There is no time I have ever left juvenile prison and felt I was doing anything that matters. I always leave feeling what I am doing is throwing pebbles that don’t cause a ripple effect in the expansive ocean of guilt, confusion and loss that most of the boys I work with have found themselves in. Trust me, I am completely out of depth and feel like I am swimming in the deep end where killer sharks abound in plenty. Because of this, I am running for my life.
Were it not for the fact that I am born-again and fully dependent on God’s Holy Spirit, I would have folded my swimming gear and stopped swimming. I am thankful for the favour, peace and joy that God has blessed me with. I am also thankful that despite all the challenges that comes with my work, God has given me the strength, courage and the divine provision that surpasses my limited human knowledge, understanding and wisdom.
The simplest of tasks are often the most difficult
When I started working with the boys back in July 2012, my focus was on getting more money. I did this thinking money would be a perfect solution. However, and with time, I lost my job in the process and had to go through the most difficult phase in my life. There were many times I would walk, hungry and thirsty, to the prison on foot.
I remember a time Pascal Mititi, a friend of mine came visiting and wanted to meet my boys and see what I was doing at the juvenile prison. I was staying at Ayany Estate by then. Because I did not have food in the house, Pascal had to spend all he had, except his bus fare back to Mombasa, so we could have something to put on the table.
The next morning, Pascal and I left the house for the prison. We called and met Hosea Omondi somewhere in Karanja then the three of us walked to the Nairobi Remand and Allocation Prison in Industrial Area. Because we had to take short cuts through the railway, we had to contend with the human waste packaged and strewn all over the railway in paper bags. I personally could barely contain myself.
The stench mixed with the humid air was unbearable. I don’t know what stopped me from vomiting the breakfast I had taken a few hours before. The trek to prison was made more unbearable to Pascal and I due to the fact that we were wearing leather shoes. Hosea was the only one who was wearing sport shoes which were more comfortable. two hours later, the three of us arrived at the prison, dirty, thirsty and sweating like pigs.
I used to carry a list of the 100 boys I had originally met when I first begun meeting the boys. The list had the names of the boys, court dates, names of parents and the parent’s phone numbers. From this list, we would read and report the phone conversations we had had with a few of the parents. We found the most joy when we heard that a few of the boys had left prison and rejoined their families after our intervention.
We would then spend the rest of our allocated time praying and doing nothing else other than sit on the floor with the boys and spend quality time. Most of the time we would sit on bed mattresses where bed bugs roamed and eggs waited to hatch and listen to the boys. I don’t know what the boys saw in us. But with time, God begun doing marvelous things. The parents and the people the boys had wronged started visiting the boys, forgiving them and getting them out of prison. The most amazing thing was that most of the boys we worked with left prison and stopped engaging in crime.
And because I lacked and didn’t have enough money I learned a very valuable lesson. It would have not been possible for me to learn those valuable lessons if I had had the kind of money I had thought would have made me more effective. There were numerous occasions when I was locked out of my house due to rent arrears. I also lacked food and other than asking the caretaker to ‘please open the door and allow me to stay because I had nowhere else to go‘, I would also ask the caretaker to give me flour and money to buy kerosene and vegetables. This may seem to be fiction to some of you. However, Jared Junior and Wanjoki aka The Man Upstairs knows what I am talking about.
Fast forward to the present
Thankfully, God cushioned me through the tough times and I am glad I went through that. I am not working with 100 boys anymore. However, when I get bar soap, slippers, underwear and shaving resources, then I target the whole group of juvenile prisoners which totals to about 200. I have chosen to work with 14 – and have room for 6 more – boys. Much as this is a small group, I still leave Lifesong Kenya’s weekly sessions feeling I have done nothing.
Spending time with the boys, accompanying them to court, calling their families and the people they have wronged seem like very small things. But they matter the most to my boys who expect us to accomplish them. Yet this is still not enough. That is why I woke up with a very heavy heart, until Charles Manene sent me a message on Facebook.
“Thanks for this Charles,” I said, relief flooding my heart.
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
1 Corinthians 1:26-30