Visit to Dedza

We had the opportunity to visit Dedza Prison. Scott Hinman and Charles Msukwa were able to share God's Word with the entire prison population while Andy Fowler and Sean St. Clair reviewed case files and met with prisoners. Dustin Schanaker, Mike Villa, Innocent Tukuwa and Moses Chione went to a remote village near Dedza to interview and follow up with a woman (and her child) who we previously assisted. It is exciting to see how God is moving!

Visit to Malawi - Tuesday, June 14

Our camp court was originally planned for Tuesday, June 14 at Maula Prison.  A camp court is a court proceeding that is held in the prison.  Judges, court staff, prosecutors, paralegals and defense attorneys are present to hear bail applications for those who have been remanded to prison, but have not yet had a trial.  In addition to the camp court, we planned to have members of our group's medical team hold a clinic in Maula for this day.  As the camp court was postponed, we needed another plan for the day.  We decided to continue with the medical clinic with our justice team spending the day at the prison worshiping and reviewing cases for fine payments and bail applications. 

We hosted a worship service in the morning with the men.  God's presence was palpable.  After worship, we broke up into small groups to hear the prisoner's stories.  We learned about their lives, how they ended up in prison, what prison life is like, what God has done in their life while in prison and what they plan to do upon their release.  I was amazed that the majority of the men I met with were thankful for their time in prison.  They said they were "sick" or not living a good lives before going to prison, but now their lives have been changed because they found Christ.

We worked on cases and worshiped with the women in the afternoon.  While we were on the women's side of the prison, two of our team members met with women who had children with them in prison to find out about their cases.  This is how our team learned about Lucy and her three year old daughter, Unity. 

Accordingly to Lucy, a mob justice incident occurred at the police station near her village.  This resulted in the police going to her village and arresting her and Unity.  Lucy claimed that Unity was in the hospital receiving a blood transfusion when the mob justice incident occurred.  We did not know it at the time, but Lucy's case would become a focal point of our work.  And, God would make the impossible possible.   

Visit to Malawi - Monday, June 13

My most recent visit to Malawi was part of a larger mission trip with my church in Chandler, The Grove.  One hundred eighteen people from The Grove were on the trip.  I led the Justice Team, which consisted of 7 people.  Due to the large mission team, we broke up into multiple traveling groups.  My traveling group arrived Sunday before the other groups who were arriving late Monday.

Monday was set aside for logistics.  The members of our team who arrived early planned to obtain supplies for our visit and for the prisons where we will be ministering.  We also planned to meet with Pastor Charles Msukwa and Paralegal Officer Moses Chione of Child Rights Advocacy and Paralegal Aid Center ("CRAPAC") to finalize our schedule for the upcoming two weeks. 

When Pastor Charles arrived at campus Monday morning, he informed us that the Camp Court scheduled for Tuesday, June 14 had been postponed until Wednesday of the following week. This posed a problem as our team was scheduled to be on a safari in Zambia that Wednesday.  I would normally be willing to stay behind, but my thirteen year old son, Andre was with me and I did not want him to miss the safari.  We decided we would discuss the issue in more detail when we met with Moses. 

After purchasing some of the supplies we went to pick up Moses from his office at CRAPAC.  Moses was not at his office.  He was at the High Court conducting a surety exam.  We found Moses at the High Court.  He said that in addition to conducting a surety exam, he was meeting with Judge President Esmie Chombo to discuss the Camp Court.  I told Moses that I preferred the Camp Court be scheduled for a day other than Wednesday, June 22 as I was not able to attend on that date. 

 Moses went back into the High Court chambers to meet with Justice Chombo to see if we could change the date while we waited outside.  I was rather out of place on the High Court grounds as I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt.  Moses returned from his meeting and informed me that the Justice Chombo wanted to meet with me to discuss the dates.  I tried to decline due to how I was dressed, but Moses was insistent so I ended up meeting with the President Judge of the High Court in shorts and a t-shirt.  The meeting was productive despite my dress.  Justice Chombo agreed to try to reschedule the Camp Court, but could not promise that it would happen.  As I will discuss in future blogs, the scheduling of the Camp Court will end up being critical to the success of an important case that our team later identifies.  


Kambazuma Released on Bail

Kambazuma was released on bail today after spending 3 years in prison.  We were unsuccessful on our original bail application.  However, through the effort and tenacity of Paralegal Officer Moses Chione of Child Rights Advocacy and Paralegal Aid Centre, Kambazuma's case was once again brought before the High Court during a "camp court" at the prison.  Not only did the judge grant bail, but did so on Kambazuma's own surety due to his advanced age.  Well done Moses and CRAPAC!  

Agnes and Bright Update

This photo is of the Missional Law team with mother and son, Agnes and Bright.  This is the first bail application our team prepared and filed.  They were released on bail in December, 2015, after spending 19 months in prison.  We were able to meet with them on our recent visit to Malawi.  

At the time of his arrest, Bright had just finished his third year of secondary school (high school).  He was preparing to take government exams so he could finish his final year and attend college.  Bright would like to continue his education by being readmitted to secondary school.  When asked what he wants to do for a career, he stated he wants to be a lawyer so he can help those in prison.    

While we cannot go into the factual details of their case as it is ongoing, Missional Law will be assisting in Agnes and Bright's defense as we believe the facts show they have been improperly charged.  Presently, Agnes and Bright do not have the financial resources for Bright to continue his education at secondary school.  The tuition and other costs for a year is $200.  Missional Law also needs funds to assist with Agnes and Bright's defense. 

Please be in prayer for Agnes and Bright as they continue to adjust to life outside of prison, for their case, and for Pastor Charles and Amazing Grace Christian Ministry as they continue to minister to them.   If you would like to donate to Bright's schooling or the defense of his and Agnes' case, please go to the "Take Action" page and click "Donate."   

Oliver London was released from prison on bail today.  The bail hearing was yesterday morning.  The surety examinations were yesterday afternoon.  And, we spent this morning going to various government offices to obtain the necessary signatures on the release order.

We also had a number of productive meetings with government officials to discuss the work that we are doing and how we may be able to work together.  

Finally, we traveled to Mkukula Magistrate Court to secure the release of three prisons convicted of petty offenses by paying their fines. 


Mataka Released on Bail

After the bail hearing on Wednesday, November 20 and the surety examinations on Thursday, January 21, Mataka has finally been released on bail.  He was in prison since 2013.  There is no indication as to when his case will go to trial.  Now he can be with his family and community while he waits.   

We had another bail hearing on Wednesday, January 20, which was continued until January 27.  Please be praying for the outcome of that matter.  

Two Sisters Released

Missional Law secured the release of sisters Filipina & Malita from prison on bail.  They were in prison for two years.  They both have young children ranging in age from 2 to 9.  They will now be able to care for their children while they await trial.  Their trials will likely not take place for another 5 to 7 years.

A huge thank you to Paralegal Officer Moses Chione for identifying this need and convincing the High Court Registrar to proceed with the surety examinations on December 8.  These women would not have been released, but for his effort and advocacy.   

Mother and Son Released

Both mother and son in a photo with Pastor Charles Msukwa after they have both been released from prison.  They were incarcerated for 19 months prior to their release.  The mother has now been reunited with her children.  The son will continue attending secondary school (high school).  Jolyn from Amazing Grace Christian Ministry will be shepherding them.   

Bail is Granted

Missional Law's first set of bail applications were heard today in the High Court of Malawi, Lilongwe District.  Bail was granted.  The releases from prison will happen tomorrow.  God is good! A huge thank you to Lawyer Wesley Namasala for his excellent advocacy.   

These cases were identified by Paralegal Officer Moses Chione and Pastor Charles Msukwa who met with and consulted family and community members before each bail application was filed.  In each case, there are very few facts supporting the charges, yet each accused has been sitting in an overcrowded prison for 2 years with never even having an opportunity to speak with a lawyer.  Without bail, they would remain in prison for another 5 to 7 years before their trial.  Bail allows these individuals to return home, to be with and care for their families, and, in one case, continue with secondary school (high school).  

 Pastor Charles Msukwa and his team at Amazing Grace Christian Ministry will continue to minister to these individuals and their families after they have been released on bail.                 

Payment of Fines

One of the things that I have been struggling with as I reflect on my time in Malawi is how to approach paying outstanding fines on an ongoing basis.  I have been uncomfortable with the concept of paying the fine for someone who has been convicted of a crime without any assurance that we will not receive a request to do the same thing for the same person a few months later.  Charles Msukwa and the interns with Amazing Grace Christian Ministry will be following up and mentoring those whose fines have been paid, which has helped alleviate my concerns. 

My concerns were essentially eliminated during a conversation I had with my mother-in-law a few days after I returned home.  I was telling her that we had paid the fines for four women so that they could be released from prison.  Without expressing any of my concern to her, she stated: "What you did is like what Jesus did for us."  This is when I realized that my being uncomfortable was not the result of any Biblical principle, but was the result of what our culture has taught me. 

Crime and punishment are fundamental ideals in our society.  While these ideals are important to create an orderly and law abiding society, they are not always consistent with the Bible's concept of grace.  The Bible requires us to be "imitators of God" and to "walk in love, just as Christ also loved."  (Ephesians 5:1-2).  Jesus' death on the cross paid for our sins.  It is what releases us from the bondage of sin.  God's grace is free.  We do not earn it.  We do not deserve it. 

If we are called to imitators of Christ, then we should be willing to show grace in the same way that He showed it.  This means being willing to pay fines for men and women who have been convicted of crimes so that they can be released from their physical bondage.