Missionary Experience in a Ugandan Prison
by Paul Mahony
This past July 2013 I travelled to Uganda for two weeks with eight men
from Dublin, Belfast, London, Glasgow, and Mumbai, India. We were all involved
in Kairos University Outreach
programs in Ireland and Great Britain. The mission trip gave us an opportunity
to serve on mission together in Uganda.
There is one memorable day during our two week mission
that I would like to share with you. This particular day I did not enjoy
the trip we had to make to a prison in Uganda. I remember feeling sick
as we made our way to the prison. At every bend in the road I would silently
wish, "Please, may we not be there yet".
On this particular day we were all packed together in the back of a
mutatu. A mutatu, pronounced moo-tat-eo, is a Ugandan taxi.
This was our usual method of transport for the two weeks we spent in Uganda.The
vehicle had 5 rows of seats, but was no longer than an ordinary family
car. Our mutatu brought us on all our mission trips – o schools, villages,
hospitals and homes- whereverf our team went to serve those we met. I had
begun to love our mutatu – it rolled over the African dirt roads with a
strangely comforting bounce. Everyone who saw you waved to us as we drove
past them. The sight of eight white men in a mutatu is really unusual in
Earlier that day Patrick McFadden, one of our team members, had pulled
myself and Stephen Robinson aside, "Today we are visiting a Ugandan prison,
and we three are leading". Our assignment was to stand up in front of an
unknown number of inmates and preach about the love of God.
Before coming on the trip I knew I wanted to be challenged, I knew I
would have to rely on God for strength as he tested my faith, but now that
I was in the middle of it, all I wanted to do was turn the mutatu around
and head home.
After driving for an hour we arrived at the prison.1here was a small
building inside the fence, with a larger Sports Hall outside. From the
small building all the inmates came out and were lined up in the
yard, guards with AK47's organized them into pairs and marched them
to the gate. I found out later there is in factnot enough space for each
of them to lie down at the same time and so they must take turns standing
and lying down.
Some 70 prisoners where all marched out in front of us into the Sports
Hall. Our team sat on a mini-stage at the front of the room while the inmates
sat in pews in front of us.
Phil Morrison began speaking to them through our translator Shadrach
(an impressive man who has adopted close to 100 kids and teaches them all,
in the school he founded).
Then the worship began. A team of Ugandans who regularly visit prisons
lead the worship. The feeling of sickness which I had experienced
earlier in the trip went away. The 30minute worship time in that prison
with the inmates was one of the most Spirit-filled times of praise I have
ever experienced. African Christians have a beautiful way of praising the
Lord through song and dance, but to see these inmates worshipping so openly
and honestly was challenging for me. These men had lost everything, but
they now possessed one thing worth everything else – they believed in Jesus
and worshipped God. They were like the outcasts mentioned in the Gospels,
the Gentiles and lepers who were touched by the mercy and grace of Jesus.
These inmates had faith unlike any I had ever seen.
Patrick shared about the Gospel parable of the Prodigal son. And then
it was my turn to speak to the inmates. I cannot exactly remember what
I said. From my prepared notes, I think I talked about how my faith had
grown, the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus, the power
of grace, and how the Holy Spirit lives and works in each of us. Who knows
what else the Spirit prompted me to say! As we were handing out some chocolate
treats before leaving, one of the inmates came up to me, with tears in
his eyes. He thanked me for what I had shared – but without translation
help it was impossible for me to really understand everything he was saying
and vice versa. We managed, however, to say ashort prayer together.
I left the prison wanting to go back. After being so unsure beforehand
about what I would say or do, I left knowing that when you step out, and
cover yourself in prayer, the Lord will work.
See related story > Evangelism
and Service in Uganda
Mahony is a member of Nazareth
Community in Dublin, Ireland.