Our first introduction to Haitian prison resulted when Cindy went to visit one of the young men who worked as an interpreter with her short-term medical mission team. In Haiti one is guilty until innocent. Many times prisoners are not guilty but spend a long time in prison until they are given the opportunity to present their case and are proven innocent. This was in fact what had happened to Cindy’s friend. He was detained at the Saint Marc Prison and she visited him. The conditions at the prison were very distressing as the overcrowding is terrible, and conditions are horrid.
To make a long story short, the door for us to visit the prison in Saint Marc closed. But a new door opened in the prison in Mirebalias which is only an hour from our mission base in Charrier. Here there are approximately 450 prisoners in 13 cells. The first time Cindy took a team to this prison the warden was very skeptical. We had to promise that we would not pray with the prisoners. How does one share the gospel and not pray? In Haiti, singing is an important part of the culture. So Cindy marched up to the first cell and requested that the prisoners sing to her. They looked confused, but agreed. They pulled out a hymnal, put their shirts on, and stood together to sing, “Amazing Grace.” The second cell of prisoners sang “I Need Thee Every Hour,” and the third sang “What a friend we have in Jesus.” So on and so forth, they beautifully sang with reverence in perfect harmony. From that time on, the prisoners always sing for our teams.
During a visit the warden informed us of a need for a water reservoir and wondered if we would be able to provide it. The prison received water twice a week and they had no where to store it. We took the request back to the US and prayed. A local church took on the project and raised the funds that were needed to construct it. We traveled to Haiti and built the water reservoir, side by side with the prisoners. All building supplies were purchased in Haiti to spur their economy.
Water reservoir we assisted to build in Mirebalias Prison
After this, the warden offered us grace to come and visit the prison whenever we like and also has given us grace to pray with the prisoners. Many times we will take juice and bread along to treat the inmates. We also distribute personal hygiene supplies like shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, and combs. These are items that the prisoners do not receive from the prison. During one of our prison visits a guard told us that two of the inmates accepted Jesus while incarcerated. They’ve now been released and have returned to their hometowns and began ministries of their own. Praise God.
Interested in prison ministry? Contact Cindy Zimmerman!