Sharing: Prison Ministry

I applied for a prison visitor’s pass through Prisoners’ Friends’ Association ( in 2010 as per Sr. Flora’s suggestion because there are several Indonesians in the Hong Kong correctional institutions. Mr. Jack Fung, the chairman of Prisoners’ Friend’s Association, helped to book the room to meet an Indonesian inmate in Lo Wu Correctional Institution but I couldn’t visit her yet as they were preparing the re-opening ceremony and I should leave for Guangzhou on Sep 3, 2010.  Several months later, I did my first visit with Srs. Felicitas and Flora followed by several visits during my language study break. 
            I started to visit Putonghua speaking inmates in Lo Wu Correctional Institution on Jan 9, 2012. Most of the times, I asked questions and listened to their sad stories and if I didn’t understand what they said, we changed the topics.

Starting last Jul 2012, Ms. Li asked me to visit Tai Lam Institution Centre for Women, around two hours from our convent, because there are enough visitors at Lo Wu Correctional Institution.   I met the inmates in one of the rooms of the social welfare office so it’s in a more friendly situation.  After a while, I also meet English speaking inmates.  There were times when the officer asked a Vietnamese inmate and a Spanish speaking inmate to meet me, we couldn’t speak to each other at all so I made body languages: both hands in my chest, bow my head and make sign of the cross as a sign to offer to pray together.  They agreed so we prayed together.  To the Spanish speaking inmate, I pointed to myself and said “hermana” a Spanish word for “sister”, later on she said there was another Spanish speaking inmate who can speak English outside so we called her to be a translator.  During the last two years, I met inmates from mainland China, Indonesia, Africa, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Latin America.  
The reasons of their imprisonment are various, e.g. overstaying, working illegally, stealing, drug trafficking.  The general reasons are looking for better financial situation, even though several of them said they are not guilty.
Several of them didn’t want to talk a lot, several of them wanted to talk a lot, even wanted to meet again.  One or two of them could share their stories with smile, several of them were in tears most of our time together.  Several of them couldn’t sleep well, most of them could eat well.  
I do know I only can do simple things in our short encounter: being presence, listening to their stories, answering their questions, and praying with them, sometimes I couldn’t hold my tears as they were in tears.     
            Last Oct 23, I joined “Prison Walk 2012”, an annual fundraising of PFA.  We met at Shau Kei Wan MTR station and then went by bus to Lai Chi Rehabilitation Centre.  There are 52 participants from several nationalities including non-member.  An officer gave a presentation about the training centre for the young offenders.  After the presentation, we walked to the beautiful Big Wave Beach.  The PFA’s treasurer Mr. Robert Allender gave me more information about the PFA on the way to the beach.  We stayed at the beach for a while and then everyone can decide whether staying longer or walking to Chai Wan MTR station.  I decided to go Chai Wan MTR with Mr. Robert Allender, the walk leader Ms. Tess Kimura, Mr. Junichi and two Japanese guys.  It’s around 3 hours walk in total including climbing the hill and going down through the Chai Wan cemetery.  My legs started to be in pain the next day afternoon.    It’s a very nice to meet several new friends, including Mrs. Sue Lau and PFA chairman Mr. Jack Fung whom I communicated by email and telephone during the last two years.

After visiting Tai Lam CI on Nov 1, I attended the 30th Anniversary Annual Gathering Meeting of PFA at Duke of Windsor Social Service Building.  AGM started with call to order by MC Ms. Beverly Chau and Ms. Heidi Cheng and welcoming remarks to Official Guests from PFA Chairman Mr. Jack Fung.  Vice Chairman Mrs. Lorna Gabinera read two letters of appreciation from former members.  There are more than 30 participants, including Correctional Service Department (CSD) officers, member and non- member.  Honorable Commisioner of Correctional Services Mr. Sin Yat Kin gave address followed by giving certificate of appreciation for several categories.  He said that over the past 30 years, members of PFA have given unfailing support to persons in custody and he is sure that the PFA will continue to shine and guide persons in custody towards a bright future.  I received certificate of appreciation as “Prison Walk 2012 Top Fundraiser”.  For sure, this certificate is also given to my very generous friends who sponsored my participation at Prison Walk 2012.  After that, Mr. Tam Po Shek entertained us with his beautiful “dongxiao” ( performance.  Previous Chairman of PFA Rev. Charles McKnelly gave message followed by supper and the opportunity to dialogue with CSD officers.  The second parts of AGM were annual report of activities by Mr. Jack Fung followed by PFA Treasurer’s report by Mrs. Tess Kimura and election of Executive Committee 2010-2011.  In his report, Mr. Jack Fung said that there are 86 visiting members and 30 pen pals.  Recently PFA printed 3,300 copies of bilingual newsletter, which was sponsored by the Matilda Sedan Chair Race funding, to be distributed to different institutions in Hong Kong.  As a result, more inmates ask for a pen friend and express their appreciation in reading them.
I am so grateful for my membership at PFA which gives me the opportunity to be with the inmates, to listen to their struggles, and to pray with them.  It also gives me the opportunity to widen my circle of friends especially with those who are working in prison ministry.  Last but not the least, it also an experience of God’s Providence through my generous friends.  May God continue to bless our work for the inmates in Hong Kong!    
Hong Kong, 5 November 2012

Sr. Anastasia B. Lindawati, M.M.
Let’s do simple things with simple love to make God’s love visible