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Stealing from the dead was Kibera’s main occupation

John Kibera is a man on a mission to turn young people from crime.

The former grave robber- turned preacher has been using the tales of his life to persuade them to make an honest living.

He was among the most wanted criminals before he made the decision to turn his life around. Kibera, 40 said he was part of an eight-man gang that had been raiding graves in and outside the county to steal coffins and any other valuables they could find on the dead. They would then leave the corpses in the open.

“On my last robbery, we were pursued by police. I hid in a coffin to escape the manhunt,” said Kibera.

He continued: “I had a change of heart when all my friends were shot dead and I was the only one alive.”

Stop running

With the police on his trail, he said he decided to stop running and surrendered in 2003. He was prosecuted at the Makadara Law court.

“I knew if I did not plead guilty, I would end up like my friends. I was sentenced to six months in Industrial Area Prison,” he said.

Since his release, he has been on the streets telling the tales of his life in crime and every time, the audience is hooked to his escapades.

He has opened a church, Mwangaza Ministries, but he said he preferred to spread his message from the streets where the youths frequent.

His favourite spot is the open space outside the Kenya National Archives.

“I want to do for the young people what no one did for me. I may not assure them of a place in heaven, but life in the church will save them from the policeman’s bullet,” he said.

During the day, he runs a grocery with his wife in Kileleshwa where he also lives. In the evening, he boards a matatu to the city centre to capture the attention of people coming from work places.

He said he had also written a book about his experiences. The same is also captured on audio CDs which he sells during his sermons.

“I sell the book for Sh500 and the CD for Sh100. It is not purely commercial as they are meant to help people make sense of God’s word and learn from my experience,” said Mr Kibera.

He said his church was different. “We offer all the freedom in life. After services we dine and drink with the men while the women are allowed to go home,” he said.