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  • Laura MacNeil Smith

Just Show Up

When a challenge arises, we’re faced with two choices:

#1. Finding the strength and grit within ourselves to push forward despite the unknown circumstances.


#2. Give up and stay where we are comfortable, where we can control the outcome.

These are two choices we often face each Friday morning as we have the opportunity to meet with the juvenile inmates at our local prison. We usually play a few games, share an encouraging word from the Bible and bring hygiene or food supplies that they need. However, the past few weeks in order to make it, we have to take motorcycle taxis, about a 45 mins drive to get to the prison.

I remember one particularly bad week we almost made the second choice. There was a lot of uncertainty on the streets and if I’m being completely honest, I was already exhausted from the events of the week. Giving up and staying home would have been the easy decision to make, but we truly felt that God wanted us to go.

That morning we went through 14 roadblocks. Roadblocks can be anything from piles of rocks and debris to entire trees across the road and people throwing glass bottles. Passing through means squeezing your limbs in tight to not be hit by debris or other motorcycles. Other times the barricades were completely impassable so we would have to get off and travel on foot while the motos would find an off-road trail and meet up with us down the road. It’s safe to say that day by the time we even got to prison, we were exhausted.

Barricade en route to the prison

As hard as things were outside the prison in our Haiti world, it had gotten even harder inside for them. The relatives that usually come to visit and bring food haven’t been able to get there due to protests. Food rations at the prison were more scarce because blocked roads delayed shipments.

It is not like a North American prison system. While the staff we encounter there are all kind, there just aren’t enough resources supported by the government and the prison is beyond capacity. The problems we struggle with in Haiti are multiplied tenfold by those behind bars. Limited electricity. Dark cells and one toilet shared by multiple inmates. Many of the inmates haven’t even seen a judge yet.

It was good to see the kids. As we met together in our usual narrow hallway, their words said it had been a hard week, but their faces told us it was excruciating.

I thought about how I almost gave up trying to get there. How, because of my unknowns and comfort, I could have lost this chance to sit and talk with these teens. Even if it was only an hour, it was one hour more a week they got to spend out in fresh air, out in the light, out of the darkness of their cell.

Too often, we crumble under hardship. There are times when we give up too easily, when we should be fighting with everything we have. We’ve belittled “faith” and “trust” into cutesy, cliched sayings instead of the exact gritty virtues we must cling to as we follow God into uncharted territory. Sometimes the best thing you can do is show up.

Despite your unknowns,

despite your situation,

despite your fears,

despite the cost,

show up for those in need.

As much as God calls us to show up, we know and believe that HE will too. These kids will not remember everything we say. When their time in prison is done, in a few years we will be nothing more than a memory of the foreigners who showed up with their Bible and banana bread to share each week. Perhaps God has just called us to encourage them and continue sharing the Gospel whether it sinks in or not. For one hour a week, they know are not forgotten and that is enough.

Outside the prison entrance

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