San Quentin’s Christmas Banquet for the Volunteers
is a very special and unique event each year!
This year Rachel, Sonia and myself went in. The excitement was in the air because this is like Christmas dinner with family for the inmates. They did not get to have dinner with families and they consider the volunteers their family. The inmates cook and serve the meal. They are very proud and happy to be able to do this. So the inmates and volunteers sit down to a Christmas dinner together. Rachel and I sat at a table with Spanish only speaking men. They knew a tiny bit of English and we knew a tiny bit of Spanish. We laughed as we tried to understand one another. They had a real good laugh when Rachel and I said, “Oh, we don’t have knives?” In not too short of a time we were “communicating” quite nicely. We even had a prayer time together….Spanish and English. At the end there was one thing that had happened….we HAD become family with these men who we had laughed, cried and prayed with.
Here’s Rachel and Sonia’s thoughts on the day:
Rachel: It was both a great pleasure, and a special privilege that I was invited to this very special Christmas Banquet. Not all inmates were invited to this event, and those who did, had earned it. Linda and I sat at opposite ends in a table in between 7 Latino inmates who barely spoke English. The amazing thing was that the few Spanish words Linda and I knew were enough to bring so much laughter and joy on our table. During that 4 hour period, the inmates had almost forgotten the sad reality of their incarceration. Sitting side by side with faithful volunteers, at a Christmas decorated table and place settings, minus knives, we could see it in their eyes…they felt special, too! One very striking observation I had was their uttermost love and respect for their Chaplain Jackson, about whom I hear many of the inmates call “Mama.”
Sonia: There is something to say about the worship in San Quentin. Before the Banquet started we had some awesome worship time. I was able to have a good 2 hours of conversation with inmates at my table. We laughed and talked about their families and they thanked me for spending time with them. Once we got our food, I didn’t eat verymuch of the meal and I asked if they wanted my leftovers. They were open to any and all extra food with a great delight. There were no scraps of food left over at any of the tables.