By Gabriela Resto-Montero
HARLEM — She has a lot to be grateful for.
Afrika Owes, the former prep-school student charged with ferrying guns for a Harlem street gang, returned home to the church that secured her freedom Easter Sunday.
Walking out of Abyssinian Baptist Church after attending two morning services, 17-year-old Owes, who was released from jail last week after the church posted her $25,000 bail, said she was happy to be back.
"I'm grateful for God and my church," said Owes, a former student at Massachusetts' prestigious Deerfield Academy who used to sing in the church's children's choir.
The church, where Owes and her mother are still members, has stood by the teenager since her arrest for allegedly holding guns for the "2 Mafia Family" and "Goons on Deck" street gangs in February.
Abyssinian representatives first tried to bail Owes in March, but had to wait for Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Edward McLaughlin to make a decision after he expressed concern that they were using "money off a collection plate."
Along with the outspoken support of the church's pastor, Rev. Calvin Butts, who preached about Owes in a sermon, Rep. Charles Rangel called for the teen's release and said that she shouldn't be treated as a hardened criminal.
Back in Harlem, church members shouted "welcome home" to Owes as she greeted her fellow parishioners Sunday.
Wearing an all-white Easter Sunday suit and holding a bible, Owes said the happiness of being back home was visible on her face.
"You can quote me for my smile," she said.