I think we were all a little nervous that day. As we climbed into the 15 passenger van at John and Aimee’s house, there was a serious tone beneath our smiles and laughs. The van turned down a dirt road and the tension tightened. Before we got out of the van, John encouraged us to just love them. We prayed and waited for permission to enter the huge chain-link gates.
Beige, beige, beige. Beige walls, beige tile, beige uniforms on the guards — one of the things I noticed as the woman copied my passport at a desk on the portico to the main entrance. We walked down a dimly lit hallway to the room for our meeting. A huge cork board displayed photos of some previous activities. It’s bright multi-colored border and the red window tapestries were a welcome relief to the beige.
We pulled out folding chairs and arranged them in a semi-circle facing the couch. In front of us sat 4 girls dressed in baby pink t-shirts and navy blue athletic shorts. Four precious souls.
We started out introducing ourselves. How old we were, our favorite colors, etc. We shared our favorite foods—arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), helado (ice cream), shrimp, chocolate.
We danced 3 pieces and shared the stories behind them. Stories about not having to be perfect. Stories about family. Stories about community and encouraging one another.
The atmosphere relaxed a little more. “Why do your bones crack when you dance?” one asked. We chuckled and said we didn’t even notice they were cracking. We asked what their passions were—Soccer, crafts, helping other people. They told us about their families and little sisters. They asked why we danced and we told a little bit of our stories.
We asked them to teach us something and an impromptu salsa dancing lesson ensued. I’m not sure if there were more hip wiggles or giggles. We sat back down.
"What do you think about your first time visiting a prison?" They asked.
“I can’t help but think that all of this was planned in eternity before any of us were born” I said with Lucyann translating. Jesus saw it all before we did, from the Fresca and Ritz Bitz to the different headbands we wore that day.
“…and all of our life adventures have led us to this room together…” I think about the people who had pioneered and gone before. Aimee and Lucyann paving a path of consistency and building trust. The new director being gracious enough to let us visit. Jesus Himself.
”…I’m really honored to be here”
We told our redemption stories. Of Jesus's relentless love. The nitty gritty, broken but beautiful details. Our mess ups, our pride, our downfalls. Love. Unexplainable. Never ending. Surprising. Relentless love. There were tears. We were honest. Hearts tender to the Holy Spirit emboldened by the freedom of vulnerability.
3pm rolled around and the guards got antsy. It was time to go. As I walked down that beige hallway, one of the girls chased me down to hand me a tiny slip of paper. Josue 1:9 was written in lime green ink. It was one of the first verses I ever memorized. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous, do not tremble or be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. A sweet reminder.
I left the prison that day in awe. Dance is a beautiful gift and I never imagined it would open doors like this. Life is an adventure and for as long as we’re confined to these earthly bodies, eternity culminates in the present moment. May we courageously steward these moments well.