[Photo: Family Photo.]
Would you please tell us how and why you were imprisoned?
I was arrested at home around 8:30 pm. I was falsely charged with sending a boy to look for human blood for rituals in the church. The accuser seems to be a Church member that I wanted to help.
1) Imprisonment and release dates.
I was arrested on March 15, 2012
I was released on January 13, 2014
2) How were your first days in prison... (what did you see, what did you feel, what impacted you the most) ?
It appeared that the sky was falling, I felt lost in the midst of 1800 men.
What I remember most: Apart from being small, the space looked like a pigsty... (no comments)
The first days were bitter, with a lot of crying... But the worst moments were from the 15th to the 28th of March.
At the police station... (I emphasize, there was no assault at any time)
3) Did the inmates know that you were an Adventist pastor? How did they react?
The incarcerated knew about it because it was reported on television, and they reacted positively because they did not believe what they heard. They used to say, “We know our country, it's a setup”.
They all protected me and called me “International Pastor” and the third night they invited me to preach in the cell.
4) The days were long... what did you do while in prison?
I never imagined that I would spend so much time in prison... Days were long... I took the time to read (I read 10 books), I wrote my own story (biography) “Meeting Pastor Antonio from A to Z”.
I wrote 250 topics for a morning devotion with the title “All things work together”. I translated two books including the booklet written by WAD former Executive Secretary Pr. Ajibade. The other activity was prayer and I had 15 sessions a day.
5) Did you use this opportunity to minister to others in prison, what did you do exactly?
I conducted two Bible studies outside the cell, I preached on Saturday and organized a prayer day on the theme: “Let’s pray for Togo”. We sent invitation cards to lawyers and religious leaders (they came). The 15 churches represented in the prison, including Muslims, were mobilized. That day, the last prayer was conducted by a Muslim.
6) Many people visited you. Many have written to you. We received letters from all over the world. Many people prayed for you. How relevant was all of this? What was the result: peace, hope, joy, the sense of a Christian family... To what extend did it cheer you up?
Many visited me and on a daily basis (church members came from far away). I have always believed in the Adventist family, and through that experience I was able to confirm that we had a wonderful family. They provided all kinds of support including financial. The world prayed, we even had a world day of fasting and prayer... I should also mention the visit of the government entities from Cape Verde and of our church (Mission of Togo, Sahel Union, WAD and GC). Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank all of you once again for all that you have done for me, all the church members and non-members who I believe, represent the invisible Church of Christ on earth. I would like to thank my family - wife and children who fully supported me at all levels. During that fight I nicknamed my son Anderson the “CHAMPION” and I would like to highlight his courage in visiting me in prison, because he was living with us not in Togo.
7) How can we help those who are incarcerated? What should be done and what should be avoided during a prison visit? Would you please give us pieces of advice?
There are many ways to help a prisoner. I would just highlight an important point that summarizes everything: Make him or her feel he or she is a person ((human being), despite his or her condition of prisoner... Show love, attention... What you should never do: Asking the reason of his or her imprisonment... if the person talks about it then, you can listen carefully...
8) You started Sabbath divine services with Sabbath School lessons, and we even had baptisms in the prison. How did it happen?
We baptized 9 people and organized a Holy Communion Service.
9) Were your wife and children receiving attention? From whom?
Everyone supported my family... I do not want to mention names for fear of leaving out someone, all fully supported us.
10) You have been in prison for 22 months. What are the survival tips in such an environment?
Survival in prison is something very serious, but I prefer not to comment. What I can say is that my wife was my salvation, she visited me on daily basis with a good meal (thank you very much Mado). But there also are the wife of brother Bruno, the wife of brother Raphael, and so many other sisters in Christ who cooked good food for us from time to time.
11) What was the most important life lesson you learnt from that experience?
Humility, spirit of service, submission, altruism and that no one is exempt from such a situation. Always be ready in life.
12) Our brother Bruno Amah is still in prison. What would you suggest to do for him?
What I intend to do on December 1st of this year is to organize a world day of fasting and prayer. In addition, trying to get different kinds of support for him.
13) Many who read this story contributed through their prayers and other spiritual activities for your freedom. What can you tell to all these people?
Like I said, I sincerely thank them, and if I am here today, it is because of your prayers. Our God is a God who answers prayers and it has been confirmed. Pray without ceasing. Due to the distance that separates us, I hope to see you all under the tree of life where I would go to tell my testimony... Amen
14) Today, you are the President of the Cape Verde Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. What are the blessings received and what are your main projects?
After my appointment, someone said: “from prison to presidency” ... I must confess that none of this fascinates me because my calling was to be a SERVANT since I have always embodied the thought of the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who said: “Who does not live to serve is not useful to life”. Moreover, I was carrying out my vocation trying to help a young man (the one who accused me) and through whom I was jailed.
As for the projects for this Conference:
Reach 10,000 members at the end of my term in 2019.
Purchase a vehicle for transport (a bus) (already acquired).
Start building a clinic (we have an ambitious project and God willing, we shall get it)
Setting up a radio / TV station