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Modern Africa

Kenya: Land of Contrast

Prisons in Kenya are probably like other prisons in the world in one respect, they are full.
 |  Dale Money  |  Africa

Kenya is a beautiful country situated on the eastern side of Africa. It is surrounded by Ethiopia, southern Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, and Tanzania. It is known for sites like Mount Kenya (second highest in Africa), the Great Rift Valley, Lake Victoria, and is also known for its numerous wildlife reserves. It has been my privilege to take two mission trips to Kenya. If I had to describe the country in one word, I believe that word would be contrast. Kenya has so many drastic contrasts. For example, there are so many beautiful variations of fl owers and trees, but they grow out of the brown, dirty, blistering soil that blankets the countryside. Fascinating wildlife roams freely over the vast landscape, but it is often framed in the backdrop of the city skyscrapers. There are many foreign embassies, but they back up to the doors of one of the world’s most photographed slums within the capital city. I guess one of the biggest contrasts that I experienced in Kenya would be in the spiritual realm. On one hand, I saw the devastation caused by the sinful nature of human fl esh, and on the other hand, experienced people with a hunger and thirst for the truth of God’s Word. On these pages, I would like to give you a glimpse of what God allowed me to experience within the prisons of Kenya.

Prisons in Kenya are probably like other prisons in the world in one respect, they are full. They were full of people who were guilty of crimes, and full of people who were innocent. I know what you’re thinking, “Yeah right, everybody thinks they are innocent.” Well, let me explain, there are three diff erent divisions in a Kenyan prison; remand section, convicted section, and the condemned section. Most people understand the convicted and the condemned sections but may not be so familiar with the remand section. When a person is accused of a crime and arrested, they are sent to a remand prison, or a prison with a remand section within that prison. This is where they hold a person until they can have a trial. The problem is that they may not have a trial or come to a conclusion to the trial for years. I heard stories where people were in the remand prison system for up to four, fi ve, maybe even eight years before they were either proven guilty or innocent. Another diff erence between the three systems is that the remand prisoners wore street clothes, and the convicted and condemned wore black and white uniforms. The bottom line is, whether they were guilty or innocent, whether they wore prison uniforms or street clothes, they were bound by four walls and restricted to prison life.

Prison life is unique to say the least. Most prisons that I went to would look more like a walled city with one main gate, and several one floor buildings spread out inside. Instead of prison bars and individual cell blocks, most prisoners were in large groups within a concrete structure. Bathrooms were another unique contrast in prison life; because for the prisoners, there were none. When the floors of the building were poured, concrete troughs were made to carry body waste out. Although they kept these cleaned out, they still had a distinct odor. Although, cramped quarters and harsh conditions were the norm, many prisons were manicured on the outside and in order, especially if the OIC (officer in charge) was a woman.

Well, I didn’t go to the Kenyan prisons to write a documentary but instead to reach people for Christ. For you see, God loves these dear souls just as much as He loves you and me. Although they may not live in the best of conditions and are, in most cases, stripped of everything, God commands us to go to them and make disciples. They have nothing left of man to offer, but we have something from God to give. Through the leadership of Dr. Stan Frye and his dear wife Joanne, we were able to go into these prisons, and preach the glorious Gospel of Jesus. The response was great. Many souls received Jesus as Saviour, and others were strengthened in the faith. I even had a chance to see a few guards make decisions for Christ. Just before leaving the prisons, we handed out copies of John and Romans to them in their language. They often grabbed them out of our hands, and started to read them immediately. I remember one man named Daniel, who borrowed a pen and wrote his name on the front cover, so that others would know that it was his book. Although they were locked up in prison walls, many of them experienced the freedom that only comes through Christ’s shed blood.

One of the last prisons I preached in, God directed me do something I have never done before and have never done since. He had me, in front of everyone, call up a convicted prisoner and wash his feet. I was preaching on how Jesus came to be a servant, and how He illustrated that to His disciples by washing their feet. So I took a chair, sat the man down, and with a bottle of water in my hands started washing his feet. After I washed his feet, I took his prison striped shirt off of him and put it on me. Then I took my white dress shirt and put it on him. It was to illustrate Christ taking on our sins and giving us His righteousness. When the message was over about twenty-five trusted Christ. About two weeks later, while back home, I received a call from the missionary. He explained that a few days after we left the prison there was an outbreak of cholera in that prison and already twenty were dead. How my heart was broken, but then it dawned on me that God gave them one more chance to call on Him and one more chance to hold His Word. His mercy was extended to them one more time. Many Christians sit at home enjoying the things of this world when they could use the resources God has given them to affect souls for eternity. They could at least give small blocks of their time to carry the message of Christ to the lost. An optometrist went on that trip with us, and because he used his talents, a door was opened and many were saved. What are you waiting for? Kenya is a country full of contrasts. Maybe that’s the very thing we need to experience in our Christian life. I challenge you to get out of your comfort zone and test God!

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