What is your involvement with Prison Fellowship?
I visit inmates in prison. There are about eight or nine men who I visit regularly. I also look after our post-release support in Tasmania, which is a real privilege. It’s something I never thought I’d be involved in, but I’m so glad I can be.
What do these services look like?
Visits are done one-on-one in a room. Basically, we make the appointment, catch up and chat for a half hour. For some, this feels like a long time, but others even an hour isn’t long enough!
For post-release, we hook inmates up with a mentor who will contact them as soon as possible on their release. This is a struggle because we don’t always know when they’ll get out! But at the end of the day, we serve God, and we don’t know what he’s going to do with these people.
Can you tell me a story of someone whose journey has really affected you?
Ray* is one of these guys that has been very well educated. He has held senior roles with large organisations for many years but is serving time now. He’s a bit shy, but he has a real heart and compassion to help other people. He absolutely blows me away. Sometimes I have to remind him who the mentor is! He is so appreciative of the relationship we have. I encourage him to continue to be a mentor in his yard. He’s got the heart of a mentor – his attitude towards other inmates is something that’s very rare. All he wants to do is help them, embrace them, and mentor them. We work so well together because we come from the same side of the story, if you like.
What are your hopes for prison ministry into the future? What excites you?
I sense a real sense of unity, but challenges too. The only way we are going to get through the challenges we are facing lately is through unity. Not just unity in the practical things, but unity in prayer and fasting. The challenge ahead is going to be more spiritual warfare, not just the challenge of plodding away each week. But unity will abound.
What encouragement do you have for volunteers and people thinking about getting involved?
We had an induction here the other day for nine new Prison Fellowship volunteers. We talked about what to do in times of silence, when you visit an inmate and they aren’t very chatty. You have to remember that it’s not just you and the inmate there. Remember that God is there, too. You don’t know what He is doing in those times of silence.
Prison ministry is good… it’s great. If it’s on your heart, you’ve been called to it.