“But now, independently of the law, the righteousness of God is tangible and brought to light through Jesus, the Anointed One. This is the righteousness that the Scriptures prophesied would come. It is God’s righteousness made visible through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And now all who believe in Him receive that gift. For there is really no difference between us, for we all have sinned and are in need of the glory of God. Yet through his powerful declaration of acquittal, God freely gives away His righteousness. His gift of love and favor now cascades over us, all because Jesus, the Anointed One, has liberated us from the guilt, punishment, and power of sin! …. After all, is God the God of the Jews only, or is he equally the God for all of humanity? Of course, He’s the God of all people! Since there is only one God, He will treat us all the same–He eliminates our guilt and makes us right with Him by faith no matter who we are.”
Romans 3:21-24 & 29-30
 

I could write a novel (or 17) about today, but I promised myself I would try to keep this update reasonably short…but if the Scripture is any indication of the length of this blog, we’re in trouble. Buckle your seat belts…

That Scripture was part of my Bible reading today, and it could not have been timed any better. We started the day at Homa Bay Prison, a “minimum/maximum security” prison for men. We had the opportunity to join a couple hundred of the minimum security inmates for a church service, and it was something I won’t soon forget. Pastor Ken shared his story with them–several years back, he was taken to prison for stealing a chicken because his family had nothing to eat. He was sentenced to 4 years, and found himself feeling so hopeless that he tried to take his own life. Another inmate found him, stopped him, and told him about Jesus, and now Ken is a Pastor sharing hope with the men who are in exactly the same situation he used to be in.

 

Harry gave a sermon, and we were blessed to spend time praying over, and worshipping with, the group. At first we sat back and worshipped from afar, watching grown men (in what can hardly be called prison jumpsuits, what with the amount and the size of the gaping holes in the fabric) literally weep with their hands raised in praise of Jesus. But before long, we were able to move forward and lay hands on the prisoners, praying for healing, hope, and revival. I’ve never experienced the Holy Spirit in such a powerful way, and it was during this time that the Scripture from Romans 3 came to my mind.

I prayed over these men while the Spirit reminded me that there is no difference between the prisoners and myself, for we have ALL sinned and are ALL in need of the glory of God. And God has freely given us ALL His righteousness and His cascading gift of love and favor, and Jesus has liberated us ALL from the guilt, punishment, and power of sin. The God I serve is the same God they serve, and He treats us ALL the same, eliminating our guilt and making us right with Him by faith, no matter if we are American, Kenyan, prisoner, or child. How GREAT is our God??

At the end of our time, we had the privilege of handing out toilet paper and soap to each person–oh, how we take for granted the things in life that mean the world to these Kenyan prisoners. On the bus ride leaving the prison, I asked Pastor Joe how the Homa Bay Prison compares to prisons he has visited in America. He commented on how terrible the facilities are in Kenya compared to in America, how you won’t find a prisoner in the US who doesn’t even have soap or toilet paper. But the comment that really struck me was this: “The despair within prisons in the same wherever you go.”

Here’s the point in the blog where I wanted to quote Scripture about praying for and visiting people in prison, in order to spur us on to bring hope to prisoners back home, but the Bible talks SO MUCH about it that I couldn’t choose just one. Here’s a short list of Scripture to check out on this topic:

Hebrews 13:3 • Psalm 69:33 • Matthew 25:25-46 • Isaiah 61:1
Psalm 146:7 • Luke 4:18 • Psalm 79:11

(The list goes on and on…and when something is
in the Bible THAT MUCH, you can
assume pretty safely that it’s IMPORTANT.)

 

Okay, this isn’t as short as I was hoping but I promise we’re coming in for a landing here soon.

After the prison, we attended a church service at Pastor Michael’s church, and then had lunch at his home. The hospitality of Kenyans absolutely astounds me–Mary (Michael’s wife) and a small group of women must have toiled in the kitchen for hours and hours to prepare this amazing meal for us! Praise JESUS for delicious food, amen?!

From Michael’s, we headed to the last day of the Crusade. On the way there, we got caught in a torrential downpour, and it. was. AWESOME! The Kenyan people say that rain means God is pouring down His blessings, and let’s just say we were BLESSED beyond MEASURE today. The rain finally subsided, we got to pray over the hundreds of people in attendance, we danced and sang and worshiped, Sammy gave another great sermon (while some of us played with the hundreds of kids who quite literally would not leave our sides), and we danced and sang some more.

Throughout the Crusade, Romans 3 was continually at the forefront of my mind. Looking at the hundreds and hundreds of Kenyan faces around me, it would have been easy to get caught up in how different we are, how different our lives are. But in Christ’s eyes, we are all the same: we all need Jesus, and we all have free access to Him and His forgiveness and His love. And I think that’s a beautiful thing. The last thought I want to leave you with today comes from Pastor Joe and his reflections leaving the Crusade. We were chatting about the difference in style of worship in Kenya compared to in America, and Joe said this: “Here where they have so little, they rejoice so much, and back home where we have so much, we rejoice so little.”

So Jesus, we thank You. Thank You that we are all the same in Your eyes, that we are all forgiven and loved by You. Thank You that You have made us all so beautifully unique, but that we all have You in common. We pray for the prisoners in Kenya, in Spokane, and all over the world, that You would give them hope in a time that feels utterly hopeless, that You would overwhelm them with Your truth that they are righteous through faith in You, and that through You they are set free from the guilt, punishment, and power of sin. Jesus, we rejoice in Your mighty, glorious, all-powerful name, AMEN!

~Alicia