Friends of Ashley
Ashley Youth Detention Centre is Tasmania’s only Juvenile Justice Centre. The chaplain, James, shares his hopes and prayers for the young men he meets with to pray and share the Gospel. James is honest about his challenges, but says he joyfully serves Jesus through the trials.
How have you seen God working in the lives of inmates at Ashley Youth Detention Centre?
We praise God for the many opportunities to pray with inmates and share the Gospel. Unfortunately we are not always well received, as the name of Jesus is quite confrontational, but we know that our consistency in demonstrating the love of Christ speaks volumes.
What has been a challenging situation where you saw God work?
The other day I enjoyed a chance to share the Gospel openly with Jacob. Jacob is a typical fast-speaking 16 year old with ADHD. I spent over an hour with him while we enjoyed a few vigorous games of table tennis.
In conversation, Jacob revealed that he had suffered sexual abuse at an early age from an older relative, which had become a trigger point for his anger and frustration.
Interestingly, Jacob had a tattoo of the cross on his hand! When asked why, Jacob shared about his close friend who had died in a car accident, and that the tattoo is in memory of her. Jacob knew vaguely the real meaning of the cross, Jesus, and gave me an opportunity to explain further. I described how Jesus came into the world to restore us to God, and that He has real healing power, offering peace and forgiveness to those who come to Him. Sadly, Jacob was not interested in discussing this further, so I encouraged him to cry out to Jesus when he was alone in his room.
What inspired you to minister in the lives of youth in detention?
Being born again in Christ! God opened my eyes to the truth about what I was without Jesus, and gave me the greatest hope when I cried out to Him to save me.
I’ve never looked back after that – the Word of God became living and the call to visit those in prison challenged me.
I have, over the years, changed my view rather radically, as I previously viewed these kids as just being in need of discipline. I believe that discipline is necessary, but I have realised these young men are often from broken homes and have not had a father figure to relate to, largely due to marriage breakdowns. When a 17 year old is upset because he can’t understand why he loves his Mum and Dad yet they can’t love each other, it often causes anger and disillusionment early in their life.
What can Prison Fellowship supporters be praying for?
- Pray for Brendon, who runs a weekly skateboarding program. Brendon has opportunity to share life skills and also has contacts for post-release employment through a retail shop.
- Pray for Tomo who takes guys out on the job as a renderer for a half day.
- Pray that inmates will ask God to be their Father during these difficult times.
- Pray for the love of Christ to drive us; that we will be sensitive to the young men we meet with.