Appreciating Every Good Thing
“They put their Bibles in plastic bags,” Douglas said. “They have Bible study in the prison on Saturday afternoon, but they told me, ‘It was a bit wet!’ They had sat in the rain to do their study! They put their Bibles in plastic bags to protect them. Sometimes they even save up their money to buy those mini Wagon Wheels biscuits to give out at Bible study. Their dedication really puts us to shame.”
Douglas has been visiting a Sydney prison regularly for 18 months. He has spent a great deal of time with a group of inmates who run their own Bible study in their unit. One of the men from the group, Ken*, became a Christian in prison, before recently being released. Douglas is thankful for the chance to walk with Ken in his parole and transition to freedom.
“The first 24 hours are really crucial. Probation wasn’t handed to Ken on a silver platter.” As part of the T24 program, Douglas picked Ken up from prison, gave him a backpack of essentials, and took him to appointments. They had meetings with housing workers, powers of attorney, and psychologists. “We got his driver’s license; that was the quickest thing, would you believe?!”
The initial transition was so hard. Douglas isn’t sure how it would be possible to succeed on parole without the help of a car to get to compulsory appointments. It has been encouraging to see Ken find his feet, though. “He has now found a job, a unit, and now his electronic monitoring is a lot less severe. He’s very switched on and motivated,” Douglas says. “Now he has his ‘new’ secondhand car, and he can go for a drive for an early morning beach swim. He’s embarrassed about his ankle bracelet, so he swims before dawn then drives up the coast on his days off. He is appreciating every good thing.”
The two men even had Christmas lunch together. “He felt like he was on house arrest because he could only go out to get food and then had to be back within a certain time.”
Douglas is impressed by how Ken fights for his faith. Since his parole restrictions make it difficult to get to church, Ken listens to the local Christian radio station from 8am on Sunday, followed by church programs on TV. “But he’s looking forward to the day he can actually be at church,” says Douglas. “He’s managing in this way, and through the stress he is getting closer to God.”
Douglas isn’t alone in supporting Ken. The chaplains from the prison still call Ken regularly as well, and Douglas appreciates the unique privilege to work together.
“The other day, Ken said to me, ‘If I hadn’t been caught, I wouldn’t be saved and I would be heading towards hell.’ The ones [who come to faith in prison] understand the idea of the fear of God in the right way and are often better off than other people! They understand the harsh reality of a judgement day in a courtroom! They can hold that alongside God being a loving God,” says Douglas.
“Ken’s focus is now on helping his family become believers,” says Douglas. “All this wasted time in incarceration is a small percentage of eternity. He has a new perspective.”
– Joanna Mann, Staff Writer
*Name has been changed