A Story of Hope and Affirmation
In February 2014, Covenant Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi installed a Living Waters for the World (LWW) system in the penitentiary at La Paz in Honduras. Through Covenant’s relationship with Ministerio Sal Y Luz (Salt and Light Ministry) in Honduras, the team leaders had made several trips to the prison prior to this installation to provide medical brigades and determine other support that could be provided by the ministry. The idea of a water system appealed to the prison warden as a means of improving the overall health of the prison population which was about 200 prisoners at the time.
During the installation of the system, Susan Exley was our education (102) leader. She worked with a couple of other team members and interpreters to train several selected prisoners who would become the trainers and promoters of the water system after we completed the installation project. One of the trainers Susan got to know was an older man named Freddy. He could speak some English, was intelligent, was a teacher prior to his incarceration, and appeared to be an older gentleman who the other prisoners respected. During their sharing of information, Susan learned that Freddy was in prison for life which was saddening, but good in that we could count on him to be around to support the system for many years.
Since the installation of the system in 2014, our water team leaders have tried to go back to La Paz annually to check on the water system and make sure things were working well and that they had what they needed to support the prison population. Since the prison did not sell the water to the community, Covenant has continued to support the prison’s system with filters and other items needed to keep the system operating in good order. Susan has always made it a point to see and visit with Freddy and the friendship continued.
Susan and Freddy talking, with Olvin (on the right) serving as their interpreter.
In February 2022, a small group of Salt and Light Ministry Foundation board members traveled to Honduras to do some planning for the U.S. teams that would be traveling to Honduras in 2022. One of the activities the group completed was a trip to the prison in La Paz to have a medical brigade and check on the water system. Susan and I were part of this group. When we arrived at the prison, Susan asked one of the guards if Freddy was still there. The guard responded that he had been released from prison. Susan was both happy and sad – happy that he was no longer incarcerated but sad that she would likely never get to see her friend again. While I was inspecting the system with Olvin and Donny (LWW in-country technicians), I spotted a man waving at me through the cell bars. It was Freddy! I went and got Susan. She was overwhelmed to see him again after being told just a little while earlier that he was no longer there.
Slade, Susan, and Freddy posing with the prison yard in the background.
They hugged (through the bars) and hugged and hugged. Freddy’s English had deteriorated, but through an interpreter, Susan was able to determine that Freddy was going to get released soon. Apparently, the laws in Honduras recently changed and Freddy was eligible to be released for the crime he was incarcerated for 22 years ago.
Freddy expressed during the brief visit that he and the other prisoners were humbled that people thought enough of them to come to the prison and give them the gift of clean water. Christians had shown grace to these prisoners. He also expressed that the water system had given him a purpose in the prison and hope that his health would be better, even good enough that he might live to be released one day. Now his hope was coming true. On March 29, we received word that Freddy had been released from prison to go home to his family.
We are sad that we may never see Freddy again but are joyous that he is no long in prison, and is reunited with his family. We are affirmed that the LWW system impacted many lives of those who have been imprisoned in La Paz. The health of the overall prison population appears to be better than it was when we began going to La Paz 10 years ago. This is particularly important with the recovery from two back-to-back hurricanes and the Covid pandemic the country has endured the past two years. We are affirmed that the LWW system played a part in the improved health of the prisoners, but we are even more affirmed that the system gave one prisoner in particular hope for a better life - that hope has come true. God bless you Freddy, you impacted many lives.
Slade Exley is part of the water team at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi. He is a Clean Water U graduate in the water installation course (103). They partner on water in Honduras.