Open Doors in Prison
by Kaitlynn Kopeski
“I love these ladies,” Tiffany* said as she gently pulls out handwritten letters and drawings from a plastic bag. The letters are full of sorrow, but also of hope. They are addressed to “Mom,” because for many of the women in prison, Tiffany is like a second mom.
For several years Tiffany has visited this women's prison in the Middle East. Every week, even on holidays, she is there, bringing her guitar and encouragement. She sings songs of worship with the women and then she, along with other volunteers, talk with the prisoners and share the Word of God.
“Worship really does something to their soul," says Tiffany. "It lifts them from the [prison] atmosphere.”
This prison is only for foreigners and holds women from all different nationalities, from Sudanese to Egyptians to Bangladeshi. The majority of the women in the prison aren't criminals, Tiffany explains, rather their residencies have expired.
Most of these women have worked in this region as domestic workers. Employers are required to renew their employees' residencies and pay for their tickets back home. When they don't, the women end up in prison. Sometimes the women are in prison because they have run away from their employers.
According to Human Rights Watch, one third of domestic workers in this region don't have a day off, or are allowed to leave the home by themselves. In 2008 the organization published findings that domestic workers were dying at a rate of more than one a week, mostly due to falling off buildings, possibly in an attempt to escape. In 2009 one Middle Eastern country introduced a standard contract to protect migrant domestic workers. So while the situation is improving, there is still a long way to go.
These are the women Tiffany loves. They can be as young as 15. They are often illiterate and some have children of their own to care for. These women can spend up to four to eight months in prison before they are released.
Even, and especially, in these hard situations Tiffany knows that “God is really working. It's really an amazing open door,” she said.
Pray for Tiffany and others as they continue their ministry in the prison. Pray that God will give His peace and comfort to the women there. Pray for the governments in this region as they continue to create legislation to protect domestic workers.
For more information go to www.hrw.org.
Published: Thursday, 01 July 2010
Credit: Kaitlynn Kopeski