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Imprisoned

6 Days in a Saudi Jail

By a Climbing For Christ member

(Editor's note: The member's name, his wife's name, the names of his friends, and locations have been omitted from this story to protect them from possible repercussions.)

Sometimes we feel life is not fair. Sometimes we wonder why, during our highest spiritual season, trouble comes knocking on your door. Then again, we sometimes end up blaming God for the misfortunes that have befallen upon us. 

As for me, I could say that I had the lousiest (if not the worst) six days of my life in August 2007. Little had I imagined that I would ever see myself being handcuffed, shackled, and locked up in a bartolina one day in my life. Although I never discounted the thought that my back might one day have to receive a dozen or two lashes for being a Christian in Saudi Arabia, and that was and is something I'm willing to risk.

The Meeting

 

My story goes to Wednesday, Aug. 15, when the Filipino secretary of my client called and asked if I was available for an appointment with his GM that afternoon. I was more than glad to meet the client as there were some pending issues that we needed to settle – his company has not paid us for the services rendered, and this has been a red mark in my books. Despite all my follow-ups since January, this contact really never took the time in answering my calls nor respond to my emails. So the chance to meet him was a big break. 

 

The tone of the meeting began with a good discussion of the problems encountered between our companies. However, it seemed the client turned the tables around and made it look that we owed him money. I tried to reason with the guy and somehow we found ourselves in a very sticky yet cordial conversation. 

 

In the middle of this, he changed the topic and said that he was being investigated by the police regarding some scam in Egypt and India – that there was a syndicate who used his company’s visa. He asked me to help him on this, and that the police would be interested to hear my advice.  Little did I know that the police were already in his office. Initially I objected to meeting with the police, saying that I don’t know anything about Egyptian or Indian visas, but he gave me his assurance and said that since our company is the best one in the business maybe I could advise the cops about how the process goes about. This opened to the biggest mistake I have made in Saudi Arabia.

 

First Interrogation

 

In good faith I joined the plainclothes policemen (well, they were wearing the Saudi dress called thobe and turban called khefiya) and when we got to the Investigation Office in the downtown area of the city, I ended up answering simple personal questions like what’s my name, why am I here in Saudi Arabia, where do I live, who is my sponsor, etc. 

 

After two interviews/interrogations, I asked the detectives if I could go home as I was tired and it was getting late, but they said that they had to send me to the local police station near my client's place as there would be another interrogation there.   

 

Thereafter, they had me handcuffed and shackled my legs – and it was the first time in my life to be under such restraint. Funny, I was relaxed all the time as they explained to me that this was SOP during transportation. I said my prayer, “Lord, I simply trust you will take care of me tonight.”

 

 

 

They told me I could keep my cell phone and my stuff, to which I didn’t lose a moment and started texting people like crazy, letting them know what’s happening. My wife was in Islamabad at that time, and I thought that letting her know of my condition would make her just panic. The same thought crossed my mind when I contemplated about the family and in-laws back home. 

 

No sooner did I receive a call from my manager, the representative of my sponsor (called Mr. A in this story), and my good buddy (called B in this story), who is the fiancé of my wife's good friend. My sponsor was left in a difficult position as he was in London, and thus they had to look for a local who could represent him here in Riyadh and come to the police station to work things out. 

 

B, on the other hand, was frustrated that I didn’t call him earlier as he said he could have arranged something with the police. Then I started receiving calls from various police officers (captains, majors, and generals) asking where I was, and what was my situation. Apparently, I spooked my whole oikos circle that they all got in touch with their local padrinos – in the Arab world they call this wasta. All of them wanted to help, but it was already too late in the night.

 

Detective Ahmad

 

I was passed on to a young detective, Ahmad, who was very sorry that I had to be handcuffed and shackled, and assured me that this was formality. I could say that he was the first friend I made that night.

 

Ahmad was kind enough to buy me dinner along the way. He explained to me that he has visited our country many times. Surprisingly, he said that his “girlfriend” is a Filipino gay from Zamboanga and that he just came from vacation there last month. I just said my congratulations for meeting the parents. (Eeek!)

 

Ahmad waited for me to finish my meal before we checked at the local police station. But as I was barely biting my shawarma, he broke an SOP and opened the sealed envelope of the paperwork on me, and translated for me what was written. That was when everything unfolded in front of my eyes. Oh Lord, this looks like I am going to have a long night ahead.

 

I asked Detective Ahmad if there was any charge against me, and he said that there was nothing on me in the papers, but only against our company. However, he said that this thing could drag on because the letterhead was that of a high-ranking prince. He didn’t give further details at that point, and simply shared to me that I had nothing to worry. 

 

Ping-Pong

 

When we checked into the local police station after my dinner, I was released from my restraints, and a Captain took some time to read the papers and again asked me the same questions during the first two interrogations. I could see that his eyebrows were rubbing from the confusion and threw his frustrations on Detective Ahmad. I found myself shackled again and sent back to the Investigation Office.

 

 

Back in the Investigation Office, another officer took time interrogating me. I could see that it was already midnight and I was absolutely drained. During the course of our session I found myself taking on microsleeps. After finishing, the officer had sent me back to the local police station.

 

This time around I rode a van with two Indian illegals who looked quite surprised seeing this young fellow in office attire cuffed on the wrist and ankles. Again, the same Captain in Sulemaniya reviewed my papers and scolded the two officers who brought me there and told them to send me back to the Investigation Office. God help me, nobody seems to understand what to do with me.

 

Meanwhile, the representative of my sponsor and B were apparently zipping through Riyadh trying to find out where the cops have been bringing me.

 

First Night

 

When we got back to the Investigation Office, I was booked by the shift officer to stay at their facility for the weekend (which is Thursday and Friday here in KSA). I made my last SMS to B and the rest telling them that this is where the buck will end for me. I instructed them to take care of my wife as soon as she gets back from Pakistan, assure her that I am all ok, and that everything is just a minor confusion and I will see her when she gets here in Riyadh the coming Monday. 

 

I was brought to the basement of the buildings which served as the jail for this department. 

 

Oddly, the jail officer checked my papers and asked me what’s my case. I was bemused because I told him that they should be the ones to explain to me why they are holding me (no one at that point had explained to me clearly why I was being held despite that the complaint was against my company). He just shrugged at my question and confiscated my phone and personal items. I just raised this to the Lord, and believed that I’d get my answers soon.

 

 

Somehow, I found myself in the oddest emotion as I entered my cell (which was the largest one in the basement, thank God for that) as an uncanny calm inside me surpassed the stressful ordeal I went through almost 12 hours passed. As soon as I heard the bolt click after the metal door closed, I found myself singing praise and worship around my cell and just thanking God for the grace-filled day. I knew and believed there that He was going to stay with me and see me through this one.

 

This was around 3:00 am.

 

Fear, Frustration, and Lessons

 

I woke up that Thursday morning with a big headache as a Pakistani janitor entered my cell with my breakfast of one honey-stuffed bread. At first I was confused as I forgot that I was in jail. I must have been so tired praying the night before. The instant I finished washing my face, a sinking feeling swamped me and negative things started popping in my head. I started worrying for my wife as I knew she would be back in Saudi Arabia by noon time that day. I also worried that she might call our families and this would make everyone panic. Lord, please hold my wife firm in Your arms. Let Your peace reign in her.

 

I called on the jailer and asked him if I could make a phone call, but to my frustration the guy couldn’t understand a single word of English. With my rough Arabic, the jailer said no to my request and told me that I should wait until night time for their Captain. I questioned him why they were holding me there and the sorts, but he screamed back at me saying that he does not have any answers. 

 

I wanted to punch something out my anger, demoralization, fear, and disappointment. I found myself crouched at the corner of my bare cell shedding tears for the first time in ages, and I cried out to Jesus to save me from this living hell. 

 

I cried, “Lord, where are you? I can’t fight this battle much longer. Please show me a ray of hope.” Then I reminded myself: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12)

 

Then I remembered the old blogs I'd written – “Praising God in the Middle of the Storm,” “Disappointed Disciples,” and “Eyes on the Unseen” – and stopped asking God, “Why have you allowed this to me, Lord?” and instead “Reporting for duty!” God told me to get up, start my day right, and do not let the enemy win this battle over me. 

 

The next two hours were spent walking my modest cell and singing praise and worship songs. I found myself praying unceasingly – and I could say I have never prayed that much in my life before. I think I have prayed for all my relatives to the second-degree, churchmates, barkadas, and officemates.

 

But what struck me was God asking me to let go. Let go of what? He wanted me to forgive those who have put me behind bars. I fell on my knees and repented right then and there for feeling so mad at my client and the police. And when I did this, I remembered one powerful verse which I held on for the rest of my imprisonment – Hebrews 13:5:

 

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

 

With the change of guard came my lunch and other inmates who were held in different cells. Now I got company. My new jailer asked me what was my case, and again I asked why am I being detained there when he didn’t know what was the problem. I told him I deserve a phone call, I have the right to a lawyer, I have the right to call the Philippine Embassy, and a right to know what’s the charge against me. He was quiet.

 

The afternoon passed without any incident, and I just whiled my time praying and observing the hue of the sky from the exhaust fan – the closest thing that gave me a glimpse of freedom, and the time of the day. And boy did I feel that these were the longest days of my life.

 

Learning Islam

 

My cell had some booklets on Islam, and there was a Tagalog Qur’an. They said curiosity killed the cat, but I say it was time to study the other side. I prayed for the Holy Spirit to protect my heart and just simply allow me to learn more about these Muslims and where they are coming from.

 

 

My jailer saw me and gave me a big smile behind the door and struck a conversation with me. He asked me if I was a Christian, and said he hoped that I will become Muslim. I just smiled back and told him I have a bigger prayer, that is for one day every knee will bow down and every tongue will confess “Isa Al-Rabb,” which means Jesus is Lord. He was taken aback and asked me what kind of Christian I was; I said I am a born again Christian, and he seemed to gave a facial expression of respect. (My wife, one time, was being told by one of her flight supervisors that she should convert to Islam or her soul will burn in hell, and she of course stood firm. When my wife shared that she’s a born again Christian, the supervisor commented to another Saudi steward that “she’s part of the tough ones.”)

 

Reading the Qur’an really was an answer to prayer because I have wanted to understand why Islam is the way it is since moving here. For the duration of my incarceration in the Investigation Office, I found myself doing a self study – my own Islam 101. Sad to say I was only able to read two-thirds of the Qur’an, but finished all the pamphlets.

 

Good Samaritan

 

It was late night when a new guard called my name. It was indeed stimulating since nothing changed from the time I started reading till then. The jailer told me that the Captain wanted to see me, and so brought me to the second floor of the building. When I got into the office of the chief, there were some Saudis gathered in the guest chair – and little did I notice that it was my good friend, B. I was just filled with emotions then as I thought the world has already forgotten me and was thanking God for sending a familiar face. Lord, you are faithful indeed, and You never fail to answer my prayers! B was accompanied by my sponsor’s representative. 

 

B is more Filipino than he is a Saudi now. Our friendship goes back to last year because of the women in our lives. He evens speaks Tagalong with a flawless accent. He loves our country, and just dreams of migrating to the Philippines and raise kids with his fiancé there. I think B is more nationalistic (about the Philippines) than a lot of Filipinos I know.

 

I couldn’t help but throw question after question at B asking him why they are holding me, when will I get out, how was my wife, etc. He told me to calm down first and rang up my wife. What a double treat! My wife was so positive over the phone and I shared to her the thoughts I had during my quiet time. I told her that whatever is happening will soon be fixed, this is God’s promise, and that the biggest revelation I had was that today was simply my first time to be alone with God since my days in New Zealand.

 

Talking to my wife really brought a steady calm in me knowing that she was out there waging spiritual warfare for me. She told me a lot of people are praying for me, officemates, churchmates, and friends. I knew God will not let all these prayers go unanswered.

 

B, on the other hand, told me that he read the charge papers, and confirmed that there was nothing against me. Purely harassment, that is. However, he said because of the technicalities (being a weekend, and the case filed at the local police station), I will have to wait until I get transferred to said precinct which will be on Saturday, first day of the Islamic week. OK, Lord, just spend the weekend here and I’ll be out by Saturday. 

 

B shared that if the decision was with the Captain of the Investigation Office, he would have released me. The Captain was really a gentleman as he was even serving me tea, and asked me what I needed. Later that night B had delivered a toothbrush and toothpaste. The next morning I had my soap, t-shirt, and newspaper.

 

Routine of a Prisoner

 

Friday passed with me having the same routine of doing 200 laps each praise and worship session, workout, and one hour of quiet time after that, then spend time studying Islam.

 

Saturday came and I woke early, excited with the thought that once I get to the local police station, my sponsor’s representative will be there to welcome me and sign as guarantor in my behalf. To my frustration, lunch passed and no one came to take me out of the cell. I already had done two cycles of my routine and nothing! God what’s going on? Just take it easy, son.

 

By 3:30 a.m. I was already wondering what happened, and the sinking feeling of spending another day in jail just battled with my faith. But I held on. Right in the middle of my prayer, the jailer opened the door and told me it was time to go. I got shackled again and off to the local police station.

 

The Local Police Station: Rat Hole

 

It was pretty hot in the back of the patrol car. The air conditioning didn’t reach me as the front seats were encased in a protective fiber glass shell – this left me dehydrated by the time we got to the local police station, which was around 5:00 p.m. Lord, if I were to die, let it not be because of thirst!  What a torture!

 

When we got to the local police station, there was a sense of relief that was short lived. Another interrogation, I got booked and transferred formally. I kept looking around and there was no B nor was there Mr. A. The good thing was that I was allowed to use my mobile phone again for 15 minutes before surrendering this again. I let my wife know that I was at my final destination before getting out. I was allowed to bring in my papers, documents, and ball pen with me into my new cell.

 

Yes, I thought things were going to get better at the local police station, until I stepped in my cell. It was a rat hole. What a depressing sight. Compared to the Investigation Office cell, the local police station was a negative five-star accommodation. The flickering single fluorescent bulb already gave me a headache the first minute, the place was congested with a good dozen Arabs, Indians, Pakistanis, and Ethiopian, everyone was lying on filthy carpet, and those who were veterans had the “best” spot, duvet or fleece and pillows. I was their first Pinoy “guest.”

 

 

I walked past the gauntlet of staring men, one side full of Arabs, and the other side lined with foreigners. I had no choice but go to the end near the trash with a colony of little roaches. The washing area for Muslim during prayer was at the back of the trash so the mildew was very much a source of nutrients for the creepy crawlers apart from the trash. The carpet was also wet and was only 10 cm from my spot. God help me! If You can hear me now, I can use a battalion of angels to wreck a big hole in this building and get me out of here.

 

No longer than one minute passed and I already made friends with my immediate neighbor (on my right), Mr. Saroman of New Delhi, India. He was a friendly chap, as he gave me my orientation of the place, and how to protect myself from the rowdy Arab bunch. He also helped me get some fleece and pillow. He shared his water and stash of snack as he saw me pale faced over the conditions inside. 

 

Humbled Disciple

 

At that point, I just prayed, “Lord if there is a miracle that should happen in my life, I think it’s best for that to happen right now. Let me wake up in Boracay with my wife by my side!” I opened my eyes, but covered them right away as I just cried another time in quiet.

 

Lord, how did I end up in this? What have I done to deserve this? Lord, I know you can hear these prayers of a desperate son. Come to my rescue.

 

I looked up, and right then and there in the middle of the worst time of my life God whispered to me saying, “Do not fret my son, I am here. Watch and see.”  I had visions of Jesus walking on the water in the middle of the storm with me, like Peter, sinking under the waves. And as I called His name, He just made things still before Him and assured me that His grace would pull me through this one. All I could say was “Amen, and Amen my Lord!” And remember, He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.”  (Ps. 107:29)

 

With the Muslim crowd around me, all I could do was hum tunes like Saving Grace, Because of Who You Are, I Will Sing, You Are Good, Better Than Life, Glorify Your Name, Still, One Desire, and Through It All.

 

As I was doing my own private worship in the crowd, one of the Arabs was called and was informed he was being bailed.  In his “joy” he started dancing around and out of nowhere he picked on Mr. Saroman, and started shouting invectives, saying he was a Kufir (a non-believer) and started kicking him. Lord, please stop this man from hurting my neighbor! The young Arab left satisfied with what he had done to the Hindu friend of mine.

 

I whispered, “Lord, do I have to suffer like this when I have done nothing wrong?” God answered me so simple, “I had to suffer more.”  On that I became a humbled disciple.

 

New Friends

 

I gathered myself and thought that I couldn't go on doing my own pity party here. God, what do you want me to do?  I knew by that point that I could not keep on isolating myself from everybody, because these guys will be my roomies until … God knows when.

 

The PR man in me kicked in, and I found myself knowing the foreigners first. And by that, God opened another door for me. One of the Ethiopians apparently smuggled his cell phone inside the cell. I was back in business. I called him Will because he looked very much like Will Smith. From Saturday night until my release, I was able to keep in touch with my wife, with B, and with my manager and sponsor, through my friend's cell phone. My wife, meanwhile, started coordinating with the Philippine Embassy, and was updating our friends in the Kingdom. 

 

As to why I was not released that Saturday, apparently Mr. A was blacklisted in the Sulemaniya Police Station for some unknown reason, and thus I had to wait on other alternatives – the letter from the governor of the region, Prince Salman, through the efforts of our Ambassador, or through my sponsor who will arrive Wednesday morning from London, or through B’s effort. God, I know you are working on the pieces of the chessboard to get me out of here. I believe in you.

 

I then resigned to the fact that I would go on to see my fifth day in jail, and prayed that Sunday would be the day of my release. 

 

Love Letters

 

To get my mind away from worrying and despair, aside from praying and reading, I started writing letters to my wife. Somehow, I was pretty amazed that by the time I got released I was able to write to her eight meaningful letters of love and hope. My wife and I kidded that I wrote more letters to her during those two days in jail, than I ever did in two years of marriage. Jail really helped me on that one – pogi points todo when I gave them to my wife.

 

Getting the Hang of Being a Jailbird

 

Sunday came and my territory was expanding. Lord, you really have a funny bone, I was praying for growth in my cell group, and now I see it in a different form! I indeed have growth inside a cell. 

 

Somehow, I was able to create bridges with the Arab bunch, especially with the old guys like Mr. Mohammad, whom everyone was scared of and acted like the mayor of the place, and Dr. Mustafa, the spiritual leader among the Muslims. He was the one who acted as their Imam during their As-Salah (prayer times). Dr. Mustafa also became my confidante with regards to my situation with the client, and they encouraged me that I had nothing to fear as I would surely be released in the next 48 hours.

 

Saroman on the other hand found me a Reader’s Digest (April 2007) in the trash. I was more than thankful for some “things western” despite it being torn and smelly. I was happy with whatever the Lord blessed me inside that cell.

 

By mid-morning I was already at ease in the environment, and accepted my fate that day in this place. Lord, I trust you will get me out of here. Something’s cooking and I know what You are going to serve is going to be so sweet. Talking about food, the Bangladeshi janitors served us nothing but wash basins full of Arabic food.  

 

I didn’t have an appetite at all, not because of the reminder of how pigs in the provinces eat out of the planggana, but I just lost that craving for food somehow back Wednesday night. I just feasted on one or two fruits each meal and thought it was a good excuse to fast.

 

Newcomers started streaming in also early that morning, and I also watched others “graduate with honors.” Eight Shababs (Arabic for binatilyos) were locked up with us, and so were two Nepalis, a Bangladeshi, and five other Arabs. 

 

And, in the same manner that the oldies interrogated the newbies, I joined the fray. I boomed “Es mushkela sadiq?”  (“What's your problem/case, my friend?”) with the heaviest testosterone I could gather, along with the Arabic hand gesture to go with it to make an impression. Amusingly, a lot of them thought I was one of the oldies in the place. It must have been my body odor, coupled with greasy hair, and dirty shirt and nails – yup, my camouflage worked for them but not for me. (When I took a shower after my release, the water was brownish gray after soaping myself three times over.)

 

I also found myself becoming a lookout at times at the window of our door to make sure that we won’t get caught by the guards when we rigged the phone charger to the electrical wires near my bed, or when one of us received a call on the Ethiopian’s phone.

 

Bangladeshi Encounters

 

There was one incident with a young Bangladeshi. When the Ethiopian asked me to hold the Qur’an as he was fixing his phone to be charged, this Bangladeshi came up to me and asked me sarcastically if I was a Muslim (despite me sharing to them that I was a Mesihi, “Christian” in Arabic). I said “no,” of course, to which he scolded me for touching their holy book. He said that I shouldn’t lay my hands on it lest I want to insult them all by the “defilement.”

 

Then again, there was this newbie Bangladeshi who has a stickman figure. He was just so frail and shaking in fear as we all interrogated him. Surprisingly, he just felt that his spot in the room was between me and the trash area. I told him to move to the Arab row, since he will be sleeping on top of the puddle of garbage leaching and dead cockroaches. He rejected my instruction – and to my surprise as I was lying down for a nap a few minutes later, he also lay his head on my pillow! Lord, help me say the right thing to this guy. But God reminded me that I should lay down my life for a friend. 

 

Why, why, why me Lord? Why did he have to stick beside me? I am no babysitter. Do you really want me to give up my 40-by-200 cm of prime real estate property to this fellow? Where will I park myself here? In the Arab row, Lord?

 

And I heard God saying, “You know what to do.”

 

Argh! No choice. I stood up and looked at the teary-eyed Bangladeshi. And, my heart was just torn. Lord, I surrender. You are right. You win.

 

“I didn’t ask you to give up your space, son. You’re not thinking. Go and look for an extra kumot, fleece, and unan. Find him a spot in the room and act like a landlord.”

 

Yes, Lord! Problem solved. This Bangladeshi flashed me a smile before I left, which was indeed a blessing.

 

Promise of Release

 

My wife was in coordination with B and my company with regards to my release. The promise of release was so close that my prayers became different. Lord, I know you are closing this chapter soon. I reminded myself of Philippians 1:6. Somehow, I felt in the Spirit that Sunday wasn’t the day, but Monday was sure bet. This was despite the assurance from outside that I could be released by Sunday. OK, Lord, more prayer and quiet time with you.

 

Despite the confined space, I just threaded back and forth the “aisle” we had in our room, doing some stretching and letting my blood circulate while I was praising and worshiping. It was the best ruse. 

 

Independence Day

 

I woke up in Monday morning, my sixth day, and rang up my wife to check if she was OK. She said that the Embassy has already passed on a letter to the governor of the region, the Prince, and that this could be expected any day soon to be approved. Praise God! 

 

Then again, my manager informed me that our sponsor already arrived from abroad, and that the lawyers are ready to travel anytime from Dammam to sign the release papers. Praise God!

 

 

In addition to this, our sponsor found another channel to get me out of jail. They will find out in the next few hours what will be the requirements. Praise God some more!

 

B, on the other hand, told my wife: “I know you will fly here tonight, and for sure your husband will pick you up at the hotel. Prepare yourself for the best homecoming.” Praise Him, praise Him, praise Him Who Was, Who Is, and Who Is to come!

 

I shared to my fellow inmates that this was the day I was going. They asked how was I sure. I said that I have a good God who never fails to hear the cries of his children. They somehow agreed to what I said. 

 

However, noontime passed and nothing happened. I already finished reading two newspapers that B got me. It looked like again, my hopes would be dashed. Every time we heard the hallway door open my legs became jumpy as I imagined my name being called out. But every time it was a disappointment.

 

Then at 3:30 p.m., the jail guard called my name. My excitement was dashed as I found out that I was going to be interrogated by a young lieutenant. Not another interrogation, Lord. It was my sixth one. Mr. Mustafa acted as my translator. He shared to me later on that the charge papers didn’t have anything on me. He said also that the next step was for my sponsor or guarantor to come and pick me up. I didn’t lose time and told B of this, he said he is on his way to the Police Station. This was 4:30 p.m.

 

As I got back to the cell, I was all jumpy with praises to the Lord and told the guys freedom is coming soon. They all cheered for me. I just spent the time doing crossword and praying in between.

 

Little did I notice that time flew so fast, and when I checked it was already 6:30 p.m. and that the sunset prayers started already. What the heng? Where’s B? What happened? The Ethiopian dude was asleep so I couldn’t make a call or check if there was any message for me.  Hassle.

 

By 7:30 p.m. the guard called my name again and asked for my passport. He came back 10 minutes later.

 

Lord, open the heavens please. Please set me free!

 

By 8:30 p.m., he came back and called me out. I went straight to the interrogation area. The officers were confused why I was asking them what’s the deal. The guard shouted “Yala! Bara!”  (“Go! Leave!”) and pointed me the main door. Huh? Is this it? The guard was making hand signals asking me if I had a bag. This was it! I asked him if I was free. He screamed that I should grab my plastic bag and leave. I couldn’t believe it.

 

I ran inside, and broke the news to my new cell mates. This time the cheer was for real. I gave all the snacks bought by B (I didn’t eat a bit from these), and shook everyone’s hands. 

 

As I got out into the lobby of the station, there was no one to welcome me. There was no one at all! Huh? Lord, where is the one who released me? I turned around and went back to the guard and asked him if he had seen my manager, or sponsor, or B.  He said I should check upstairs. No way! Ayaw ko na! Alis na ako dito! (This is it! Let's run!)

 

I slowly walked out and once on the street I started running as fast as my slippers could hold my pace. Unfortunately, I bumped into the Bangladeshi janitors who were serving us the food inside, and they hollered Ala mudeer!”  Which means, “Hello Mr. Manager!” Pambihira, huwag niyo na akong pansinin! Bumalik na kayo ng preso at huwag niyo na ako pansinin. Baka tawagin pa ako ulit pabalik ng kulungan. (Don't mind me! Please just go back to the jail and don't mind me.)

 

I ran like crazy and took the long route home. I couldn’t believe I was outside. I couldn’t believe I was free. Lord, paano yun nangyari? Who worked for my release? Run. RUN!

 

By the time I got home, my throat was as dry as the desert outside the city. I felt like my chest was going to explode as my heart struggled to pump the blood to my muscles. My manager was surprised to find me and wondered how I got out. I said I didn’t know how. Oh, whoever it was I am sure God used him.

 

In the middle of that, my wife called and she said that B was at the station waiting for me.  So, it was indeed my buddy, my Arab brother, who pulled the strings. God you are amazing! What an adventure!

 

Aftermath

 

We met up with B in 10 minutes and had coffee. I couldn’t help but hug him despite not having showered, and the whole story unfolded. He was so mad at my client and police for what they did to me. He said he already contacted the Human Rights Commission and the Internal Affairs to investigate the human rights abuse made on me. He said he will not let this incident pass by just like that, but wants to see those who are punishable pay the price of justice.

 

He said that the client of ours was really out there to harass and find fault, and maybe make a buck or two out of this. With me in jail, I was a bargaining chip which he could play a card against our company. (We paid almost SR 5k to secure my freedom.) 

 

Anyway, my sponsor will deal with that client now. 

 

Reflections

 

The company gave me the next day off and my wife and I spent the day just glad that this episode had been closed. But it was really God who closed the chapter on this when my reading was in Luke 6. What better chapter to read than this one. Sapul lahat!

 

Luke 6:27-31  27 "But if you are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.  28 Pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.  29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.  30 Give what you have to anyone who asks you for it; and when things are taken away from you, don't try to get them back.  31 Do for others as you would like them to do for you.

 

Luke 6:35-38   35 "Love your enemies! Do good to them! Lend to them! And don't be concerned that they might not repay. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to the unthankful and to those who are wicked.  36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.  37 "Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. Stop criticizing others, or it will all come back on you. If you forgive others, you will be forgiven.  38 If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving-- large or small-- it will be used to measure what is given back to you."

 

Luke 6:47-49   47 I will show you what it's like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then obeys me.  48 It is like a person who builds a house on a strong foundation laid upon the underlying rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against the house, it stands firm because it is well built.  49 But anyone who listens and doesn't obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will crumble into a heap of ruins."

 

Indeed, it is hard for any person to love one’s enemy. But, having experienced what I did, I can’t help but understand that by God’s grace I can forgive. And by that, I have set myself free from a greater prison unseen by our physical eyes, yet powerful to destroy my own life.

 

I could also say that wasn’t it for God’s Word, His Grace, His Mercy, and His Spirit, my wife and I would have broken down all together and lost faith. Thank God He helped us through this one. He is indeed our Rock who has kept us firm.

 

Looking back, yes I can say life may not be fair all the time. But it doesn’t mean God cannot produce the best fruit in us despite in our worst days. The thing is we can either become better or bitter at the end of a trial. We can either blame God all the time, or we can look at it through the eyes of faith and see the eternal lessons behind all the disappointments.

 

What I can say now is that God allowed me to discover things that I never thought existed … 

 

… I thought I could be desperate for Him in such matters as buying a house with my wife, but being desperate for Him just to go through a day in the worst conditions was a different level. 

 

… I thought I could have faith in God in a way I would believe that He can open up doors of opportunities for work or employment, but having faith that would make prison doors open was super. 

 

… I thought grace during seasons of abundance was sweet, but grace during times when you want to give despite having nothing with you to a fellow inmate is a sugar-high.

 

… I thought forgiving someone who cuts you in traffic is a cool way to exercise one’s faith, but forgiving someone who has thrown you in jail for no reason is like the Ironman Challenge and the Seven Summits for a spiritual triathlete/mountaineer, and winning it!

 

Lord, indeed you are good, and your mercy endures forever!

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