The CMS visit to Langata Women Prison
The excitement of the visit brought us together earlier than usual; our visit was scheduled on Saturday, 1st April, 2017 for 1:30pm but we were together at the shopping centre next to Otiende by noon. Like happy little children we gladly bought some gifts that we would take to the inmates: toilet paper, toothpaste, toothbrush, soap for bath and laundry; and for the children lollipops and biscuits.
No sooner had we purchased the few gifts than we quickly drove to the prison's main gate where the police guard informed us after carefully studying the visit authorisation letter that we were way ahead of our time. Oooh!, time seemed to drag forever as we kept looking at our watch time and again.
At 1:20pm we were granted entry and we did not waste a minute. The lady catechist received us warmly her smile portraying deep peace within her. “The inmates have just had their lunch and that is to be followed with a change of duty, please be patient” she softly spoke to us with an assuring voice; after which she briskly walked and vanished through the prison gigantic gate. Inasmuch as we were eager we just had to wait. We chatted away the additional waiting time and in the middle of our chitty chats and giggles we heard a voice, “we can go in” we sprang to our feet and followed the catechist.
"There are a few things we would like you to observe", the catechist said, we all came to a halt and listened attentively, "you will not come in with any loose clothings, leave your shawls, no phone and no handbags", we all nodded affirmatively and went ahead and unloaded ourselves of our handbags and shawls and followed her past the entry. The check and clearance process wasn’t as long and soon the nine of us were walking past the quarters of the inmates to the meeting hall. The catechist walked while pointing to the different areas, “that is the inmates quarters, that is where they have their meals and this is the new library that was opened late last year” we were standing outside the library which I really wanted to peep inside and see but the walls were higher so I just did two jumps and glimpsed some economics text books on a shelf.
Opposite the library was the meeting hall with many inmates, it was silent, the catechist entered and we all followed and took our seats right in front. As we sat I was a bit sceptical of the reception, the ladies seemed quiet and reserved. The opening prayer was led by Sr. Felly Covacha and there was a resounding amen in conclusion of the prayer. There was a suggestion for a song, immediately a short lady took on and a chorus followed, we all stood and sang happily as if in an island of happiness. Wow! there is some energy in them I said to myself. A first reading from the Letter to the Romans was followed by dead silence, I looked at Sr. Felly and she seemed unmoved by the uncomfortable silence. It’s after this that we all introduced ourselves one after another and divided into eight groups for ease of sharing with the inmates. I found myself in group 4, with a lady I had earlier spotted as a bit reserved, she was the only one who did not sing with much enthusiasm, something that had made me imagine she could be so hurt or angry.
In the small group the inmates introduced themselves, saying their names, age, how long they had been in prison and how longer they would be around. At first, I thought they wouldn’t tell but to my surprise, they shared the information happily. The reserved lady caught my attention again “I have been here for 3 years now, my sentence is life imprisonment”, her face letting a shy smile out “I really thank God, because my death sentence was reversed to life imprisonment and who knows I can one day walk away free because I have appealed”. “I have two children and one of them a girl is sitting for her KCPE exam this year”.
All along, a question lingered in my mind “How is it that all this ladies portray a deep peace within, their young faces hide their true age”. The round continued the last inmate in my group shared, “I just have about 2 months to be out.” Sr. Felly was quick to conclude the session by her words of consolation, and she spoke, "It was clear to me that holiness can be attained anywhere even in prison, if you will it". I felt a little jealous that the inmates have more prayer time in their hands.
It was time to regroup and bid the group goodbye after. The two catechists shared about how good their discussion was in their small group and the reassurance they felt. The closing prayer now was more moving especially as I imagined the faith and hope for the many inmates on life sentence. We were requested to walk ahead, and the inmates to follow as we go to hand over the gifts that we came with. We had a photo session and handed over the gifts, did good bye with the hope of visiting again.
Inviolata Njeri, CMS NAIROBI
We gave them words of encouragement, hope and patience...to pick up their pieces and start healing. Hold on to God and only God knows why they are in that prison! Regina Namale
Despite their situation, they are joyful because they have a lot of hope and trust in the Lord. They learn dress making, knitting, agriculture, etc which makes them busy and have no regret They are guaranteed to do something in their lives when they are released from prison. Grace Simiyu
They are happy and sing very well. They pray and are hopeful. They challenge me, I who am free. Sammy Nyongesa
I was happy to see them happy and with love and care of God. Jane Kiminda
The Prison visit was a life changing experience. Rose Muriuki
Even though they are imprisoned, they still have time for God. Their singing shows it all. Penina Achieng Muhanji