“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.”
– Henry Van Dyke
I was to continue writing my experience at Strathmore University last Thursday titled Singing Hopeful Songs of Intercession. However, two things happened the following day, last Friday when Elisha and I spent 6 hours, shared between a group of 17 boys and 19 girls at the juvenile prison. And unlike the other days when we have had sessions at the juvenile prison, we had Evan Easton-Calabria visiting, courtesy of Omprakash.
Usually, we depend on the breakfast we had – in the morning – till evening when we return home every Friday. Much as we enjoy working with the boys and girls, it isn’t easy spending two hours driving to and from the prison and then spend an additional 6 hours having the sessions without having lunch. We thought it was going to be business as usual. Before the day ended, we had two sweet surprises.
Our first surprise happened when Truphy, a welfare officer at the prison, invited us to her house for tea as we waited for the graduation ceremony at Kamae Girls to kick off. Though to Truphy that must have been a small gesture of kindness, it was a huge blessing to Elisha and I. The tea and bread we took at her house enabled us to have enough fuel for the rest of the day. It is one thing to try to give hope to the hopeless, it is another trying to do so when hungry and in lack.
The second surprise happened during the graduation ceremony. Siting with the girls, were a young couple (with their daughter) who have adopted two girls from the group of 19 girls. The girls were graduating from a Bible Course organized by the Prison Fellowship Kenya. I noticed how so at home the couple felt among the happy girls who were singing gospel songs and reciting Bible verses. Looking at them you wouldn’t tell they were in the midst of girls who were in prison serving various sentences.
In my line of work with teenage boys and girls in prison, I get to meet wonderful and gifted souls whose world and inner view has been altered by crimes that have handed them prison sentences. Whether they are guilty or not, prison has a way of breaking even the strongest of men and women. Most of the boys we meet are broken men, trying to come to terms with everything they have done, what is going on and the trauma that happens as result of being isolated by their family and siblings.
I have tried to write and post this since last Friday night. It breaks my heart that there are thousands of children – as young as 3 months old in prison. Some of them didn’t commit any crime at all. They are behind bars accompanying their incarcerated mothers. The boys and girls we work with, on the other hand, have or not committed crime and have to live far away from their loved ones.
As I look forward to yet another session this week I am lost for words as I keep on looking for the best way to approach what lies ahead of me on behalf of a boy who have asked me to visit the person he wronged and ask for forgiveness on his behalf. I remember seeing the 17 year old boy hunch his shoulders as he approached me and said, “Would you please go and ask for forgiveness from the person I committed a crime against.”
“What would you like me to do exactly?” I asked.
“Just tell him I am sorry,” he replied, tears welling in his eyes.
“I will try,” I said, not knowing what I am getting myself into and at the same time asking God for the courage to accomplish what I was promising.
And so here I am, listening to this song and seeking for the courage the eludes me.