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By Lauryn Eason

About a week ago, I got back from the best trip of my life.

I have been trying to write for the last several days in reflection, but it’s been next to impossible to find the right words, let alone make them fit into a social media post.

On March 1, I flew out to Kampala, Uganda with Pepperdine Law School to participate in the Prison Project, which aims to build capacity for Ugandan lawyers and law students as they implement guilty plea bargaining throughout Uganda’s justice system. I worked with some of the most brilliant and compassionate people I’ve ever met. I’ll hit the highlights and if anyone is interested to know more, don’t hesitate to reach out.

On our last workday, our team witnessed 13 remandees who were immediately released from prison walk out of the gates. They took off their prison clothes and put new ones on, and as the gates opened, we gave out high fives and congratulated them by name as they ran through our makeshift arm-tunnel and into their new lives as free men.

Our team successfully identified two survivors of forced labor trafficking, leading to their immediate release and return to their families/communities/tribes who will keep them safe. One of those survivors is Rose. She was arrested at 17 for stealing from her trafficker to escape. She was missing from her family for over a year and a half. After her release, when asked about her dreams for the future, she told us she wants to study to be a lawyer once her family can save the money for her to go back to school. The driver sent us a picture of her with her mom when she got home.

The other is Jackeline. She’s 24 with two children and took a domestic “job” in Kampala to help pay for her mother’s medical bills after she was injured, then was arrested and beaten by the police after stealing the equivalent of $12 USD to escape. The guard told someone on our team that Jackeline had been fasting all food and praying all night for months that she would be released. She was – the driver sent a video of her hugging her children for the first time in 7 months. *Both clients have waived confidentiality and consented to photos.

I learned last week that the highs in this job are incredibly high, and that the lows often feel hopelessly low. Our team experienced the full range of both of those throughout the week.

If I had to pick one emotion to describe the week, it would be humbled. Humbled at just how deep the Father’s love is and how He writes stories of redemption. I spent a lot of time worrying that my clients wouldn’t actually be released from prison, even after the judge ordered it. Or that even if they were released, they’d have nowhere to go and no support to figure it out. Seeing the body of Christ move last week was humbling. The arms, legs, head, all working for the same mission – in one instance, to get an 18 yo back to her family, refusing to let the system fail this one.

During this externship, the Lord reminded me that He doesn’t need me in order get someone out of prison. He doesn’t need me to catch the people falling through the cracks of imperfect institutions and escaping the gaze of imperfect people. He doesn’t need me. I merely get the privilege to accept the invitation to partner with Him in the work that He is already doing. I’m just a vessel.  He cares so much more than I do, and he literally showed me that He doesn’t need me to keep the ball rolling, the He is actively taking care of things, seeing the people that are truly forgotten, and working on their behalf. Absolutely and utterly humbled.

When I read about the beginnings of the Prison Project in “Love Does” by Bob Goff at 18 before I even knew it officially existed, I never could have imagined I’d get to take part in that work. Not even when I went to law school. God is El Roi, the God who sees – not just me and the desire of my heart to leave an impact on the world and be a part of something bigger than myself, but He saw my clients sitting in prison and was moved to respond. He takes what the Enemy meant to steal, kill, and destroy and He works it for good. There is still much work to be done, but one day, He will return to make everything as it was intended to be. And until He does, we’ll keep working. Until all are free. One person, one dismissal memo, one guilty plea bargain, one “how was your day?”, one bill, one policy at a time.

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student staff member. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.