It was on a cold Sunday morning when sisters from Northern block met in preparation for their Women’s Day, which, unlike other years, was going to be hosted at Langata Women’s Prison in Nairobi, Kenya. The theme, “Becoming the Change” was timely, as it focused on how women could become agents of change wherever God has placed them, even in prison! This Women’s Day was about the sisters reaching out further to the women in prison and meeting their needs. The sisters were divided into two groups of 50 upon reaching the prison. One group went to the convicts’ section while the other went to the remand section to preach the Word and reach out to the women there. I was fortunate enough to be in the Remand section. We could hear the inmates singing worship songs in preparation for their Sunday worship service as we awaited clearance. When we got in and were ushered into the area we were to have the service, I couldn’t help but remember the prayer I had made days to this day which was to look at them with the eyes and love that Christ Jesus had. I saw my sisters, mothers, and grandmothers there. Inside the walls of the penitentiary, it’s different; the inmates wore different uniforms denoting the kind of crimes they were being charged with, guilty or not. These women needed love, encouragement, words of hope and healing. A lot of hope and encouragement is essential for these women in remand as they wait for their cases to be determined. We joined in the worship and three of the inmates shared their testimonies with us. First, was a mother of five. She had such a positive outlook and shared how God brought her to prison so that she could find him. She has learned that she could only depend on God as she has been through periods of loneliness in the prison and was at some point contemplating committing suicide. She concluded that she has surrendered to God to fight the battle for her. Another lady shared of being born in a Christian family but slipped and landed in prison. She said that God brought her to prison for a reason, though at first, it was tough. God has done miracles for her while in the cell. She was not able to afford bond initially but her case is now over without even raising a single cent, and she was waiting to be released soon. The third lady, who studied theology and earned her diploma while in prison, shared how she got saved while in prison. Lonely and scared, she contemplated suicide many times as she was mostly alone in her cell and in many instances, she seriously considered killing herself but she often heard an inner voice urging her not to do it and that was her turning point. She has been in prison for four years and looks up to God for hope and strength. We proceeded to have our message of the day from one of our leaders, Gakii (Kiki) Otieno. She spoke powerfully from the book of Ruth 1:1-22 on how God was working behind the scenes in Naomi’s life. When she was going through a period of loss she allowed God to use her to bring change even in her daughter-in-law’s life. God works through situations in our lives even the bad ones. Lastly, we looked at Matthew 1:28-30, the genealogy of Jesus, where we see God using the men and women who society had labeled “rejects” to share the lineage of the Messiah, the Son of God.
This was an encouragement to us and to the inmates, that God can use anyone despite their background! Becoming an agent of change is a process and it doesn’t matter where I am, I can still be an agent of change.
We had a vote of thanks and time of singing and prayer. We left the remand section for a short period to allow the officers in charge to do roll call, and then we had a time of fellowship with the inmates as we had lunch together. By this time we were all so inspired and uplifted by the message and the overall worship.
We had a great time. I met a lady called Sarah and we at first hugged as if I had known her for years. We were able to talk and she opened up voluntarily as to why she was in prison. I could only encourage her with a few words as her mention was in a few weeks’ time.
I was fortunate enough to meet three sisters from Burundi who were also there and were arrested together. We prayed together for God to vindicate them and fight for them. Lastly, I met Amoit, who had been there for two weeks while awaiting her husband to raise money for cash bail. She was so hopeful to be out soon and added that prison life is not easy. I learned from all these stories that I cannot take my freedom for granted and that I could lose it any time. I learned to be grateful for the tea I take, as the inmates are given only a cup of sugarless porridge each morning. I learned to be grateful for the sanitary towels I can afford as some of them share used pads for lack of them. Above all, I learned to be grateful in all circumstances as I was better off in my current challenges.
Despite having arrived at the prison as early at 8:00 am, we did not realize that time had gone. We had to leave and let the inmates go back to their holding zones. My new-found friend Sarah came up to me and we hugged again. She urged me to visit her once again and bring her a Bible. As I watched her go back into the door written, “Ordinary Remands Ward 1,” my prayer and hope was that I will remember to always be grateful for the life I have and live, and the freedom I have physically, and above all, in Christ Jesus!
What a day well spent! To God be the glory!