“The experience has been life-changing, visiting people in prison has allowed me to see the world through another’s eyes,” says Given Singogo, “My prayer life has a new lease on life due to prison visitation.”
As a Board member of ITMI's Excellence Christian Academy, Given is one of the believers associated with ECA that participates in the regular outreach visits to a women’s prison in the vicinity of their city, Kabwe, Zambia.
Excellence Christian Academy is located in Kabwe, Zambia.
ECA staff and board members make regular visits to the prison, setting examples for the ECA students, who aren’t allowed to enter the prison, on how to live out their Biblical calling as believers.
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ "
“One of the most faith inspiring moments we have ever experienced,” writes ITMI’s Eugene Kalunga, “happened while attending a worship service at the Kabwe female maximum prison. The ministry was absolutely spectacular, and benefited not only those in prison but us visitors. We had planned a Saturday afternoon of Word sharing with the female section prison which had 108 inmates, and 3 officers. We did the Word sharing as ECA and the inmates led the praise worship service, many women gave their lives to God at the alter call.”
The ECA volunteers also take time for one-on-one conversations with the prisoners. The visitors listen to the inmates' stories, encourage them, share the Word of God with them and pray with them. Often there are spiritual questions and the prisoners are seeking guidance.
As the volunteers' continue to come for visits, more and more are giving their lives to Christ and desiring to study the Word.
Sometimes, if resources are available, the group will bring provisions or items that might help meet the needs of the prisoners. At the end of last year, ITMI’s Project Joseph initiative provided a food parcel for the ECA volunteers to bring with them to the prison.
The Project Joseph parcels consisted of rice, sugar, salt, cooking oil, sardines and some personal hygiene items. A week after the delivery, one of the officers shared something remarkable with Eugene.
ECA volunteers outside the women's prison before visiting with Project Joseph care packages for inmates.
Project Joseph Enables Prisoner Collaboration
One of the inmates went around and asked individuals to contribute a dish that they would make from their Project Joseph food parcels for an in-prison birthday party.
“They all contributed,” Eugene writes.
The prisoners cooked the rice and placed it on big plates. The meal was followed by a “birthday cake,” which was made out of peanut butter and cornmeal saved from lunch. They decorated it with fresh corn and roasted soy grains as a gift to the birthday girls. One of the inmates who is good at braiding hair, fixed their hair too and they were freed from cleaning duties that day.
“It was a joyous moment to see women work together to throw a party inside the prison," reported the prison Superintendent.
Eugene writes, “We found the story about the birthday to be creative, thoughtful and caring. We realized that the inmates are sharing the love of our Lord Jesus, especially when they share, and work together to bring cheer to their fellow in prison.”
The party is incredibly remarkable when one considers the general atmosphere of most prisons. Particularly in Africa, where in prison the government does not provide personal items or food for inmates, often creating a desperation, dog-eat-dog kind of culture.
New believers and conversations about God’s Word with prisoners are exciting, but the volunteers have found these outreaches to be stepping stones for their own growth, too.
Preparation: Equipping Believers for Service
Eugene (pictured left) prepares the volunteers for this mission to the incarcerated by reminding them that an hour visit cannot speed someone’s sentence or solve their legal or life challenges. But what a conversation will do is make them feel loved and cared for.
It means the world that someone has taken the time to visit and to listen to them. Praying and sharing the Word with an inmate may be what gets them through the next week.
So the volunteers understand their mission is to judge less and love more. Their job isn’t to evaluate facts and determine if the prisoner was justly or unjustly accused.
Eugene shares how he coaches the volunteers. He tells them, “It's not about knowing what crime someone did, but giving someone a chance to share whatever is on their heart.”
“Sometimes after leaving the prison facility the volunteers leave feeling confused, hurt, and even sad. But we learn that whether they made mistakes or mistakes happen to them, our role as ECA visitors is to bring a smile, a friendly ear, and prayer and share the word of God. All we can do is be there, and not check facts.”
Serving Prisoners Promotes Growth in Christ
These visits aren’t just for the prisoners’ comfort and growth. They are also a catalyst for the volunteers’ growth in Christ, too.
Which makes you think this might be one of the reasons why Jesus encouraged His disciples to visit prisoners as if they were visiting Jesus Himself. (Matthew 25:44) For believers, these outreaches are places to rely on the Spirit and join Jesus as He walks next to the hurting.
"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18
“Both our lives as visitors and theirs as inmates are changing: on their part they get encouraged to still have Faith in our Lord and his word, and also come to a realization that they are loved and cared for by other people and God which helps in transformation as they re-enter society which may judge them on the basis of having been a prisoner. ...We on the other hand, are having our faith strengthened knowing that we are doing the works of our Lord Jesus, as written in Matthew 25:36, 'I was naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.' ”
Audrey Kalunga, Eugene’s wife and ECA staff member, writes,
“You get personally involved, even immersed, in the Gospel basics: witnessing, Bible teaching, counseling, worship, and encouragement. You always want to go back and experience that.”
Our partners at ECA have their hands full with running a Christian school during a pandemic. Just a few months ago, Eugene and his team opened a second school to share the Gospel with children and families in a village outside their city. They have their hands full with ministry.
But they are being faithful to share the Gospel and encourage the forgotten and hurting with His Word, and they aren't letting anything pull them away from this calling.
Because they are, ECA students are not just learning their school subjects through a Biblical worldview. They are witnessing His love in real life and how the Bible they study at school is powerful in real life to help those with real struggles.
When you support ECA, this is the well-rounded Biblical education you are helping provide for children in Zambia, who will one day grow up to impact their country!
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