By Florence Atieno and Jackline Macharia
About ninety women from Nairobi Christian Church, Northern block ministry, celebrated their Women’s Day on the 3rd of November 2019 with the women at the Langata Women’s Prison. The convicts led powerful praise and worship sessions and later shared their life stories.
The journey towards this day started in September, the theme being, “Becoming the change,”. This was going to be a special Women’s Day. Visiting Langata Women prison for most of the sisters was something out of the ordinary. Having an outward focus on women’s day was the goal and God glorified himself through it all.
Many things had to be put in place and we needed to depend on our Heavenly Father for wisdom and guidance. Our main challenge was getting all the women in our ministry to be in attendance and we praise God that he made this possible. Don’t we serve a great God?!
The day before, we had to do the shopping since the foodstuffs had to be delivered a day earlier. We had agreed to offer a special breakfast and lunch so the sisters met early on Saturday the 2nd of November to put everything together.
It was evident the women enjoyed shopping together for this noble cause; it gave us a chance to serve and also share a great time of fellowship. I believe many sisters would agree that unity makes work very easy and manageable. Lily Musonye and a few sisters had identified a few shops in Githurai market where we could buy items at a cheaper price. It made work quite easy since we didn’t have to move from one shop to another. Since there was much to be done, roles were divided where a few of us had to make their way to the market to buy groceries, others had to make orders at the shop while the rest helped with ferrying a few of the goods to a standby car by one of the brothers who offered his car for this purpose.
After about two and a half hours we were done with purchasing and loading the items onto the pickup. The foodstuffs needed to be delivered to Langata prison on the same day for proper preparation.
The D-day was here and the women who meet in Githurai and Kariobangi assembled at 6:30 am in Roysambu and the church venue in Kariobangi respectively. The ladies looked amazing in black and yellow. Being a Sunday, traffic was light on the otherwise busy roads and our drive to Langata was smooth. We arrived at Langata Women Prison at 8am ready for the day.
It was at this point that we had to split up into two equal groups so that some would visit the remand prison side while the others attended the convicts’ side. The sisters had to be counted then screened. No phones or water was allowed. We were only allowed to enter with a bible, a pen, and a notebook. Some of these things make you appreciate freedom and how precious it is. From afar we could hear the praise and worship songs led by the inmates. The session was very powerful; they sang their hearts out and gave their all. As we settled, one could not help but notice how the inmates were well-groomed; some wore beautiful makeup, the ladies looked very beautiful. They did not allow a lack of freedom to take away whatever joy they could experience.
We had one of the inmates welcome us. She briefly shared that she is serving a life sentence and had been behind bars for 10 years. She shared that since she got to know God while in prison she’s learned a lot of lessons even how to read the bible. Other than having a relationship with God she’s also very grateful that her son who was in class four when she was convicted is now in the campus. One thing she said as she was winding up is that ‘’those who are in prison are those who do not have a relationship with God. You can only imprison yourself,’’ She added.
We also had a chance to listen to the convicts’ choir and what a great inspiration they are. They sounded angelic! These beautiful women both young and elderly were so well coordinated. The joy in their eyes was evident.
Three inmates shared their life stories with us. What a blessing to have had the chance to just listen and learn from them. One of the key lessons we took to heart was their faith; we were challenged. Their testimonies were a clear indication of what God was doing in their lives. One of the ladies who had been convicted to serve 30 years in prison had her sentence reduced to 5 years on appeal. You could see her determination, she said for the years she has been in prison she has remarkably reformed and was looking forward to completing her sentence so that she could resume normal life out of incarceration.
Another convict who had been committed to life imprisonment was able to appeal and the sentence was initially reduced to 25 years then to 15 years upon review. She will now be serving 6 years in prison. Her story is the kind that makes you believe that resilience and faith can move any obstacle. Listening to her testimony was very moving and revealed to us that anyone can find themselves in a similar situation. Her life in prison started when she was falsely accused of a crime she swears she never committed and that led to her conviction. From her sharing, we learned that you have to be careful of who you hang around with.
Our Guest speaker Lily Musonye shared a great message on “Become the Change” based on the biblical story of Naomi and Ruth. Becoming is a process; it takes time. She taught that most people define themselves by what they’ve done. God’s desire is for us to be ‘human beings’ who are willing to continue to become what God desires of them and not ‘human doings’ as most of us define ourselves by what we have done or what was done to us. The Bible is full of people who did not allow what they did or what was done to them to define them. Examples of such people are David, Esther, Joseph, Moses, Abigail, Nehemiah, and the Samaritan woman, just to mention but a few. Naomi dealt with her heart and became the change whereas Ruth became a star because of Naomi. Persevering through the moulding process is not always about us but sometimes it’s for the benefit of others.
After the powerful class, it was time to present the gifts to every woman and the children. This included bar soaps, sanitary pads, tissue papers, pampers and milk for the children. We were then served with lunch(chapati and beans) which was sumptuous! Even though we didn’t get a chance to fellowship with the inmates on a one on one basis as we had anticipated, we left the facility blessed, encouraged and challenged at the same time.
We continue to pray for those amazing ladies. Our hearts were eternally encouraged and the event left an indelible mark in our hearts.
To God be the glory!