First of all we do not want to cause concern so we need to let you know right off that we are not in prison. However, this past Saturday the varsity volleyball team made our annual trip to the maximum security prison in Naivasha, a town close by. This is a very interesting trip as we drive up to the prison with thirty foot high walls and enter inside. We find that there are over three thousand inmates in a prison built for one thousand five hundred. They are “housed” in six block buildings that look like they are built to withstand full on riots. Inmates go to meals in shifts according to block cells and very rarely do they all congregate in the central area. Today was a different day as it was “prizes from the duty officer” day and, of course, we were there to play volleyball.
Claustrophobia sets in as we are led to a smaller area, still with thirty foot high walls, where a volleyball court is set up. The question is, “what if the ball goes over the wall?” That feeling of being trapped is all around as we look up and see a guard tower looming over the playing area. Not knowing what the monotony of prison life is really like we start warming up as a few hundred inmates file in to watch. The feeling of intimidation is hard to describe – maybe it is more fear than anything else. The guard in charge walks over to me and says that he wants me to be the referee. “Wow”, I said, “what if I make a bad call”. He just chuckles and walks away after handing me a whistle. We soon settle into playing and have a pretty good time even though we are beat by guys who have pretty much played volleyball every day for the past five, ten, maybe fifteen years. Sure enough the ball goes over the wall only to magically reappear back over by some anonymous thrower on the other side.
The inmates that we met that day where in prison for some serious crimes. It is scary knowing that some are there for committing murder and assault but we have to ask ourselves who goes to talk to these people and show them God’s love? We make a feeble attempt to reach out and play with them and the inmates that we meet are craving contact with the outside world. For many, just talking to them and showing that we care enough to talk to them will satisfy a need. The Bible says that the whole world is a prisoner of sin and that we are held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed (Galations 3:22-23). We just saw the physical resemblance of it as the walls were so high that we could not see anything but straight up. Maybe it was symbolic as that is where our eyes should be turned when we are prisoners in order to be set free.
Our trip today also reminded me of the passage in the Bible where Jesus talks about the sheep and goats in Matthew 25. He says that whatever we do for the least of these brothers we do for him. One of my players, after playing, gave the pair of shoes that he had been wearing to an inmate. How many of us would do that? This is a challenge that speaks to me, maybe more than it does to others, but could you give someone in need a pair of shoes or some clothing from right off of your body and walk away with less than what you had to begin with? This is more than just dropping it off in an anonymous donation box but doing it face to face. How hard would that be for some of us? One of my students did it and did not think twice about it. I love working at RVA for this very reason – faith and works in action.
Here are some more pictures of our time there. As you look at them maybe it would be a good time to think about what you could do for the least of these around you or around the world.