Highs and Lows

Is God’s grace vast enough for a significant moral failing?

So often we hear stories of seemingly instant transformation. ‘My life was like that, then I met Jesus, now my life is different.’

What about those who’ve always known? The ones who were already in a relationship with God at the time of their incarceration? Somehow, God’s grace for existing Christians can sometimes be more challenging to comprehend. 

But the grace of God for these kinds of transformation is just as powerful. Prison Fellowship volunteer Victor helps to run a fortnightly chapel service in a Northern Territory prison, and also facilitates The Prisoner’s Journey courses. Many of the men he speaks with have this kind of testimony. 

“Stephen* was a Christian before The Prisoner’s Journey, but had turned his back on the Lord and was in for a long time,” says Victor. “He stood out to us when we first met him, because during the course he was fully engaged. He did all the exercises. We could see he wasn’t just answering on the surface level.” 

After completing The Prisoner’s Journey course, Stephen decided to be baptised. He spoke with the chaplain, who arranged for Stephen’s pastor from outside prison to come and hold the service. Unfortunately, the baptism was unable to take place, but Stephen still used the opportunity to share his testimony. He told his story in front of his pastor, the chaplain, Prison Fellowship volunteers, two family members, and the inmates who attended the service. 

To everyone’s surprise, two of these inmates asked to be baptised too! It turns out that these two men had been quietly attending chapel services for some time, but had not been known to Victor and the team. “I kicked myself, thinking I should recognise them!” laments Victor. 

But God recognised them. 

While these two slipped under the radar, God had been quietly working in their own journeys. The chaplain has now been able to spend some time meeting with these men and hopefully all three baptisms will go ahead in the near future. 

“With God, disappointment can turn out to be good, because Stephen wasn’t able to be baptised yet, but now these two can also be baptised!” says Victor. 

Victor has been encouraged to see other inmates continue their journey of faith. “We never know when they are released, but it is so nice when they recognise me at the local market! 

“Peter* had such an infectious big smile. He had always attended all the workshops we ran. When we first met him, he was someone who wanted to make a change. He had a Christian background, went to church as a child, and went to a Christian school.”

Peter made choices that landed him in jail. But that wasn’t the end of his story. 

“When we met him, he said, ‘No more. No more coming back here.’ He made sure he was at every session of The Prisoner’s Journey and has now been released. When I saw him at the market, he jumped for joy!! He bowled over to me and said, ‘I’m going home! I want you to come preach there!’”

Victor assured Peter that he would love to visit him, but the baton has now been passed on. 

“You are the preacher now,” Victor told him. 

– Joanna Mann, Staff Writer

*Names have been changed