Destination: Ngwala Prison

Cory Hodgson is the author of this post. He and his wife, Kim, live in Mbeya, Tanzania, with their two children, Naomi and Elijah, with one on the way. They are finishing up their second term in Tanzania this summer (8 years). They are involved in a variety of ministries: prison ministry; teaching Bible study at a nearby university; homeschooling two other African boys alongside their children; many, many opportunities for hospitality; evangelistic training; and curriculum writing. Here is an update about a recent trip taken to minister in a remote prison:

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“This past Friday morning I loaded up the truck with Bibles, songbooks, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and lessons in preparation for a long trip. Our destination was Ngwala Prison, our purpose to witness to the physical and spiritual needs of the prisoners and guards.

“We set out just past 9 a.m., and while I had an idea which direction we were going, I didn’t know the way. A former prison administrator from Ngwala was with us in order to point us in the right direction. The area through which we passed is rich in gold and home to many mines. As the hours and kilometers ticked by, we saw fewer villages, people, and cars, and entered into a true wilderness. Birds I had only previously seen in game parks sang and flew across the road. A large monitor lizard meandered lazily across the sandy two-track. I was delighted to flatten a fat puff adder which chose the wrong time and place to bask in my path.

“After about 100 miles, I felt like we should be getting close. After all, who in their right mind would put a prison, or any structure for that matter, so far from any vestige of civilization? After more than eight years here, I wonder why I even ask myself these questions.

“We turned off of the ‘main road’ onto an even smaller ‘road,’ and I figured it couldn’t be much farther.  Mr. Kamoma, the former prison official, happily informed me that after another 20 miles we would be at the prison. These are not 20 miles on the expressway, freeway, highway, or driveway; it turned out to be about 2 1/2 hours of off-road adventure, complete with deep sand, trees in the road, and patches of water with randomly placed holes beneath its calm surface.

“We finally arrived at Ngwala village, greeted the local church, and continued on to the prison. As we came upon the outskirts of the prison, we were greeted by two shirtless, grinning prisoners who manned the gate (a long stick of bamboo across the road). We made our way to the prison building itself and were greeted warmly by the warden and his aide. We slept in the prison guesthouse, and on Saturday morning we gave all of the supplies to the prison administration for dispersal amongst the prisoners and guards. Many of the prisoners work in the fields and I will always remember a guard leading a small group of prisoners into the prison, machetes in hand. We spent some time with the local church that afternoon, finishing the day with a seminar on Ephesians.

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“On Sunday morning we had the opportunity to worship with around 80 of the prisoners.  Many of them arrived with their new Bibles and song books, and I had the pleasure to preach and present the Gospel.

“I arrived home Sunday evening, tired and dusty. What a joy to visit a new place (I still don’t know where it is, I can’t find it on Google Earth) and fellowship with new believers. Thanks to all of you who have helped support our ministry to the prisons, please pray that God’s Word will pierce their hearts and the Bible lessons will help them to grow in the Spirit.”

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