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How God's love transformed a prison


Transformed Prison

Rebekah, Eti and Ratna lived in Indonesia. Their story shows how three Sunday school teachers transformed a terrifying Indonesian cell block. It’s a tale of how trusting God and sharing His love can change even the darkest places.

Rebekah, Eti and Ratna lived in Indonesia, one of the largest Muslim countries on earth. They lived in a place called Indramaya, West Java.

Rebekah, a Doctor, led their church of about 30 people.

Their journey to and from church took them past lots of kids on the street. As they befriended these children, they discovered these were kids of prostitutes and street vendors. So, with the agreement of the authorities, they started a ‘Happy Tuesday club’: a place where the children could receive one decent meal for the week, and health education. Rebekah, Eti and Ratna had permission from the parents to tell the children about the church and share stories of Jesus.

This went on for months and months. It was a beautiful thing...

But fundamentalists became outraged, that Christians were becoming increasingly visible in their communities. And three Christian women were easy prey.

So Rebekah, Eti and Ratna were arrested. Their show trial was attended by 500 hate-filled screaming radicals standing at the back of the court, and there were three judges who handed out a prison sentence. Rebekah, Eti and Ratna weresentenced for 5 years for the ‘Christianisation of children’.

These women were put in prison for essentially being Sunday school teachers.

They were taken to Indramaya State Pententary: 400 male prisoners and 9 women, 120 degrees of heat.

They were put into prison block Waneta – where they found nine other inmates: jihadists, drug smugglers, and one woman who if you gave her $10 she would murder anyone. Prison officers would only go into prison block Waneta with body armour on and armed with truncheons and shields, because these women were so dysfunctional. The walls were covered in excrement and urine. They were locked up in the cells for 15 hours a day.

And this is where they put three Sunday school teachers.

In the first 24 hours something remarkable happened: Rebekah heard God speak to her.

She asked the guards for buckets of water with disinfectant, and Rebekah, Eti and Ratna spent the day washing out the other women’s cells to make the place more habitable.

Then they started to cook for them, because the inmates didn’t know how to feed themselves properly. To women who didn’t have enough to eat, they gave away their food rations. The environment culture started to change. Instead of viewing it as a punishment, they viewed it as a privilege and a joy to be there.

Soon, news about the women spread through the prison.

After three weeks, one of the prison guards came up to Rebekah and he said ‘I have severe stomach cramps, would you help me please?’

Would you help someone who was keeping you in a stinking prison cell for 15 hours a day?

But she kindly wrote down the medication he needed. Rebekah’s accreditation as a doctor had been removed because she was now a criminal. But by the end of the month there were around 40 prison guards receiving health advice.

After three months, the prison governor himself invited the three women into his office. And he said ‘I was informed you were subversives and so I was going to break your heart and mind the moment you came in here. But you’ve been ablessing to the entire prison.’

And then the governor said ‘How would it be if your church came to prison on a Sunday? Firstly they will be safe here. Secondly we’ll take care of you, and thirdly you can say what you want to your church members here and they will be welcome, because you have been a blessing to us.’ How incredible is that?!

For two and a half year those women served as a blessing to their community. They helped plant gardens, established a fish farm, they shared the love of Jesus day in day out. They loved the lost causes, the losers. They loved the lonely.

They loved the haters.

During their time in prison they received around 15,000 letters of hope and encouragement from Christians elsewhere in the world who were speaking up for them and campaigning for their release. People wrote to the President of Indonesia – urging him to act justly. Amazingly they were set free two and a half years early.

And the week after they were set free? Rebekah, Eti and Ratna went back to prison to disciple the 47 people they had led to Christ during those two and a half years.

Dr Rebekah called her time in prison, ‘My University of trust’.

They trusted that God had a purpose for them. They trusted that God was with them in that place. And though it was hard and painful for them, they found blessing and joy in the worst of circumstances. And they brought that blessing and joy to others.

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