“Who is Jesus? Why did He come? And so what?” 9 pairs of eyes were captivated by the first questions of the facilitator after a rushed and confused welcome into a small room at a Men’s Correctional facility. As it was my first time to help facilitate a formal learning program, I was happy to sit back amongst the inmates, take notes, and allow my co-facilitator to do his thing.
On a large whiteboard was an image of a soccer stadium turned away from gazing eyes. He asked each of the men to go up and anonymously mark an X ‘where you see yourself in relationship to Jesus Christ, who is in the center of the field’.
When the whiteboard was flipped back in view of the class, I realised in that moment how significant this simple visual exercise was- every single red cross on that board mapped out my own spiritual journey with Christ. Part of being human is to face highs and lows in this life. In the times that we are low, it is imperative that we encourage each other to get back into ‘Christ’s stadium of love’. We’re all part of the same game. Each team member is equally as important, no matter what position they’re in.
No one is perfect in this world. We make good and bad choices. We don’t always bend to God’s will. We let go of His hand and hold tightly to another’s who may lead us astray. But with God’s grace, we survive. We endure. And often it’s when we think we’ve made the gravest mistakes that His presence is most deeply felt.
What matters is having a relationship with God. If we’re outside He will make the crumbles of our former selves whole by coaching us. Slowly but surely, by spending time with Him, He trains us with His love, and our painful times of loneliness become a journey into God’s care.
In this first lesson, I could see the hand of the Holy Spirit in all this- the sheer silence, open-eyed desire to know more about Jesus, and listening to the men share their stories- it was very humbling! These are not men to be feared, rejected, or despised. These are men we need to be hopeful for; these are our brothers in Christ.
Through my regular visits to this centre, The Prisoner’s Journey program has allowed me to see more clearly that it is not my own hand, but the hand of God who steers the hearts of men towards Him. I have learned not to worry about the ‘how’s, but to allow God to work through the tools He has given me – The Prisoner’s Journey program – and to know that whatever we do He will turn into a goal on that soccer field.
Johanna – Prison Fellowship NSW Volunteer