Billy* spent a lot of time in solitary confinement. Prison Fellowship volunteers would visit him regularly to chat. “When I first met Billy… he was a violent type of person. Selfish,” said volunteer Paul.
Serving a very long sentence was taking its toll on Billy. He has spent more than half of his sentence in solitary confinement, or “the slot”, as it is not-so-affectionately known in prison. Billy garnered a fearsome reputation in the unit.
After his most recent time in “the slot”, which lasted nine long months, Billy was moved into a new unit. He quickly became friends with his new cellmate, Pat*. The men bonded over a mutual love for 90s heavy metal music and coffee. They discussed their experiences and shared stories of their lives. However, Billy observed as his cellmate Pat began to change.
“Over a period of time mixing with [Pat], I noticed dramatic changes in his personality, wellbeing, and general purpose and direction in life. I also noticed that he used to get a lot of visitors,” said Billy.
The unprecedented positive influence of these Prison Fellowship visitors in Pat’s life piqued Billy’s interest. He noticed how these visitors had encouraged Pat to change his ways of anger outbursts and hot temper incidents, and how Pat’s growing faith in Jesus influenced his day-to-day life. “I always admired the devotion Pat showed to his faith, he read and studied day in and day out – he really inspired me to change.” Billy wanted what Pat had found.
Pat and another inmate were able to set up a church service in the prison with the blessing of prison authorities. Pat encouraged Billy to explore his faith and invited him along. The change was gradual, but dramatic. Billy said, “I gave my heart to Jesus and thank him every day for salvation.”
“It’s a true conversion,” said volunteer Paul. “The enemy still wants to attack him, but he fights it. I’ve seen a big change in him. Now he’s a gentle giant. That’s the fruit you see. He’s humbled by the power of God. Before, if you looked at him, he’d want to bash you! Now, he is in control of himself, he’s got a good standing with the officers in the unit; he’s polite, gentle, and humble.”
Billy is now heavily involved in his unit’s church service. He reads the Bible and does a bit of the preaching. “For the Sunday, he would sit and study during the week and then speak on it!” said Paul. Billy’s regular gospel messages in his prison church service testify to God’s power to redeem anyone who comes to him.
– Joanna Mann, Staff Writer
*Names have been changed.
Someone once said, “The best prison ministers are the guys in green.” In Victoria, there are at least four in-prison church services run by inmates themselves, and on some occasions we have the privilege to join them. This is Prison Fellowship.