Clarity of purpose - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Summer 2024 newsletter


Francis Wayne, Kenya

“Education is the key to success.” Francis Wayne at a bus of the Shimo La Tewa prison in Mombasa, Kenya.

The second “marking period” (second semester) has begun at schools here in Kenya, although heavy rains have delayed it in some parts of the country. Many areas have flooded, especially along the riverbanks where many poor squatters live.

I live on the East coast of Kenya where the rains have affected traveling, but we have not experienced extreme flooding. Drainage is poor in our area, as it is in most areas of Kenya, and new construction on the main highway has made traveling unpredictable. School break has been extended indefinitely.

At the prison where I teach, they may follow the mandate or they may not, so I have to be prepared to teach on my usual schedule. I teach at Borstal, a juvenile detention facility for boys ages 15 to 19. These boys each have three-year sentences but can have them reduced by learning discipline and education.

Lesson planning for math

I teach high school math and auto mechanics 101, theory and practical. At the start of the second semester, a few young student teachers have arrived to start their practical studies; three of them are math teachers. What that means for me is that it reduces my time in math class, handing over the responsibilities to the practicing new student teachers.

Now I teach math on Wednesdays for one to two hours, and a student teacher may observe how I teach. No student teachers arrived to learn to teach auto mechanics. Now I teach auto mechanic theory and practical for three hours each day on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays.

Tuesdays I go to nearby Mtwapa to learn Kiswahili for two and a half hours. I have been teaching at Borstal almost a year now. I moved from Ukunda, south of Mombasa, to Majaoni, north of Mombasa, last August. I have entered all the different facilities at Shimo La Tewa: the men’s maximum-security, the men’s medium-security called Anex, the women’s medium-security; and Borstal, the boys’ medium-security facility.

After one year almost all the staff at Shimo La Tewa Prison know me (I’m the only white volunteer at the prison). Many now call me Francis or Mwalimu (teacher) instead of mzungu (white foreigner).

Teaching is difficult with these boys because many have little or no previous education. Many do not speak English, which is the language used in Kenyan schools.

To help with student comprehension, I write the lesson on the board and slowly read each word using Kiswahili on the words I can translate, doing this twice. Then I ask for a student volunteer, one with English and Kiswahili vocabulary comprehension to teach the lesson on the board. The students are more attentive to this part of the lesson coming from their peer.

A Personal Protective Equipment lesson on the blackboard

Mechanic practical is similar, dividing the students into groups with one leader who can explain more clearly than I. It seems to work. I stress cognitive exercises, reading, writing and asking questions. I say, “If I am writing on the board, you are writing in your notebooks, and if I am speaking, you are listening.”

There is resistance, after all the students are detained, most for three years. So, I struggle with success and purpose. But the next morning is the start of a new day, and somehow I imagine leading with my heart. My mind will soon step in and will want to preside, it feels it must follow the plan, but I am determined to let my heart lead.

After teaching, I walk home, passing through Anex, the men’s medium security facility. I stop at the Anex café for a nourishing bowl of soupy brown beans and greens, with chapati and chai. The Mama at the front table, who is finely chopping greens, and the very patient waitress address me as Francis.

Once a month I drop off bath bars of soap for the 85 inmates at Anex Industry. At the Industry the men weave baskets and make small furniture. Sometimes I deliver packaged half loaves of bread to the men before they start their work day at 8 a.m.

I also attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) three times a week. AA is being developed on the coast of Kenya by the official regional AA Intergroup CAAKE (Coast AA Kenya), led by fellow Maryknoll lay missioner Megan Hamilton. I attend the Friday English-speaking group held at the Mombasa Hospital, the Saturday morning English-speaking group held at a rehabilitation center in Nyali, and I attend the Saturday Kiswahili-speaking meeting held for the boys incarcerated at Borstal.

During the first half of April, I traveled to India. I went to Meherabad, India, about 400 kilometers southeast from Mumbai. I was there on a spiritual retreat, staying at the Meher Pilgrim Retreat Center. Spiritual Master Meher Baba’s (1895-1969) tomb is there. I joined others praying at the Samadhi at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily. I also took day trips to visit the grave sights of other saints in the area, of which the most notable is Shirdi Sai Baba (1838? -1918), the Muslim Perfect Master, still alive during the early years of Meher Baba.

For those 18 days, I fought a cold, fasted a few days because I just wasn’t hungry, ate all vegetarian foods, rested, traveled short distances, lost my wallet and prayed at the Samadhi every day.

I was hoping I would be “floating on a cloud” during this retreat, but I didn’t. I experienced all the discomforts of traveling while sick. Yet I know my heart has changed. The residual effect of the pilgrimage to Meher Baba’s Samadhi will supply me with clarity to my purpose and connection to God for a long time. Love is in the air!

If you are able, please give generously to Maryknoll Lay Missioners. We do God’s work.

Francis Wayne

Please consider supporting my prison ministry in Mombasa with a donation through the link below.

I also invite you to walk with me as a “COMPANION IN MISSION.” Companions in Mission are friends and generous donors who give financial gifts on a regular (usually monthly) basis. For more information, visit Become a Companion in MissionThank you so much for your generosity! 


Francis Wayne
Francis Wayne teaches auto mechanics and math at Shimo La Tewa Prison in Mombasa, Kenya. This is his second term as a Maryknoll lay missioner. He previously served from 1993 until 1996, also in Kenya.