“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:13-16
While in many southern parts of Australia it is cold and wet, in the Northern Territory it is the dry season. On this particular Saturday morning it was a glorious day. The well-watered bright yellow and crimson flowers were a welcoming delight throughout the prison, on an otherwise bare orange coloured earth and high security walls.
To match the atmosphere prison staff seemed more relaxed than at other times. After a short time for setting up and prayer, our Prison Fellowship team welcomed 19 inmates who were delighted to join us.
Isaiah*, who had been with the team before and proved gifted on the guitar, eagerly asked if he could play the guitar as soon as he spotted it. Our team leader happily obliged, thus we didn’t need the laptop music but randomly chose songs from the worship books. Songs about “Spirit” and “Land” and “country style” tunes have always been popular among the inmates.
Our team leader offered for anyone willing to lead in prayer and Josiah*, who is an enthusiastic regular and a leader among the inmates, jumped at the invitation.
Josiah said he would pray in his language. One could sense the passion in his voice, with a lot of “Amen” from the rest of us.
The speaker then led his well-planned lesson on “How God Talks to Us” focusing on well-known great preachers/prophets, Jonah and Paul of the Bible, who received clear instructions from God.
The offer was given for someone to read, and Sam* readily read sections of Jonah and then later sections of Acts. The men may have seen themselves reflected in the life of Jonah. By not following God’s command and getting himself into trouble, Jonah had time, while trapped inside a fish, to think things through and repent. Amazingly, God then had him spat out exactly where he was meant to go in the first place, and there he became of great purpose to God and others.
It was also discussed that Paul spent time in jail himself on false accusations, but used that time wisely by singing hymns and sharing the good news to other inmates.
A final song was sung and prayer time led by Prison Fellowship volunteers Victor and Yvonne.
None of the men seemed quick to leave and they all shook hands with us as we individually farewelled each other.
It’s a small team in Darwin but word is getting out, and others from the local churches are signing up. We thank God for this opportunity to run chapel services in Darwin Correctional Centre but we know this can only be achieved through the prayers and support of the faithful throughout Australia. Thank you!