Twenty-five years ago, Prison Fellowship volunteers began bringing comfort, compassion, and God’s love to inmates at the Downing Centre Cell Complex in Sydney’s CBD.
Over the past year, the Lord has brought some exciting changes to this important ministry. In June 2016, Corrective Services approached Team Leaders Barry and Fay Dalton asking them to extend the ministry by providing tea and coffee to inmates waiting in the cells. Trusting in the Lord’s provision, the Daltons and the Downing Centre team took up the challenge.
The power of this simple act of love has been astounding!
Court staff have noticed a change in those in custody. Inmates are much calmer and happier from being treated with dignity and compassion. Court staff have become so much friendlier and are grateful that the inmates are easier to manage. Staff are even offering to help and thanking the team for being there and making their job easier.
Soon after the coffee and tea began, inmates in the holding cells started to request biscuits. A big request in this environment. Again, the Lord cleared the path and Barry and Fay were allowed to provide biscuits. The Lord even provided the funds to get started – around $3000 p.a.
And the biscuits have been of great encouragement to inmates. An inmate recently asked if he could have another biscuit during morning tea. Tongue-in-cheek, a volunteer replied, “only if you don’t tell my boss!”…. the inmate smirked back, “God’s your boss!… he would be pleased…don’t worry…”
Another challenge – the current team of 4 volunteers could not take on this huge task, so Barry and Fay launched an extensive drive for volunteers. According to Barry, “we now have 18 people on our roster and are covering nearly every court day at the Downing Centre Cell Complex. Even though we still have two or three days not covered, we are currently serving in excess of 1000 cups of tea/coffee each month.”
In June this year, the new team were commissioned at St Mary’s Church, Erskineville.
Barry and Faye – Prison Fellowship Volunteers
Downing Centre Volunteers Commissioning Service – Barry Dalton (Team Leader), Pearl Wymarra (PF Council), and Alasdair Webster (PF Patron)
Richard Feeney, NSW State Manager, shares one of many stories of the way God uses the Downing Centre team:
Recently a young inmate at Parklea Correctional Centre shared how he was at one of the lowest points in his life while he was at the Downing Centre Court Complex awaiting his trial.
One of our volunteers came by and with a polite voice offered him a tea or coffee and then handed him a Prison Fellowship brochure.
The inmate still has that brochure as a sign that God hadn’t given up on him and gave him hope.
Today, this man’s journey is not over. He is now involved in “The Prisoners Journey” course and is bringing other guys to the course and helping with the weekly administration.