During Prisons Week we remember especially our friends who are held away from their families, friends and communities in immigration detention. Today, Sr. Rosalinda, one of our detention outreach volunteers, reflects on the theme of this year’s Prisons Week: ‘Boldly Go’ and the impact one detainee made on her.
‘Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’
One morning I received a phone call from a detainee I was visiting for more than two months. He said, ‘Hello Linda, I wanted to tell you since yesterday that I had been released from detention. Also, I am very grateful to your visits especially with your encouragement which made me feel stronger. Thank you so much.’
I had been accompanying Rico (not his real name) who had been detained for almost six months. Rico is suffering from mental health issues long ago and his prolonged detention is aggravating his condition. Fortunately, he was able to receive support from Mental Health Team provided by the IRC. Nevertheless, Rico had had very low moments when I visit him in detention. He would often utter, ‘I am not a criminal but I felt I am treated like I am a prisoner! I have not done anything wrong. I hope I am just out of here!’ Most of the time, I kept silent when Rico was telling me his difficult and anguish situation. I often felt unsure of what to say or how to respond to his lamentations.
“I am very grateful to your visits especially with your encouragement which made me feel stronger. Thank you so much.”
As days gone by, we continue to engage to each other in a friendly manner. He became quite open to share his thoughts, feelings and even dreams! One day, he said to me ‘Be grateful in all circumstances!’ Slowly, even in the same situation his disposition changed! He decided to take IT course and develop his music and writing skills. He goes to the chapel to pray a lot than he has ever done when he was out of detention before. He wishes to finish his studies once he was released. His choice to live his life amidst darkness moved him towards light and hope. It was great to see him flourishing and managing his life inside detention.
Holding a person in such difficult situation made me call his name often and look at his face each time I encounter him. It is important to make the person valued no matter what. Whenever I look at him longer I just realized that he is just like me…a person who was created in God’s image and likeness! This made me carry on while I journey with him. What holds me in those moments are his inner strength and dreams for the future. It is a great wonder how he tried to go beyond his lowliness, sadness and helplessness. Truly, I am in awe to see and witness how God carried him through. I often told him that God never abandon us even in the most challenging situation in our lives. God’s mercy is bountiful and overflowing! God listens to His beloved children and grants the desire of our hearts. We all need the grace of patience, courage, and hope to trust what God’s promise us.
Finally, I told Rico after telling me how grateful he is, ‘Thank you too. Each encounter with you is a place of refuge and hope for me. My heart is rejoicing whenever I see you not giving up and wanting to move forward however difficult that is for you. What matters most, you are now safe and eager to start a new life!’
Find out more about how you can get involved with Prisons Week on their website.