When the training day for leaders to run The Prisoner’s Journey was announced, I went along out of obligation and expected the usual annual “rev up” that I had attended many times. It started out like any normal training day with notebooks and introductions. As the course unfolded, I thought to myself, “This is new and involves everyone from the start”. However, I was still not prepared for the huge impact that this course was to have both on myself and on the cohort of inmates at the prison.
As this course is rolled out across Australia, I have no doubt that we will hear many tales similar to my own. The inmates at our prisons are a microcosm of the broader society from which they come. We have people in our prisons from different ethnicities and different religious journeys, both in their home country and their adopted home. Some are from a variety of Christian denominations, some from Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist cultures, and others from atheist or agnostic backgrounds.
I have seen various techniques used over the years to present the Gospel, and the results over the years have been mixed. We have seen some victories, and we are grateful for God’s grace and celebrate with each and every one of the inmates who find new life and freedom in Christ. The Prisoner’s Journey was on a new level. The inmates were actively engaged from the very first session, and all of them remained engaged over the entire course.
We saw a real, tangible, spiritual impact in every participant. People who thought they were something great were humbled, the fearful were made confident, the doubters were filled with faith, the faith of those who are already believers was increased, and people from non-Christian backgrounds became Spirit-filled believers.
Some of these new believers are now equipped to reach out to other inmates who are still openly hostile to the Gospel. I believe that this will have a leavening effect in the prison, among those who are hardened against religion, when others start to see something real. Not religion but relationship – upwards to God, outwards to others, and inwards as seen in character transformations in the individuals who were privileged to undertake The Prisoner’s Journey.
There is proof that this change is real and permanent! These men have already made lifelong changes to their behaviour by becoming accountable to one another, and praying together on a regular basis throughout the week!