Prison: an unexpected place to find Jesus?

By January 5, 2016
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Kenya (MNN) — New beginnings and opportunities show up all around the world. They hold the promise of change and carry the potential to improve lives. Trans World Radio’s (TWR) prison ministry opportunity is one of them.


Prisoners dancing and singing to praise Jesus.
(Photo credit: TWR)

Prisoners at Mayani Prison, a maximum security facility in Kenya, have asked TWR Kenya to help them record a praise and worship album. Their hope is that the music CDs would be distributed to radio stations and sold though churches and Christian bookstores.

The proposal is under consideration, TWR Kenya Executive Director Bernice Gatere said in a recent press release, though there are obvious logistical difficulties to overcome.

For example, the musicians wouldn’t be allowed to travel to Voi and record at the FM station, so officials would have to permit a makeshift studio to be set up in the maximum-security prison.

First, though, Gatere hopes that prison officials will allow the inmates to listen to TWR broadcasts. Many of the officials and prison workers already listen to the programming, she said, but radio has been off-limits to the inmates.

Bringing Jesus to prison

This dream of seeing prisoners thrive in the name of Christ has been in Gatere’s heart since 2008, when she and co-workers drove past a local prison. “I remember saying to my colleagues, ‘It would be so nice for us if we could have an outreach in this place and come and share the love of Christ with the prisoners.’

“That did not come to be until early [2015] when we were planning what we wanted to do for a community outreach.”

TWR Kenya had reached out to children’s and retiree homes, and gave food to the hungry, but they’d never reached out to a prison. This was revolutionary.

The ministry group felt God calling them to reach out to the prison, and there were several motivating factors. Many prisoners had been disowned by their families after being sentenced, so they felt alone and forgotten. They didn’t have many privileges in the prison.

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(Photo courtesy TWR Kenya via Facebook)

Gatere wanted to make a face-to-face impact.

“Every time we get on the ground and get to interact with people who have listened to our programs, it makes a whole difference for them and for us because we get to see what the Lord is doing through the airwaves through the ministry that we do.”

TWR started working on a basic presentation and made connections with the prison’s fellowship leader. “In August, my colleague and I went to the prison to meet with the leadership there and tell them that we are very keen to come and have a time of fellowship with the prisoners.”

The leaders were also excited about the prospect of TWR visiting the prison, and in November, TWR Kenya staff visited the inmates.

Stella Kimuyu, a TWR Kenya staff member, admits in a press release she was uneasy at first about going. She didn’t know how safe she and the other women in the team would be at an all-male high security prison.

Yet, after witnessing the prisoners enthusiastically involved in worship, and their excitement about the guest speaker, Kimuyu’s fears quickly disappeared. She realized these prisoners loved Jesus.

“I witnessed them broken before the Lord, many of them kneeling in prayer on the hard floor,” Kimuyu said. “It was at this moment that I realized these are forgiven sinners – just like me. If God has accepted them despite the crimes they committed, who was I to judge them? These are my brothers!”

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(Photo courtesy TWR Kenya via Facebook)

If an album could be produced, Gatere thinks the prisoners’ music would end up surprising people. “I think it will be a turning point,” she says.

“I believe that the Lord is calling us to be like Jesus Christ, even in our ministry.”

TWR will need a professional team to create the album. Pray that God will provide the money, equipment, and team. Also pray for changed hearts.

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