Message in a Bottle


Diella (not her real name) wrote to me and said, “Tiago, this was really out of my comfort zone and I am not very good at putting my thoughts into words.  Yet I felt compelled to do it!”

Diella is a special friend from a long time ago;  another life really, and she took me up on my offer to send a short message or refection to the women prisoners we visit in São Paulo prisons.  I knew the girls would be so pleased with the words from someone on the outside, someone they had never met before, someone who showed they cared about them; but Diella was unsure.

Today, we brought 24 copies of her message with us to give to the women inside PFC, the Brazilian foreign-women’s prison where Maryknoll Lay Missioners visit on Saturday afternoons.  As I passed out the small notes with the short message to the English-speaking women, they were a bit stunned and really did not understand.  I explained that a “high-school” friend had written the note and was thinking about them and praying for them.  One of the girls from Cape Verde gave me a puzzled look and said, “You mean, Chicago?”  I said,”Yes” and they began to smile and read more intensely.  Most read the note with wonder before folding it up and saving it for later…when there would be more time.

Her words are a simple but very powerful message for the women we meet.  They live an extremely isolated life; isolated from their children, their families, and their friends.  Communication with the outside world is so important and the note provided them with a signal that there is Life, and more importantly Hope, beyond the walls that keep them isolated.

If you will allow, I would like to share Diella’s message with you:

I want you to know that you are not alone.  You’re in my daily thoughts and prayers,  I pray that you go safely through your day. Everyday there is a day closer to your family. Their love and prayers surround you and guide you through.

As you start your day in the morning know I have you in my thoughts. Praying that you find comfort knowing that you are not forgotten. 

Praying the Lord watches over you keeping you safe and warm.

In Jesus name I pray… ♡

Please continue to pray for the women in PFC and other prisons we visit. Also, I’d ask you say a short prayer of thanks for Diella and her courage by putting some simple thoughts into powerful words for these isolated women.  It brightened their day!


Baseball and Brazilians

IMG_2467.jpgWe recently started teaching English in the Brazilian prison.  Luckily, we have eleven very enthusiastic and dedicated students who are learning verbs like “to be” and “to have.”  They are also learning new vocabulary like Autumn, tonight, and season.

The second half of our class is normally dedicated to reading a short passage or story.  We are trying to add some American culture into the reading so this week’s passages was about Baseball and the World Series.  (I’ve attached the lesson for you to read.)

We sometimes forget how complicated the rules of baseball are for someone who did not grow up with the sport.  So trying to explain the rules of baseball to our students in our broken Portuguese is not so easy.  Fortunately, one of our students asked me who my favorite team was.  Of course that led to an immediate answer of the “Chicago Cubs.”  This was much easier to explain in Portuguese.

Unfortunately, I used the lesson to give a short history of the Chicago Cubs too.  And when I wrote the year “1908” on the white board as the year the Cubs last won the World Series, there was much laughter and a loud “Nossa” from the group.  (Nossa is the Portuguese word for Wow!)  One student commented that that was 108 years ago.  Even in my poor Portuguese I could recognize that remark!  So there are now eleven Brazilian Prisoners in Såo Paulo who are rooting for the Cubs to win the World Series this week.

Our English class is only an hour long, once a week, but it give our students a short time out of the cell block, in a productive setting, and a way to improve their communication skills and more importantly their self confidence.  We hope our lesson will provide them with a new way of understanding their own potential and how to be “especial.”

Go Cubs!