Becky and I have been given a lovely host for these two weeks, Astrid who cannot speak any English! She is an amazing woman with a great heart for hospitality and God. We woke up and had breakfast with Astrid this morning, was an interesting breakfast conversation! … Not much was said without using the translator app on her phone!
We arrived at the prison at 9am and began to unload and set up, the checkpoint team helped us and we were also able to meet some of the prisoners during our coffee break this morning over a game of pool which England ( Matt and Paul) won!
We had lunch and then the 9 men who are spending the week with us came and met us in the chapel where we are set up. They all got to know our names and we got to learn theirs ( or attempt to!!). We then did a few of our songs so they could get to know us even better and see the style of music we play.
We had a few breaks where we were able to talk to them throughout the afternoon. I sat with our translator, Johannes and one of the guys. It was amazing but all of a sudden the guy asked me some questions such as why I became a Christian, do I do to church regularly and what do I think about other religions. Our first day there was such a great opportunity given to me to share my story and tell someone else about how important Jesus is to me as a friend and with my relationship with him! I’m praying for more opportunities like that!
The lads are so nice! They are speaking really good English to us which makes things slightly easier for us. They’re up for having a joke and a laugh with us and they seem a pretty tight knit group.
After the prison we headed over to checkpoint and played some games before having tea together as a larger team and praying for the day and the rest of the week. A great day so far! Anticipating great memories and experiences this week!!
Today was song writing day!
We started the day with showing them how we write songs; we took down and out and broke it down and looked at the different parts that the song has. They seemed quite interested to hear it and they also seemed to really love the song! A lot of the boys came up to me at the end and told me that they thought I was a beautiful singer!
We then had to start to think about the song that they were going to write. I was put in a group with 3 of the lads and a few Germans so they could translate it. However the group decided they would write in English which made my life easier!!
I didn’t personally have any more conversations with the prisoners about my faith today but there were some that happened amongst the team. The chaplain also said that she is so happy we are here because it seems to have brought a new atmosphere to the prison. We learned about some of the difficulties that a few of them had maybe with self confidence etc and it was great to hear how doing this week with us was a big step in becoming more confident.
The staff at the prison who we are working with are also very supportive of the work we are doing.
We had spent some time collecting together their raps over night and had tried to put them together into a song!
The majority of the raps are in German so for us to know the lyrics it’s pretty hard!! But the boys were sounding really good, confident with their raps so it was exciting to think we would be putting them into a song.
We began the day with explaining the structure of the song, and then encouraging everyone to learn and sing the chorus together. Some seemed reluctant to join in so I was asked if I would lead a very quick singing workshop to try and engage everyone and get them to join in. It sort of worked, most of them sang along, it’s a very catchy tune!!
We had a good time at lunchtime with the inmates. They have organised it for the week that we would spend our lunchtimes eating with the prisoners and taking to them. Today me and Becky were on a table with two of the prisoners and we had a good few conversations with them in English. One asked me whether I was scared of coming in to a prison before I came as whether I found prisons scary. I was completely honest with him and said, I did find them a bit scary. But my opinion has been changed now that I have spent time with them and got to know them. They are all nice men who are just searching for hope and that hope is God! And we have been given the opportunity to show them God this week!
Doreen from checkpoint had a conversation with one of the prisoners today about her beliefs and it seems that they are very interested about what we believe in! We have found out that the majorly of the prisoners in out group are from Muslim backgrounds. They seem to believe in something but we’re not sure what! With us being there, there seems to be more and more questions every day!
Today we had some time in the morning to record the backing for the song. It meant getting in early and putting off having the boys for a little while but it worked well and it helped the song by having a guide track down! The plan for the day was to record as many parts as possible. We divided a plan where by we split the group up and spread between the music room in another part of the prison and the chapel which is where we are based this week.
I was sent over to keep things under control over in the music room, organising their whereabouts. Whilst one person was recording in the chapel, I had to encourage the next one to be rehearsing with me and some of the Taste team so that they were ready. By lunchtime we had recorded 3 raps!
One of the prisoners had written part of the song and asked me to sing on it with him. I was flattered but his idea for a tune was quite hard to follow! We collected a small group of us to sing on this particular bit.
After a few more bits of recording, we had pretty much recorded every single part of the song and we decided to play it back to them with a rough mix of the vocals. It was incomplete but they all applauded very loudly at the end and seemed to really like it!
We had a few hours where we were in the ‘studio’ recording the backing again and improving the song. When the boys arrived, we recorded the chorus with them all singing on it but one of them leading it.
We also recorded some little bits and bobs to add in here and there. We had a whole chorus of them singing on a particular part and it sounded brilliant with the different harmonies we added in!!
Spending time with the prisoners was a very key thing. It meant that we had a chance to have conversations with them, and they were really great at trying to talk to is in English. I had a conversation with one guy about his Muslim beliefs and his visitors to see him. It was interesting to find out about what he wants to do when he is released from prison.
We even got to spend a bit of time with some of them who came and visited us at checkpoint that evening as they were allowed out at the weekend. We shared a meal with them and played a few card games, just generally spending time with them and showing love to them. It was such a strange experience being with them outside of the prison but so good at the same time!
We had the morning off today and we went into the prison at 12:30 which gave us the opportunity to rehearse with them for the afternoon. I was slightly concerned that no one would want to rehearse and keep going through the sequence but the majority of them were interested and put 100% into their rehearsal.
Today was performance day!! We had been asked to lead the service in the prison chapel this morning. We did it there last year; the difference this time was that the boys we had been working with were going to also perform their song to their friends whom they had invited along. Unfortunately 3 of them had been punished for doing something the night before and therefore couldn’t have the freedom to come to the church this morning. It meant we had to change things around only slightly and we managed to get people to step in and do their parts
The room was packed! We ran out of chairs! We did some taste songs and then the boys had the chance to perform their song . I felt a little bit like a proud mum! They got a massive round of applause which was so encouraging.
And it was time to say goodbye! We headed over to the LightBlick where we were planning on having coffee and saying goodbye to them all. We were all presented with some Milka chocolate and we were individually thanked for our efforts this week. There were also speeches which meant I was very close to welling up!! One of the prisoners did cry!
I think some massive differences to some of the other work we do during the year are that often we don’t get to work to closely with a smaller group of young people. I think the fact that they are in prison means they need to know gods forgiveness even more and the song they wrote was all about starting again, having a fresh start and being All For One, in it together. I felt sad to say goodbye to them but excited that maybe I had helped to plant a seed in their lives towards discovering Jesus. Such an incredible week. So many things to thank god for. I will remember this week for the rest of my life!!