Growing Farmers from Inmates

12 Sep

Picture of young inmates in prison in Kenya
Young inmates in a Kenyan prison

Growing Farmers from Inmates

Jerry’s second trip blog from Kenya

Dear Family,

I’d never expected to be preaching in a prison all the way in Africa, but there I was, telling a bunch of incarcerated kids about my story, and how Jesus rescued me. But what does Farming God’s Way have to do with those in prison?

Let me answer that by first saying that one of the coolest things about Heaven’s Family is that it contains so many other ministries, each dealing with unique pressing needs that Jesus cares deeply about. This allows us great opportunities to collaborate—and that means more fruitfulness for donors like you. That’s why my visit to Kenya also included Bob Collins, the director of Heaven’s Family’s Prison & Rehab Ministry. Our joint trip is a perfect example of how HF ministry directors like Bob and me often join forces to impact more lives than any of us could on our own.

Brother Bob came to visit his ongoing work in Kenyan prisons—where for many years he’s helped donors bring the gospel to hungry young men (receiving great favor from the government)—and knowing that I once did a little jail time myself, he invited me to minister to those same youth.

As Bob and I talked about the situation of these young men, and the few opportunities they’ll have when released, the more we began to realize God’s angle—and it blew us away.

First, understand the reason many of these young people are in prison is because they come from broken and extremely poor families. They fled their rural villages with hopes of finding jobs in the bigger towns, but soon learned there weren’t as many opportunities as they had expected. And with minimal skills, guidance and opportunity, they resorted to crime to survive.

But second, what they don’t realize is this: when they fled their villages they fled great opportunity…farming! In Africa, 85% of adults are subsistence farmers, which means they survive by eating what they grow. Not very exciting stuff for young men. But just imagine growing up and seeing extremely poor farmers all around you who never see prosperity, and year after year are unable to provide enough for their families. So it follows: if you never saw a successful farmer it makes perfect sense that you wouldn’t want to be a farmer!

And last, the exciting part. As Bob and I discussed this “hidden” opportunity for these young men in prison, we talked more and more about the potential to train them in Farming God’s Way. Utilizing key scriptures, management principles, and good old-fashioned hard work, we agreed, would make a perfect setting for disciple making, setting these guys up for success in all aspects of life!

Farming God’s Way Ministry is facing a challenge, however: we need more trainers (disciples that make disciples). Our current trainers are constantly traveling to train poor farmers and doing their best to raise faithful disciples, like the ones I mentioned in my first trip blog (click here to read). But if we can get Farming God’s Way into the prisons so these youth could be discipled and receive hands-on agricultural training, they could taste and see how this technology can transform their own lives, as well as those in their villages. Then, when they are released from prison, they could return home as farmer-trainers in their communities to practice, teach and train the people they love and care about. They could become wildly successful farmers using sustainable, prosperous FGW methods, just like we’re seeing elsewhere in Africa.

And then Bob Collins provided an opportunity for me to meet with a woman who controls all the curriculum that enters the prisons! She joined us for a visit to a boys youth prison in Kakamega, where I had the incredible opportunity to minister and rap to 350 young men (check out the video at https://youtu.be/9jX4qt58MMQ). I shared with this woman how we have been using the biblical keys and management principles with the young people we work with on our urban farm in New Kensington, PA. We talked about the principles that can be drawn from Farming God’s Way to help these young inmates become responsible, productive citizens…and for each to find a future free of crime.

Picture of Jerry Jefferson in Kenya prison
My captive audience (watch the video at https://youtu.be/9jX4qt58MMQ)

As a result of that meeting, this woman gave us the go-ahead to start a pilot program at Philemon House, an aftercare facility for youth offenders. We conducted a one-day Farming God’s Way training there on our last day in Kenya. This was the highlight of my trip, and I’ll share more about that in my next update—so stay tuned!

You are changing lives in Africa (and here at home in the inner city of New Kensington, PA), and I’m thrilled to be your representative.

Grace and peace,

Jerry Jefferson
Director, Farming God’s Way Ministry

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