“Eight years ago I was a practitioner at a family relationships centre. I used to drive past a women’s prison every day on my way to work. One day while passing the prison, God said to me, ‘there is a connection there.’ I was worried and prayed, ‘no way, I don’t want to be in there, I’ll be really good!’ At this point in time I was unaware of Prison Fellowship.
“Years later, a lady at church shared about Prison Fellowship, and invited me to come to a volunteers’ morning tea. I went and it connected the dots for me and that this was something I needed to do.”
Charnay has now completed three sessions as a facilitator of The Prisoner’s Journey course. She says that when she first went into prison, she wasn’t sure how she would feel. “But I do love people and feel quite a burden for the broken-hearted,” she says. “All I felt for those ladies was love.”
The turning point in Charnay’s own life came fifteen years ago. “I was a single mum of a three-year-old daughter.” Overwhelmed, Charnay turned to a dear friend who encouraged her to seek Jesus. “The Lord strengthened me, and I have become so much closer to him in relationship. Sometimes we make him savior but not Lord, that is, to put him first over everything.” Charnay’s experience of God’s closeness to her has influenced how she speaks with prisoners.
“When I went in on the first day it was quite incredible. One of the prisoners, Lily*, came to the session but wasn’t saying much at all – only her name when we went around the room. After the video, the Lord prompted me to say, ‘On this journey you’ll get to know Jesus, who he is and why he came. I’d like to say that when we do get to know him and have a relationship with him, you’ll never feel alone.’ Lily just burst into tears and said she had been feeling so lonely. She had been inside for nine months and had not had one visitor. It touched her heart that Jesus doesn’t want her to feel alone.”
Being new to Prison Fellowship, Charnay is unsure what the future holds. She has done three sessions so far, and says, “I’m just so new. At this stage I’m just enjoying the opportunity to go in and run The Prisoner’s Journey and see how it all goes. I’m excited that there is another course booked for later in the year. [Going to prison] is the day I look forward to more than any other day! It’s a privilege to share God’s Word!”
*Name has been changed