The sixth season of Locked Up Abroad premiers tonight on National Geographic Channel. The modern day morality play tells the true-to-life stories of persons arrested in foreign countries (usually for smuggling drugs) and thrown in prison.
My favorite episode of the series appeared last season. It featured Brigene Young, who was a 20-year old South African barmaid when she got caught up in a heroin sting in Mauritius, the island nation roughly 1,250 miles off the southeast coast of the African continent.
The gullible young woman was offered an all-expenses-paid holiday to the tropical island by a guy she met who frequented her bar. All she had to do, he said, was wear a specially-prepared pair of high-heel shoes through airport security.
The barmaid asked what was inside the shoes. Her tempter smilingly told her it was better that she not know.
Brigene knew, in her spirit, something was amiss. But she ignored the still, small voice that told her to rebuke the devil who tempted her to do something she knew was wrong; something she knew could ruin her young life.
The young woman couldn’t resist the lure of a beach vacay on an exotic island. So she put the shoes on and flew to Mauritius.
Brigene made it through airport security in South Africa, much to her relief. But no sooner did she land at Mauritius’s Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport before she was taken into custody by authorities, who found nearly 1 kg of heroin inside the wedges her shoes.
The authorities offered her a deal: She could help them catch the dealer to whom she was supposed to deliver the illegal drugs or she could face 45 years in jail.
Brigene agreed to cooperate, but the planned sting operation was botched. She ultimately ended up spending seven years behind bars at Mauritius’ maximum security Beau Basson prison.
What was particularly poignant about the young woman’s ordeal is how transformative her prison experience proved to be. After initial fear of being locked in a foreign prison far from family and friends, followed by remorse for making the biggest mistake of her life, she came to repentance.
She started reading the Bible and sharing it with fellow inmates. By the time she was released from prison in 2010, she had become a new creation. Her old ways, which had cost her seven years of her life, had passed away. She had become new.
Brigene’s story of being locked up abroad is a cautionary tale to young people – and older people – who succumb to the temptations of this fallen world. But it also is a true-to-life testament to God’s amazing grace.