A Prison Experience
YWAM Ratchaburi has been ministering in the Ratchaburi prison for a little over a year. There is a Christian fellowship of around 100 men and 30 women inmates that YWAM comes to worship and share the Bible with once a month. More recently, they have organized a number of concerts to be able to reach a wider group of inmates with the message of the Gospel. Jesse Houser was one of the volunteers that joined YWAM Ratchaburi during the last concert. He recounts his experience below:
A whitewashed wall rose before me, high enough to blot out all the outside world but the sky and a few nearby treetops. As my team prepared to leave the prison through the lone, unassuming door the guard had just swung open for us, I got a clearer notion of what we, as followers of Christ, were up against in our Thailand outreach.
I could tell something was different about this prison right away. Instead of pat-downs in stern, tense silence, they handed us ID tags and let us into a peaceful yard. Well-kept flower gardens and carefully manicured lawns sprawled around a few trees; inmates walked around or sat at tables, in gazebos, or along a covered walkway talking or smoking while a guard wheeled down the pavement on a bicycle. Nobody seemed unhappy or resentful. I saw no chains. Throughout setting up and carrying out ministry, as well as breakfast in the yard and lunch with officials, I saw nothing but good will and orderliness. As we counted off to begin the concert, all attention was willingly and fully on us.
As usual, we left no doubt that we were Christians. Partway through our program of popular music mixed with redemptive dramas, dances, and testimonies, the chief warden climbed onto the platform to address his inmates. While our ministry leaders explained that the inmates look at the warden as a father, and how he sees them as children that need to be brought up right and shown mercy, he told the crowd with compassion and conviction in his voice that the religion they chose didn't matter. As he explained it, all that mattered was working to lead a good life and to treat others with respect; all they had to do was follow that, and their friends and family would be waiting for their homecoming.
That talk gave me an example of everything that is right and wrong about Thailand. Thai people do love and respect one another, and the leaders placed over them do care genuinely about their happiness and well-being. Content with a system cemented in place by eons of tradition, Thai people don't see a need for anything better. Like the distant but towering white walls of the prison, the limits of both Buddhism and earthly culture surround every part of the people's carefully manicured daily life. In the midst of their work, play, and rituals, they fall short of true freedom and happiness without even knowing it.
We still finished strong: almost in answer to the speech, I gave a testimony about the uniqueness of God's unconditional love, and after some more music one of my teammates gave a salvation message about God's Father heart. When our contact gave an invitation directly in Thai, around sixty men came forward to receive Christ and with Him, freedom.
I saw eagerness in their eyes as we prayed for them and passed out Bibles. I think what we saw that day is just a taste of the ripeness that is beginning to show throughout Thailand in the hearts of people who long for perfect love without knowing it. Pray that every Thai gets exposed to a love and a peace that's beyond what they understand, and pray that willing Christians are nearby when the questions inevitably start to come. God is not through with this beautiful nation!