My name is Benni* and I am nearly 30 years old. I am currently incarcerated in a maximum security prison.
Growing up I was taught morals, manners and respect. I excelled in primary school but by Year 9 I decided that I was tired of being good. Maybe it was the single incident of sexual abuse or maybe it was watching my older brother being bullied throughout his school life. I didn’t want to be a victim so I decided to be the polar extreme. I became what I was scared of.
I ‘met’ God when I was 16. I was attracted to a Christian girl and asked her out. She rejected me. So I asked to go to church with her. I was not genuine but used it as a way to be with her. When I went I got ‘goose bumps’ all over my body and thought “Maybe this God dude is real”. I kept going to youth group on Fridays and church on Sundays.
I felt like a black sheep but at least I was a sheep.
I became a Christian, was baptized and played in the youth group band. For about a year I was truly happy. I had a romantic notion of going to Afghanistan to hand out Bibles, be killed and become a martyr for God’s cause. When it didn’t happen I became angry with God and fell away.
I started using drugs and very quickly became an addict, I ended up homeless and was imprisoned for armed robbery. I bargained with God to “Let me go home and I’ll be good”. Instead of the 4 years I was expecting, God gave me a suspended sentence!
It was a miracle.
18 months later the same thing happened – again the charges were miraculously dropped.
My drug use took me to a house, one thing led to another, and by the end of the night a man was dead. I had killed him.
In my first few years in prison my behaviour was out of control. I was ostracized and for a whole year nobody spoke to me in the unit. I cried out to God and began reading the Bible.
God used this time to rebuild me into His creation. When I got moved from that unit into a different area with more freedom, amazingly, I was given a single cell and a job in the prison chapel.
As a result of this I have been heavily involved in the Prison Fellowship programs and have been a mentor and peer facilitator on many The Prisoner’s Journey courses.
God has completely transformed my life.
He has turned my mistakes into a beautiful testimony that has enabled me to do His work within the prison walls. I now have work to do for His Name and His Kingdom and all the glory goes to God.
“A volunteer who has been on a few programs with Benni has heard him share many times how God is actively working in his life, growing him into the man God wants him to be. They said his understanding and way of expressing God’s grace, total acceptance and love to the other inmates, with a very practical picture of what that looks like in a prison environment, is profound. His prayer life is bringing about dramatic changes to his way of thinking and behaving and is in direct contrast to his old ways.”