“For when I am weak, then I am strong. “ – 2 Cor 12:10
When we first moved to Kenya in 2003 I remember a Maryknoll priest once telling me that our failures and inadequacies are perhaps the greatest gift we have to offer. He spoke about how meaningful it can be to others, who are often grappling with poverty, illness, lack of education and sometimes a sense of inadequacy, to be able to help where we struggle and fail. I have experienced that in a new way recently. My work in the prison sometimes seems stalled. Too often prisoners are simply asking me to visit the court on their behalf, to check the status of their case or go to see their families, and while the latter can be pretty rewarding experiences, the former is often a bit dull. Both are often time consuming and yield little results. It seemingly requires little skill on my behalf and the one skill it often does require, language, is something that often leaves me feeling inadequate. With that in mind I recently asked Dismas, a former prisoner whom I’ve written about before, to follow up on some of the cases at the courthouse. In return I offer him a modest fee for helping me. When we recently met to discuss some cases he followed up on, it revealed a lot to me. As we concluded our conversation he mentioned that this news would make the prisoners so very happy. This was a good reminder for me because often the news is uninformative and reveals little new progress in their cases. But Dismas was right. He reminded me that the very fact that someone cares enough to follow-up on their behalf is enough to make a prisoner feel cared for. Their dignity has been acknowledged. Dismas reminded me that, years ago, when I did some of those simple things for him, it gave him hope. And the greatest part is that while he shared his findings and explained some of the legal matters that I did not understand, I noticed in him a sense of joy and fulfillment. His eyes shone bright – he had been given the opportunity to do what he so desires – to help prisoners who are in similar circumstances that he once was. My weakness and willingness to turn to him for help turns out to be an asset in my ministry- giving Dismas meaningful work and meeting the needs of the prisoners in an often more substantial way.