Penitentiary Duisburg Avenue. Paramaribo, Suriname, South America
Years ago when I lived in Northern California, I visited the now closed and tourist attraction, Alcatraz Island. Home to some of the most notorious prisoners in U.S. History. This facility was closed on March 21, 1963 after 29 years in operation. I mention this because on July 9, 2015, I somewhat stepped back into time.
I was asked last week when I got here to Paramaribo, Suriname if I would be interested in doing a visit to a local prison. The gentleman said, “there might only be about 5 guys in attendance, would you still like to go?” My typical response, “if there are 200, I will go; if there are 20, I will go; if there are only 2, I will still go.”
As we pulled up to the facility which seemed to be well over 50-70 years old, set in the midst of a residential neighborhood, I noticed the 20’ plus high stone walls. We entered and rang a door bell next to a 15’ high steel roll up door. The door clicked and unlocked and we entered. This area was the holding area for trucks and vehicles entering the prison. You drive in, the door rolls down, and ultimately the door in front rolls up so you would be able to enter the facility.
We were asked for i.d. and I promptly handed my Passport to the guard who was a woman. Two women actually working the front gate of a faculty that holds 200 incarcerated men. Upon being cleared we were then ushered through a metal detector and then through a steel gate with keys that seemed as if they were handed down from Alcatraz. Three male guards, armed with older 9 millimeter side arms (they almost looked like 20 year old Browning 9 millimeters), to the office of the person in charge. Surprisingly it was a woman. Very welcoming, very kind, but also very stern and strict. Upon meeting and chatting with her for several minutes, mind you this is a Dutch speaking country and the majority of the inhabitants of this Nation are of African decent… meaning… the majority of them are Black people who speak Dutch. Fortunately while I was in the United States Army Military Police Corp, one of the many things I learned, aside from how to drink plenty of Schnapps, was how to speak German. German and Dutch are very similar languages and I am able to follow along in their conversations.
We were led to an area where the inmates would be gathered for worship if you will. Walking in 90 degree temps, sun BEAMING down upon us, walking through dirt and then a garden area next to a large stone facility we turned into the prison area. Walking through a corridor with large steel bars on my right and left, leading down a hallway of approximately 40 cell’s in each hallway. No air conditioning; no light; the cells seemed to be approximately 10’ X 10’. They seemed to keep the same ambiance that was placed in them 50 – 60 years ago when this facility was built.
When we turned the corner we heard signing… praise singing… male voices, more than 2; more than 20; there were approximately 35-40 men gathered on the patio singing and praising God. I was astounded to see these men who came out to hear a foreigner talk about God in another language that I was unsure they wouldn’t even understand, but the Language of Love, the Language of Christ is understandable by all!
I must admit, earlier in the day I was concerned as to what I would talk with these men about. I had no idea who they were and they darn well certain had no idea of who I was (which I am nothing but a sinful man, saved by the Grace of God). I opened my Bible earlier that day and it opened to Paul’s letter to the Roman’s Chapter 8 beginning at verse 28 (for those of you who KNOW your Bible, your heart should be fluttering right now… YES you should be getting Holy Flesh when you just see, Romans 8:28) continuing to the end of the Chapter.
I was introduced by the man who invited me, who comes monthly to visit these men and pray with them and worship with them. Just an ordinary small Catholic Business man who believes in Prison Ministry. Once he introduced me, I welcomed them to praise God, “If you love Jesus and you KNOW HE is the head of your life I want you to stand and give him a SHOUT of PRAISE RIGHT NOW!” Well that set the tone for the next hour of preaching. I read the reading, it was translated in Dutch, I prayed and the Holy Spirit took over. It was AWESOME… Glory and Praise be to God! What a GLORIOUS time was had by all.
There I was surrounded by 40 men, incarcerated for everything from theft, assault, drug dealing, drug smuggling, manslaughter, rape, attempted murder and murder. We all continued to praise the NAME of the Lord and the Spirit preached to the souls held captive today. The Spirit of the Lord was truly upon me and He spoke Words of Life into men whose eyes were dark with death, hopelessness, depression and pure evil; the Lord spoke RELEASE to those who had not been just confined and imprisoned physically, but Spiritually.
Upon the conclusion of preaching I invited them to stand and receive God, if someone did not know Jesus, they were given an opportunity to stand and come forward and say “yes I want to know MORE about this Man named Jesus… this Man who say’s that ALL things are possible for those who love Him”. Several men came forward. I even gave the opportunity to those men who were behind the stone walls, but within the sound of my voice, those who were behind the cages and bars, the Spirit spoke to their hearts and His voice was heard by all… EVEN the JAILERS were spoken too and prayed for!
To see and worship and pray with these men, who are imprisoned in a facility that would make Alcatraz look like the Waldorf Astoria; a facility that has NO air-conditioning in 90 to 100 degree sweltering heat; a facility that you know has rodents running rampant, where men have even little of their dignity left, but for me to have been a short light in the darkness, was a great blessing.
Finally, before I left, I hugged each man who attended and as I prayed healing prayers and deliverance prayers over these men, I noticed one man who was continually wiping tears from his eyes. He came to me at the end and said, “I have been placed in charge of these men. I am their leader. The spiritual leader…” as he wiped tears from his eyes. “I am not a pastor, I am not a reverend, I am not an evangelist like you, I cannot preach like you and cannot motivate people like you, I don’t know what I am doing, but THEY are looking at me to be their leader and I don’t want to disappoint God. I don’t’ want to be responsible for their well being because I don’t know what to do. I am not the one… why has God chosen me?”
I smiled at him during his talking with me and I thought of myself. I asked someone 10 years ago… my wife… “why me, why am I being called to this, I am nothing, I am not a Priest, Deacon, Reverend, I don’t even know the Bible… why me?” I responded to this man’s question, with the same response given to me 10 years ago by my wife, “Why NOT you? God has chosen you, over all people, He has anointed you, challenged you and COMMANDED you to GO… GO out and teach, anoint, minister and share the Good News that has been given to you.” The man wept even more and looked at me and said… “Yes sir, I will go. Yes sir, I will lead them. Yes sir, I WILL trust in the Lord, just please brother… pray for me because I cannot do it without your prayers.” I promised him I would pray for him daily.
Sitting back now, several hours later, preparing to preach tomorrow at this Nations FIRST ever Catholic Men’s Conference, I am humbled and honored to have been used by the Lord. I am humbled and honored and thankful to so many people, family, friends and those I have met along the way, who have shaped my path. “There go I, but for the Grace of God.” I should have been one of those men in prison; I should have been one of my classmates in Detroit who died in the streets, addicted to drugs, but through the GRACE… his AMAZING Grace, I have been saved. Through His Amazing Grace… others have come to know His Name, His Word and His Light in the Darkness and it is ALL for HIS Glory, Honor and Praise.
Thank You Lord for letting me see the Rock down under today. Thank You Lord for being my Rock, the Rock of Ages.
Thank You Lord for Your Amazing Grace.
I love you Suriname… thank YOU!
“Suma Nami” Blessie Blessie Blessie!!!
Stay tuned for more to come from Suriname South America!
Richard Lane Ministries