Saturday, December 28, 2019 11:19 am
The first prison I visited was Ikoyi Prison now called Correctional center. I had left early in the morning on this faithful day. The service took place in a fairly large hall. Bell rang for the inmates to assemble in the hall. As they were coming for the service, each of them held aluminum plate and spoon. I was wondering what they were going to do with the stuff as obviously I didn’t have food with me, only some gift items. Guess what! the stuff was to be used as musical instruments. When the Praise and Worship started, you need to see how the inmates played music with plate and spoon with untold joy and gladness . Well trained instrumentalists will envy them, not with dexterity and nostalgia with which they played the instruments’. When the time for message came, they listened with rapt attention and there was no distraction of any sort. After, l invited those that wanted to give their lives to Christ. Almost all of them jumped out and offered and surrendered their lives to the only Saviour of the world. It was a glorious day. I was just wondering as I was heading home. How come prisoners, condemned convicts and seemingly hopeless people were so happy and joyous, dancing and praising God, when people that are out free refuse to appreciate God. You even force them to recognize that there is God. What right do they have to be this happy when people outside are filled with sorrow for what they do not have???But the situation have changed. When I started to visit Kirikiri Maximum Prison. I saw terrible corruption among the wardens. Prison wardens in this place are worst than the prisoners.They are more heinously criminal than the prisoners. Inmates with their aid, go home to make babies, hold meetings with Co-criminals outside the prison, organize territorial crimes while still a prisoner and dupes people using phones and laptops while in prison. If you want to evangelize or visit a prisoner, you have got to pay a bribe, excepting some of us who refused.
Our prisons have become places of darkness, where despair festers and grows. Hopelessness and helplessness spreads as prisoners spend unproductive years behind bars, and many return to society only to fall right back into their old, detrimental lifestyle. I know someone who has gone to prison thrice.The place is far from being a correctional center. The prisoners in most cases learns skills to be more heinous.Void of self-worth, abandoned by their families, trapped by corrupt prison officials, and trapped by their pasts, some prisoners feel they have nothing to live for anymore.
If we want prisons to instead become places of corrections and rehabilitation that release restored people back into the community, then something – or someone – must break through the darkness to turn disastrous brokenness into hopefulness. This is why God led us to be distilling Good News of God’s redeeming love into prisons, until we are discouraged by corrupt officials.
The message of our Savior’s power is just as applicable within the prison walls as it outside. But we have been obstructed by evil officials whose life is filled with dirtiness of corruption.
The following is the experience of another minister. His is from another angle:
*I Wept Uncontrollably…*
*The Worshippers in Prison*
Years ago, our group had gone to visit the medium-security prison in kirikiri, Lagos (now called correctional center). We took along with us foodstuff and items like slippers, soap, tissue paper, etc. just to bless the inmates.
Having arranged with the officials, we made to have fellowship with the worshippers in prison. Without much prompting, the leaders, who were prisoners themselves, rallied the rest to the venue of the meeting.
The medium-sized hall was quickly filled. After opening prayers, the singing started. Like it was yesterday, I still remember the passion and the energy with which they sang. The enthusiasm was contagious. What struck me the most was the excitement and joy that radiated from these indivuduals.
I looked again and saw the inscription “CC” on the chests of some of them. I knew that meant “Condemned Criminal.” These ones were not waiting for judgment. No! They were waiting for execution, which could come to them anytime, without notice. The State had already condemned them to die. The lady who led the praise session was herself on death row. Some of those who gave testimonies were death row inmates.
These people lived under extreme conditions, for obvious reasons, but they had such inexplainable joy! Their human rights and freedom had been taken away yet they sang passionately.
Most of them had very little to hope for, yet they were still grateful. This joy had no explanation in any mundane or earthly thing. Nothing in this world can form the basis of the deep peace some of them radiated.
Invariably, the joy and enthusiasm this group exuded conspicuously dwarfed those from us – the freedom-enjoying worshippers. This was obvious to all of us visitors.
My brethren then asked me to share a Word of Exhortation. My eyes teared up as I surveyed the environment. I started with a song but soon got lost in thought at the sight of these worshippers, so jubilant behind bars. It became difficult fighting back the tears so I excused myself from the hall briefly and sought a concealed space to cry. Oh, I did cry. I sobbed uncontrollably!
I wept because it was obvious to me I had been ungrateful. I was so ashamed of myself for ever complaining. Deep in my heart, I had been complaining instead of being grateful to GOD. I had my freedom intact and many things to hope for but I had allowed myself to be bogged down by a few life’s challenges. I let these take away my joy. I couldn’t sing joyfully, spontaneously and freely like these fellow worshippers, some of whom had only the hangman’s rope or several years of incarceration to look forward to. My self worth, passion and morale were down even as I “performed” my deligated duty.
I cannot remember what message I preached that day. All I know is that I visited the prison to minister but I came home with a Ministration. The worshippers in prison had preached the message, *”Be Grateful!”* to me.
Friends, I do not know from where you are reading this piece. You might have so much more to hope for, and to be grateful for, than you care to remember right now.
It’s possible you might have been taking stock of the year 2019 and wondering how poorly you have performed. Time and opportunities lost may be taking a toll on your joy. You may be wishing you took more productive and profitable strides. Regret may even be setting in as you look around and see what tremendous progress friends and neighbours have made this year.
Please pause for a while and think again. If your freedom was not permanently taken away like the worshippers I described above, then you have so much to be grateful for.
Let nothing steal your joy. Unfulfilled dreams and aspirations will want a seat at the apex of your thoughts, seeking to depress you. Never let them; no! – don’t give them a dot of space.
2019 is just a number according to the Gregorian Calender. It is not the end of your life, or its opportunities. Some like Ethiopians that use the Coptic Calender are still in the second month of their year 2012 – you have to believe me on that. Do not allow any pressure of life depress you.
To him that is joined to the living, there is hope. As long as you have breath in your nostrils, you have so much to hope, and to *be grateful* for.
Let’s *Be Happy!* Let the Joy of GOD be your strength.
By Olufemi Mosaku-Johnson,
Jesus Way Outreach Mission/Inland Christian Command(Inc)