Simon* is in prison. He has been in prison for a while! He describes his lifestyle before he went ‘inside’ as, “a life of drugs, violence and crime.” He freely admits that he has not always been a ‘good guy’, even in prison. There were times when he was plain nasty, standing over people and pushing others around.
There were also times when he pretended to be a Christian just so that he could have a pen pal with whom to correspond. He credits the generosity and the good heart of his pen pal as catalysts for what happened next.
January 5th, 2018 was “conversion day”… Simon is very specific! The previous night he had been reading his Bible and rather liked the idea of being a Christian. On the night of the 5th, however, this vague thought became a reality. In his cell he was hearing footsteps and felt an evil spirit touching him.
“It was the scariest night of my life.” In fear and hope, “I cried out to Jesus and I was relieved at once. I knew immediately – This is real.” From the next morning he began his spiritual journey and he says, “I am the happiest I have ever been. I have different desires and paths to follow. I really want whatever God’s will is for me.”
Simon is not historically or by nature a sportsman. Before prison his sporting experiences were confined to footy and cricket at school. However, the prison has sports facilities which inmates can access, including a basketball court, and it was here that he met the SLAM team. SLAM (Sport Lights a Message) is a Prison Fellowship sporting outreach to inmates in Victoria and there are a number of SLAM teams throughout the state.
A minibus load of volunteers arrives on Saturday morning to spend the day playing basketball against inmates. There are four playing sessions, each one hour in duration, and a different unit of the prison takes part each session. At the end of each session someone from the unit will be nominated ‘best & fairest’ and get the treasured prize – a bottle of Gatorade! During each visit there is an opportunity for a SLAM team member to give a testimony.
Simon gravitated to the members of the SLAM team, not primarily because of basketball, but more as an opportunity to be around other Christians and to share his testimony. Imagine the feelings that ran through Simon when he was invited by Darryl to share his testimony on the next SLAM visit!! At first he was sceptical…. but the idea grew on him.
He decided not to write out his speech but to just speak as led by God. He was very nervous but he really wanted to share what God had given him and to tell other inmates that they could have it also. Remember – his audience was “the boys” with whom he lived and from whom he could not escape…. a daunting thought. Everyone watched him and listened and a few boys even said: “Good on ya!” It was a very special and positive experience.
Simon’s mission in the prison has widened and each week on a Tuesday afternoon he meets up with a few boys to share Bible readings. “Coming to the Lord is the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m grateful and keen to learn more. Also – a big thanks to Prison Fellowship!”
– Kevin, Prison Fellowship volunteer writer