have been in a cell before. The walls are tall. The concrete is cold and so is
the ambience. The public vehicle I was in together with 13 other passengers had
no seatbelts. We were all arrested, handcuffed and thrown into a gloomy and
drab cell in the basement of the Nairobi City Kilimani law courts. For the
three hours of incarceration before our trial was heard, I knew that prison was
definitely the worst place on Earth to be. 3 hours of taunting silence humbled
me that day. I couldn’t help but imagine what goes on in the hearts of men and
women imprisoned for 5 years. Life imprisonment made me sick.
The team that went to GK Prison
July 6th 2013, together with eight ladies and seven gentlemen, I
visited GK prison in Industrial Area in Nairobi City. I had never been to a
prison before. We handed over our gifts and toiletries for the prisoners to the
warden’s assistant, before we were ushered in. As the huge locks of the gates
were unlatched, I felt a pit in my stomach. A dread enveloped me instantly. What
if I got caught and beaten up by a mob of angry prisoners? What if I got in and
was denied exit? What if one prisoner grabbed my neck and snapped it? (The Man
of Steel Vs Zod Knock Out scene flashed my mind and I grew sick). The chunk of doors opened to a threshold
where the drainage system was being cleaned. The pungent smell of human waste
came up my nostrils and it did no little harm to my trepidation. What was I
doing here again? Sharing the gospel…right…Ernest, you are here because Christ
I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick
and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. (Matthew
past the threshold, led by the prison chaplain, we walked into the heart of the
prison. There was a wall up ahead with another door, possibly going into a zone
where civilians fear to tread. Men in black and white striped uniform stood on
our right hand side. Another larger group of men dressed in casual home clothes
sat on several benches on our left. Beyond them was a chain link fence
separating a basketball court with cracked asphalt for dribbling ground. About
six prison security officers were scattered in the area. I was directly behind
the chaplain. Being the team leader, I felt significantly responsible for the
care of the team, especially the ladies.
close ladies,” I muttered . All my reactions were driven by fear. I wondered if
the prisoners could sense it.
were led to the front of the group of men dressed in casual clothes. They
eyeballed us strangely. Their benches were set up like the pews in a church.
Next to us was a man on a keyboard and another holding a microphone. After a
few words from the one with the mic, the men arose to their feet and began
singing their hearts out. They sang songs of praises to God and I couldn’t help
but think if they meant the words. Weren’t they angry that God had them
arrested? My judgements were about to be challenged. I had come to prison to
encourage the hopeless not knowing I would be the one to leave encouraged.
chaplain gave me the microphone and asked if I was ready to preach to the
prisoners and if we had a presentation of some sort in form of a song or skit.
I said no and he frowned. I clearly had violated the protocol. When he asked me
the purpose of the visit, I replied, “We are here to listen to them.” This had
never been done before. They avoid contact with civilians. I asked if that was
prison policy and he said it was not. Just a traditional rule. I asked him to
break that rule today. I grabbed the microphone and stood before the group of
prisoners. I looked into the audience and didn’t see prisoners. I saw humans.
Humans like you and me all silent at the young man and his band of friends who
had come to spend time with them.At that instant Christ swept my fear away and showed me men who craved
for love and affection. I posed a question that I doubt they had ever heard in
a log time.
are your dreams?”
was a brief moment of silence. One man at the front gathered some courage and
raised his hand halfway. I encouraged him and walked up to him. I handed him
want to be a musician.” One prisoner next to him sniggered. This man wasn’t
serious was he? The potential musician continued unabated. “I want to sing
songs that will be played all over the world.”
sat down and a wave of claps grew behind him. His fellow inmates approved. The
looks on the faces of the prisoners were new as they thought about the
possibility. Was it possible to be in prison and have dreams? The musician had
began the domino effect. Hands began to shoot up in rapid succession as the
microphone went round. And there in the heart of GK prison was a bunch of
hopeful good fathers, businessmen,
preachers. The hopes were endless. These men were not hopeless. These men had
dreams bigger than I imagined. We divided them into seven groups and commissioned
at least two young people from our team in each group to listen to the
are some of the highlights of the prison visit from what the men in the prison
Why would you visit us?
men were in awe that a bunch of 16 City youth would go to a prison on a bright
sunny weekend and visit the inmates. What was the catch? How could they show
this love without expecting anything in return. Some were humbled. One, barely
18, remarked, “I have not seen my mother and my sister. I want to see them just
once. Just once and it would be okay.” His own family had deserted him yet
strangers came for him. The concept moved their hearts. One of them stated,
very fact that you came to visit us yet you do not know us proves that we are
people. We are not animals. We may have made mistakes but we are people.”
so we proved the love God has for us- that while we were imprisoned in our sin,
Christ came to visit us. Unlike us, Christ did what we couldn’t do. He bailed
us out and took our prison sentence on that cross. Love is why Christ died for
us. Love is why we visited.
I’m glad I came to prison
glad I came to prison, Ernest.”
those words left the mouth of one inmate, I could have sworn I did not hear
would you say that?”
is the only place that God got my attention. I found Christ in prison, Ernest
and I don’t regret coming here.”
smile on his face was unmistakeable. This man was happy. He confessed that he
was guilty of the crime he was accused of. He confessed that he was indeed
wicked. He saw never saw the value of life especially eternal life until he
came to prison. Prison had been dark, cold, and lonely yet in that place he
found the greatest light, warmth and friendship through the Son of God. Jesus
is very present in prisons, Beloved. He is the friend that welcomes them when
the world cast them away.
I had everything!
had everything,” he said. “I had lots of money, a great job and lots of wealth.
It wasn’t enough. I was caught stealing company cash. I deserve to be in here.
Once I finish my sentence, I don’t really care about that wealth. Christ is the
most important thing any one should have. I will probably become a pastor. What
will it profit a man to gain all the money in the world and lose his soul.”
I have to get out of here!
not guilty of what I was accused of. I was arrested by mistake. However, coming
here was important for me. God showed me that my life wasn’t being lived well.
I know what I want to do once I get out of here. I need to share the love of
God to people. I need to get out of here.”
he said that, Sophie, a friend who was with me encouraged him with these words.
can start sharing God’s love in here mister. Start here and God will open doors
Prison either hardens you or humbles you.
was old but had a lot of life in his eyes.
here, you are either humbled by the system or you are hardened by it,” he said.
humbled change. Those hardened leave with a vengeance.”
Prisoners have dreams!
encouraged them and they spoke. They shared their dreams. They desire to be
reunited with their wives. They regret the choices they made. They do not
regret the punishment.
It’s too late for me.
too late for me,” he said. He was dressed differently from the rest. He had the
traditional prison garb- black and white stripes. The rest were clothed in home
clothes. “You see these stripes I wear; it means I am no longer under remand.
My verdict has been passed. I am in here for 10 years.”
of the prison officers neared to listen. He had taken interest in the stories
and was eavesdropping from a relatively far distance.
I know I want to be an Evangelist after that,” he continued. “My dream is not
I am free in prison!
found freedom for my soul in here,” he commenced. “I discovered you can be more
free within these prison walls than being out there. I was more imprisoned when
I was a civilian. Christ set me free in this prison. Without Christ, out there,
I was in chains. They were released in this prison.”
I want the peace you have!
men did more hearing than speaking that day. Some did not know the stories of
their fellow inmates. By the end of it, their desire was to have Christ as
their Lord. Five men fell to their knees and surrendered their life to Jesus
Christ on that day. He came to set the captives free. We prayed with the men,
hugged them, gave them Bibles and bid them goodbye.
You don’t want to be here.
we left to leave, he grabbed my hand and I turned. He said he had a wife and a
daughter. He had to be at least 27. He profusely said thank you and parted with
these words: “Ernest, listen. You’re young, like me, even younger. Live wisely
man. You don’t wanna be in here.” I nodded, gave him a hug and went on my way.
my expectations were nullified. A prisoner is a sad man but a prisoner of
Christ has joy unspeakable.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it
-Paul of Tarsus writing to the Church in
Philippi while Imprisoned for spreading the gospel-