The end of April 2024 marked my 10th month in detention at Makala Central Prison in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Each day passes, leaving the impression that I will be free tomorrow. I know the day I hope for will finally come, because I have put my hope in the Master of times and circumstances. As he says in Matthew 25:31–46, he is also detained with me here. When he is done with detention, he will lead the way to my freedom. My hope is built on that rock.

I was arrested in a legally irregular process. During the time I was falsely accused of calling people in my Eastern DRC region to arms, I was on a video (which my lawyers have submitted) promoting the Nairobi Process’ call for a cease-fire. In fact, I was part of that process and I have long been dedicated to achieving peace and development.

After being shifted from prison to prison and finally to Makala, I joined an Assemblies of God chaplaincy and a team of ordained prisoners who minister here with the help of donations and resources that we are able to receive.

Early on, I asked the committee about starting a literacy class in the prison due to the huge number of people who don’t know how to read and write. The initiative caught the attention of authorities and many people with a humane spirit.

About 100 people, men and women, boys and girls, are now benefiting from the program, and over 50 have now learned to read, write, and calculate. One adult student said, “I never expected that I would learn how to read and write in prison. Thank you for this initiative.” Many of those that haven’t had the opportunity to go to school are from the Kinshasa region and grew up as kuluna (street children).

When someone in jail learns how to hold a pencil and reaches a stage of writing, reading, and calculating, I feel like making a song to the Lord, the master of times and circumstances.

One child detainee asked the teacher, “Why can’t we have the program run every day? Learning is good for us. It also helps me to remain busy.”

Another adult said, “Now I need a Bible that I can read for myself.”

There are Bibles that we have successfully distributed. They make an impact not only in Bible study groups but also on evangelism teams. I have witnessed teams moving from cell to cell with Bibles, reading and sharing verses.

Besides the literacy classes, in April, we also initiated a skills training class on making soap, detergent, and disinfectant for 54 students. The teacher is also a detainee. We are able to use these products to help improve our own sanitary conditions.

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Other initiatives include a tree planting project, a climate change course, and a class on making paint and pigment.

A program on the theology of work, which I teach, has also extended outside of the prison. One of our detained students was released weeks ago and, surprisingly, secured a new job in the government. He called me to request the syllabus, saying, “I want to use it to mobilize the provincial parliament members to learn and apply it.”

Another person said, “What I like about this is that you don’t only teach about spiritual salvation; it also touches physical needs.”

I felt very much encouraged. There are so many things to talk about, as God never stops surprising us with his “jokes.” He makes us smile.

On the chaplains’ committee, we confront problems to solve daily, even if our own issues are not yet resolved. There are those who lack means for basic needs such as clothing, food, and medication. I have seen more than a dozen people who needed money to resolve their legal cases. Once they were able to provide the money, they were freed.

In particular, I remember how a family of five, detained for over ten months, was released and went home after we donated the necessary funds.

In another example, the director of music here at our church in Makala sat in my little room and explained his financial problem. When a solution was found, he cried with joy and said, “I have been singing to bless the church, and today I am blessed too!”

Being a prisoner does not make me less human. I continue to dream, to be creative, and to be a person who can turn circumstances into opportunities. I am made to positively impact my environment.

Grace has been mine; I have pleasant roommates, which is a blessing—we share everything, and that builds our faith, hope, and friendship.

Moreover, I pass time tending to my plant nursery in the room. I eat fruits and keep their seeds, which I put in plastic water bottles. This has also been a good way of procuring peace of mind.

As I tell my roommates and my theology of work class, nature is our relative. My conversation with the environment dates way back to the 1970s with my small shamba (farm) of potatoes. The area still carries my name, “mukwa Lazaro” (at Lazare’s).

When I was arrested, my medicine was left behind. Later on, my medicine was brought and shown to me, but it was never given to me to use. Without that medicine, I have still survived, even though I experience many health issues with no appropriate medical attention. Through all these circumstances, God has been my healer and protector.

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It is easy to be stressed with unbearable living conditions. I can think like the apostle Paul, How come I minister to the needs of others, and yet my own case is unresolved and my needs unmet? But my answer is already written:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Cor. 12:8–9)

I feel that the work of this ministry is firm, and that it’s now time to go back home.

Lazare Sebitereko Rukundwa, an Assemblies of God member, founded Eben-Ezer University of Minembwe in South Kivu, DRC. He was a civil society delegate during the Inter-Congolese Peace Consultations in Nairobi. His family and the people of Minembwe await his release.

[ This article is also available in Français. ]