Friday, February 22, 2013

Letter from a Senegal jail

Pastor Jose Dilson has been imprisoned for over 3 months in the West African nation of Senegal. 

Here's a link to an explanation of his legal case by his son.

And here's a video of the work his ministry is doing in Senegal.

But what I really want you to see is this letter he wrote earlier this month.

Dear precious brothers,
As you know, today (Feb 6) marks the ninetieth day we have been imprisoned for the cause of the Word of Truth, for the sake of the Way we follow and the One in whom we believe.
I am certain, nevertheless, that our affliction during this time has been far from the afflictions experienced by Jesus for us. We praise the Lord, because these simple afflictions have resulted in the salvation of several prisoners, as well as a means for us to testify to many of His lordship above everything and everyone. We have had the opportunity to distribute hundreds of Bibles, tracts and New Testaments. There are many stories and experience we could tell.  I know that I will have much to share with each one.
For 31 years I have been sharing the Good News of the Gospel, not only in Brazil, but 22 years here in Africa. Now the District Attorney and Judge have given me a new public. I have been chained (not literally, but jointly imprisoned) to persons that I would never have had access to share with otherwise. And of course I would never have chosen to be here of my own free will.  But during these three months here I have seen many experience new life and others become “twice freed” (what a joy!!!). Let’s pray that the Word preached may find good soil in these thirsty hearts, and that neither “birds” nor “weeds”  nor “rocks” destroy this seed, rather may the Lord make these seeds grow in His time.
On the most difficult days, the Lord gives us strength (I speak for myself, and also for our sister Zeneide) to continue encouraging, praying for, feeding and clothing various others who are passing through afflictions even bigger than ours (yet they do not know to whom they can turn). Our comfort is that we have Christ handcuffed together with us.  (He is sovereign and free, nevertheless I ‘m referring to the fact that He is right here with us every day and every moment) and He shows us this in so many ways, for example through the love of brothers and sisters who come from so far away to visit us on Mondays and Fridays, even if it’s only for 5-10 minutes.
I sense Jesus telling me He is with me through every sentence sent by mail, every email, every word of encouragement on Facebook, every prayer, every plate of food or dessert sent, every donation (either for our general expenses or to help in the construction of a new cell to help other prisoners who are suffering from being unable to sleep (I have 45 people in my cell and only have 30 cm (12 inches) of space to sleep in.  Imagine what it’s like in the next cell over which is the same size as mine, but holds 200 prisoners! It’s almost impossible to imagine the suffering of these men.
This love has impacted the whole prison and even the court, for the judge mentioned the fact that we have so many people visiting us. This has impressed him.
I have asked the Lord that these handcuffs might serve as comfort and encouragement to each one who has participated in praying for us – that this might help them value even more the person of Jesus and His presence in our lives and that you might experience even more of his love, presence and peace, which does not depend on circumstances. May you make known to each one God brings near you this great love of Jesus, and may you feel privileged to suffer in His name.
I can confirm that my imprisonment has become well-known: from the President of the Republic to the street sweepers. The newspapers have called Zeneide and me “the diabolic duo”, and because their accusations were printed on the two largest newspapers in the country, and transmitted on the local radio stations, we became hated by the whole country. Nevertheless everyone that we have had personal contact with always tells us: “You are people of God”, others say: “This prison will never be the same again after your stay here.”
Inside my cell, one after another has slowly gotten to know me. As I share with them my food, fruits and medicines they all have been impacted and begun to ask: “But why are you doing this? Why share with me? You thought of me?”  At Christmas I asked Marli to buy small presents to give to my cellmates, so they could have something to give to their children. Neither wives nor children ever expect to receive gifts from their imprisoned husbands or fathers. I can’t describe the joy that they felt upon receiving those presents. It was so good!  What happiness to be able to share with those who have nothing.
I share my 12-inch-wide mattress with one other man. We used to have two mattresses, one on top of the other. The prisoner in front of us also had two mattresses; however he was suffering from terrible back pains and was unable to sleep, so he asked me for one of my mattresses. The very instant he asked me I got to my feet and gave it to him. Now I sleep with my fellow cellmate on the single 1-inch mattress, and our colleague with back pains is now sleeping better. May the Lord be praised, because I feel God making my mattress more comfortable than it ever was before!
 There have been days when I’ve shared my food with 12 other prisoners, and you know the best part? I didn’t lose a single pound!
Two Italian prisoners who were freed were so appreciative of the help I gave them, the encouragement, and the prayers, that after they left they sent me cheese, salami, and sweets.  In a few moments 43 prisoners are going to be experiencing a little of that blessing!!
I am sharing these details in order to encourage you let nothing discourage you. It makes no difference the size of the battle that you might be facing.  Know that Jesus is with you, walking with you through the difficulty right to the moment of release. Seek Him. Love Him. Spend time with Him. Seek intimacy with Him. And the suffering won’t mean a thing. He will be your strong anchor, your salvation, the One who acts and works on behalf of His own. May His holy name be glorified!
When the judge was questioning me he finally said: “You are not a gang of evil-doers. You and I are on the same side.” He went on to say: “You are helping children at risk. “ When he heard the children, he became all the more impressed with the changes to their lives that we are providing them. One lawyer said: “These children live better than the majority of us. “ Later he said to me: “You, pastor, deserved to be given a medal for what you have done in our midst, not to be put in prison.” We hope that justice and truth will ultimately prevail.
This prison cannot stop me.  Nor can it stop my Christ or his Gospel. To the contrary, it awakens within me more love and passion for this work and for my Master. My heart is so thankful for all of you who in some way or other, directly or indirectly, are imprisoned with us. Thank you once again for all the affection, prayers and donations. May the Lord bless you and remember also your afflictions and comfort you in your sufferings, no matter how big or small, for I know He has pleasure in helping you. May our good and marvelous Savior comfort you and help you feel His presence with you.
Please pray for Friday (Feb 8) when the judge will be interviewing a father who asked us to help his son. Also on Monday, Feb 11, finally our request for release from prison will be submitted.
Your prisoner, for the cause of Christ,
Rev. Jose Dilson (“Ze”)

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