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Pregnant and Imprisoned

Growing up, I knew little of why and how my lovely and wonderful mother from Uganda, East Africa, divorced my Kenyan dad. It had happened many years before—in 1978—when I was three years old.

After Mother’s divorce, she made the decision to settle back in her home country. In less than two years’ time she had become the guardian of more than 12 children—the result of deaths of the children’s parents who perished due to the incurable disease of HIV/AIDS. Eventually, six of my mother’s sisters and two brothers would die from the same disease. As she attempted to meet everyone’s needs, Mother kept a hectic work schedule and thus had little time or energy left to give hugs and cuddles to us children. We could see love in our mother’s eyes, but the expression of it was not there.

Our big family did go to church; it was part of the weekly routine. We celebrated Christmas and Easter, and we knew that God existed—but we knew nothing about grace, faith, love, or Christ. These were concepts that we did not understand, and there was no one there to share with us or even to read the Scriptures with us. We just went to church services.


Mother worked hard to move our family to Jinja, the capital city in Uganda, where we would have the opportunity to go to better schools. As a teenager, I struggled to make the adjustment from village life to town life. And Mother, like people of her stout African tribe, would discipline with harsh language and sometimes cruelty. It followed that— without proper supervision and guidance—I began sneaking out at night, attending movies and discos, and generally misbehaving. This sent my mother’s anger to another level. I was her first biological daughter, a disappointment to her, and a thorn in her flesh.

Meetings were organized to discuss sending me to a boarding school—in Kenya—where I would be supervised by my paternal side. There, my dad contributed to my worst behaviors, turning me into a spoiled brat. He never questioned or scolded me and was always ready to contribute to my daily happiness—be my conduct good or bad.

Encouragement, good advice, cautions, and affection were missing in my life. Above all, wisdom from above never existed in the entire realm of our family.

At the age of 16, I was already out of school with no diploma or certificate. I was young and petulant—a rebel and proud of it—and totally lost with an uncertain future. I had no love for myself and my entire surroundings, and I wondered why I even existed. That’s when a typical drunkard hailed as a bouncer in one of the mysterious local discos, and I later gave birth to my two lovely daughters, whom I cherish to the core of my being.

My Extremity

Now, as a single mom striving to make ends meet, I resorted to smuggling items like phones, food, and clothes to sell and earn a living. I rented a single room, wanting to have an easy life with my two daughters. Later, my mom came up with the idea that I should move back to Uganda where I could still do business while pursuing studies again. She wanted to contribute financially to the next step in my life. The plan was that we’d both start saving money for my school fees again. We kept trying— striving to patch my wasted years— with both of us in one accord now. We tried our best to come up with a solution, but it was all in vain.

In the midst of these struggles, we got a phone call one day that my dad had been poisoned and died on the spot. My mother and I traveled to Kenya and attended his burial. The next year—the same month (August) when my father had died—my lovely, dear mother also died. She had a quick illness which the doctors said was a pancreatic problem. Her death was the last punch to my soul. I felt no love, no hope, and now couldn’t even trust the one who had created me. I was totally empty in an empty world.

In Chains

At the house that Mom left behind, I became a caregiver for every individual in our big family. Some of my siblings had given birth to kids, so I was to start from there. I was in my late 20s, and was already a mother and grandmother, and also served as a “father” and guardian to more than 20 people in our home.

After a few years in this situation, I needed ideas and advice about doing business. I needed to provide for my family, so I had to go with any quick solution. Good or bad business wasn’t a question; I would swing in any direction to earn a living—in any business.

On April 9, 2010, I was arrested in Macau Airport trying to smuggle drugs to China. One of my friends had brought this deal to me as a way to solve my problems. But it only dug a grave for me. On my arrival in prison, I was diagnosed with a terrible disease and also told that I was three weeks pregnant. In prison and pregnant!

A weight of depression sank in on me. I felt extremely naked and guilty. I cursed the day I was born—like Job in the Bible—and I hated everything on this planet. My big family and my two lovely daughters were never to be with me. I carried an innocent baby in my womb to suffer with me in prison. I couldn’t think of what was next or why. Echoing in my ears—and what I yearned for more than anything—was to quickly face hell and hades. The thought of an eternal heaven never entered my mind. I just wanted to die immediately.

“A Stitch in Time”

With stress, trauma, and prenatal depression, I knew I was useless and hopeless on this planet. But two weeks after being in custody, I was introduced to the ministry of Prison Fellowship, led by Tim and Linda Ng. I enrolled and met Linda, who visited me the next week. The appearance and huge smile of this person brought rays of light to me. Linda shared much about accepting the Lord Jesus Christ and casting all my burdens onto Him. The more I agonizingly narrated to her all my chain of coiled stories, the more she assured me that, “You are loved, born for a good purpose, and you can be totally forgiven.” Above all, she told me that Christ, whom I was accepting by then, could grant me peace of mind during this incarceration period, and He could provide for my family back home.

A New Friend, A New Me!

The time for our visit was over. Upon entering my cell again, tears rolled down my cheeks. I went on my knees, confessed my sins, and accepted Christ into my life. I kept thanking God, offloading the past, and becoming a new creation. I knew something strange was taking place in my life. And I thanked God for the friend He brought me in prison who introduced me to the spiritual Friend who would dwell in me forever.

The encouragement and words from the Bible that Linda shared with me that first day continued to echo in my ears. The more I attended the Bible studies conducted by Linda and Tim, and also reading the Bible on my own, the more I grew in maturity in a new, loving family. I started having a sense of love, of being loved, and of loving all those who surrounded me. I knew that death—or anything in heaven or on earth—would never separate me from that Love.

A Payback of Treasures

I later gave birth to a lovely, bouncing, baby boy whom I have with me in Macau prison. His existence has helped to bring a turning point in my life. My baby—whose name is Given— is growing up in a new environment of being loved physically, mentally, and spiritually. This was what was missing in my past life. But now, through letters and phone calls, I have mended relationships and built a spiritual bond with my family back home. Given stands in my life as Moses’ bronze pole in the Scriptures: whenever trials go beyond my limit in this prison, I cuddle him tightly and start claiming God’s promises. I have taught him how to pray, and his first words were, “Mom, we pay”— meaning “Mom, let’s pray.” I like to think his pronunciation of “pay” has worth, as it means God is repaying me for all my lost treasures.

I know being in Macau prison at this time is for a reason: I have gotten back a face of love, both physically and spiritually. I will never stop testifying about how finding God’s love in the midst of my storm changed my life for a reason and a purpose. Other people here are praying for a quick release; I call on God to release me when I am fully equipped with a full armor to face the outside life—in love and with love.

I am so thankful for all the kind people who help me and Baby Given. In prison, I have found love at last!

(Arrested in April 2010 for attempting to smuggle drugs into China, Joanah Mulungi tells her story from behind bars in a Macau prison.)

Article Link: http://ccmusa.org/read/read.aspx?id=chg20140201
To reuse online, please credit Challenger, Apr-Jun 2014. CCMUSA.