on the outside, but he knows that there is no way to prove his innocence and holds little hope he will get out. I encouraged him with the thought of eternal life, that this life is really just a shadow, and if he would focus his time to seek God, he could find eternal life.
We were all very blessed after a day like this and know that our strength was well spent. We collapsed in our van and headed back to the center. Traffic was bumper to bumper and it took a long time to get home, the rest was a blur until we hit out mattresses. The other prison was scheduled for the following day and it was a bit tough to get up early as we were all very tired, but Gods power truly is made perfect in our weakness. Security was more intense getting in and they had to search the van and most of our gear. We always just kind of hold our breath hoping they are not going to open the magic chest and prop box because then their curiosity kicks in and we our in for a long search as they have to look at every little thing and touch all the cool magic tricks or get a demonstration of the trick (just to make sure it is not a security risk of course). We had a powerful witness and got through to a lot of suffering men. We spoke to men from Italy, Iran, Briton, Colombia and South Africa as well, each with their own story. There were many political prisoners, some serving very long sentences. As I said good bye to an older gentleman, he grasped my hands and said with a smile, “Today my daughter, you made me laugh…and that is not something that I have done in a very long time”.