Obrigado for Walking the Way Together

IMG_4336Just a very short post to you to share my thanks to all who posted a comment for Fifi (Netherlands) and Dawn (Canada) last week on their refections and poems.  I was able to share your powerful words  with them over the weekend and they were both very grateful.

Fifi was especially surprised and pleased to read all the loving comments on her thoughts about depression; especially when I explained to her all the different countries that were represented in the comments.  She is still struggling with her own loneliness and depression while living in prison but your words and thoughts provide comfort to her and the other women prisoners she will share them with.

Fifi immediately gave me another reflection for me to share with you.  Its written in her native Dutch language so I need a couple of days to translate it first.  Please be patient with me.

We are walking this camino and mission together.

Obrigado and abraços!  Thanks and hugs from Brazil.

Tiago

 

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Hard Outer Shells and a Delicious Seed

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Probably like you, I like nuts  A nut is encased in a hard outer shell but the seed inside is softer, edible and tasty.  Most of the nuts we enjoy have protein, healthy fats, important nutrients, and most importantly, energy.  (We especially like to eat Brazilian nuts.)

Like nuts, the prisoners we meet with in São Paulo’s prisons often have a hard outer shell that is difficult to crack open and peek inside  The opening process takes time and effort but in the end is well worth it.

One method to cracking open that hard exterior of prisoners is to encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings through writing.  If you have been following my blog for a while you know that some of the foreign women we meet have been sharing their reflections with you.  They are always so delighted when I visit and tell them about their posts on Tiago’s Mission Tales.

This week I will have especially good news for Fifi and Dawn who shared poems and reflections with you on this site.  Their writings were recently shared on another very popular blog called Inmate Blogger (https://inmateblogger.com).  Since then, the posts have received many more Likes and Comments which I will share with them when I next visit.

Inmate Blogger is “ready to become the worldwide leader in inmate blogging and is a collection of blogs written by inmates. It serves as a platform which allows them to share their individual stories, opinions, talents, and their inner thoughts. You can lock up a man (or woman), but you can’t lock up their mind. We support, understand, and believe that writing can be a great source of rehabilitation, growth, and healing.

I have enjoyed reading the powerful words from prisoners on Inmate Blogger and I encourage you to visit the website if you enjoy this type of writing, reflecting and sharing.

Like opening and removing the shell of a hard nut, the writing process for these men and women can reveal a softer and delicious seed inside.  The seeds are healthy and energy-filled for all of us and I would like to thank Inmate Blogger for sharing these seeds with a wider audience.

Abraçoes!  (Hugs)

Tiago

 

Depression by Fifi

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(This is the 7th in a series of refections by women prisoners in Brazil and the third by Fifi.  In this reflection, Fifi shares her feelings on depression and more importantly how she can help others with their own depression.  Please think about and pray for the author “Fifi” and all the depressed women in São Paulo’s prisons.  Fifi has given her permission to share her reflection via this blog post although her name has been changed.

If you are inspired to comment on Fifi’s reflections, please add a supportive note in the comment section below and I will ensure she gets your comment.  

What is depression?  I have no idea but I experience it with a lot of “ups and downs.”

One moment I am happy and the next moment angry…and sad.  There are many feelings of pressure on both my body and mind; sadness, anger, frustration, happiness, disappointment…all in my mind as well.

The only way to handle it is to find a way to stay calm and talk to somebody.  Other ways to stay calm are by writing and coloring.  Everyone has their own way. And a lot of people (in prison) don’t dare to come out of their depression, because there is no need.

Also, here you can come out from your depression, but it takes some time.  And once you are out of it, and you are your “old self” again, you can be proud of yourself.  And you must be stronger!

So I want to tell everyone who has the same depression, “Don’t be ashamed of yourself.  You are not alone.”

I wannna ask those people to write something about their depression and their experience so we can share together and (work) to achieve to be better in life.

The Loss of a Loved One by Fifi

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(Tiago’s note–This is the sixth in a series of refections by women prisoners in Brazil and the second by Fifi.  The women have given their permission for this blog post although their names have been changed.  In this reflection, Fifi shares the feeling of loss after losing her one-week old son shortly before coming to prison.  Please think about and pray for the author “Fifi” and her angel.  Pray for the thousands of women in prisons who also desperately miss their loved ones.)

When you lose a loved one, it is very painful.  It is like they take a piece away from your life.  For some, its easier to get over than another; everyone is different.  The pain will never go away, but you will learn to live with and handle it.

The moment the person you lose is going to heaven, it is better but still very painful for the loved ones left behind.  Everybody handles the grieving process differently.

In your mind, you know its better that your loved one has gone to heaven, but in your heart you want something else.  Your loved one has no more pain and can be happy in heaven; away from your life they are actually nearer.  I know that I will always have the new angel with me and he will watch over me.

A Place for Us by Fifi

(Tiago’s note–This is the fifth in a series of refections by women prisoners in Brazil.  The women have given their permission for this blog post although their names have been changed. 

In this reflection, Fifi shares the feeling she has being incarcerated shortly after losing her one-week old son.  Please think about and pray for the deceased child, the author “Fifi” and the other women in prisons throughout the world.  Let’s ask Him to provide them with the strength to carry on in these dark places.)

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To be a human is to feel pain, sadness, happiness, and love. But for me, feeling like a human sucks.

If I could go to heaven, I would tell my son how much I love him, I miss him, and ask him how he is doing.  I would ask him if he is happy and if he is proud of me for doing everything I could do until his last breath.

I also wanna tell him how proud I am of him, how he fought for his life, but it was not meant to be, to be a (long) life.

Then I want to come back to earth and live a life like a normal human being.  This is what it feels like to be a human right now for me.

Lost in Translation

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We usually get the notification in a WhatsApp group text message the morning of our Saturday visits;  Unfortunately, one more woman at Feminine Prison of Santana (PFS) has committed suicide.  This week it was the fifth suicide within the last two months.

Normally when we arrive after a suicide our team leader, Eliana, explains the few facts that she knows about the situation.  With my limited Portuguese capability I don’t catch all she knows but when I look around at Eliana and at the rest of our Prison Pastoral group, I always see the deep pain in everyone’s heart.  It often brings them to tears as we gather in the courtyard outside of the prison and pray for the women in PFS.  We hold each other’s hands reassuring each other that our work will make a small difference.

It personally jarred me this week when Eliana said the suicide occurred in the one (of six) pavilion where I make my visits.  I thought of the five or six women I normally visit with and selfishly hoped it was not one of them.  Eliana accompanied me and my partner Gianfranco to our pavilion in an effort to meet and talk to the woman inside. I breathed a sigh of relief as we entered the prison yard and accounted for all of “our girls.” They were waiting for us.

We set our small green stools down in a circle under the shade of the tall prison wall and invited the women over to the sit with us.  After our normal abraçoes (hugs) and warm greetings, the woman explained the latest suicide was by a girl named Michelli.  They did not know her very well because she was the kind of woman that kept mostly to herself but everyone knew of the occurrence and were very troubled.  Eliana did a marvelous job of talking them through the event and gently pushing them to help us understand why these woman take their own life.

Their only attempt at explanation was that the suicidal women lose all their hope and will to live while trying to survive in such a dark place.  They are never alone in prison, however they are always isolated; isolated from friends and family, isolated from the real world, and most important isolated from the their children.  Most of the woman we meet with are mothers.

As we talked about suicide and ways the woman can support each other in an effort to stop this epidemic I was reminded of my Air Force Suicide Prevention training and asked one woman, Andrea, if the prison administration helps them through these difficult situations.  She just said “Nao” and looked away.

We finished with our short liturgical celebration and prayed together; standing together in a circle, arm in arm, as we asked for their personal petitions before saying the Our Father and Hail Mary.  The woman were very happy to have the presence of the Prison Pastoral on that day and explained how they viewed us as their family.  One of the woman pulled out the postcard from Munich I had sent her while I was attending our family reunion.  It was a picture of Marienplatz and she said she cried when she received it because even her family does not send her letters.

They walked us to the barred prison door and we exchanged more abraçoes before the guard closed the door behind us after we crossed back through.  As we walked away, three of the girls were still watching and waving to us through the prison bars and I asked God to make it a long time before the next WhatsApp text notification.

Please pray for the women of Santana and especially Michelli

Anxious Parents

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“Hello, thank you for your message, when you are in touch and see “my daughter”, I feel calmer.”

Sometimes, I believe, the families of the foreign women we meet in their prison have it the hardest.

Please pray for the anxious parents.