Perhaps the biggest impact prison ministry has had on me is the quality of the people we meet. Officers do their job very well. The chaplains work hard and gain great respect. Inmates come to the chapel services with a joy knowing not only that they will meet up with some of their friends and countrymen, but there is a genuine hunger for fellowship and worship with other Christians and for hearing the Word of God. Their desire to learn more and more is energising. So, here are some stories of people I’ve met.
A few years ago, a man from the Tiwi Islands, whom I already knew, found himself in Berrimah Prison. Let us call him Michael*. After coming regularly to the church services, I asked him why he kept coming. He said, “Phil, when I first arrived here, I looked for something to read. I looked and looked and finally I found a Bible. I began to read. Then my heart began to change.”
Several weeks later, he called me aside, and I could see that he had been moved by something. He said, “I had a visit from my wife this week and she said that she had forgiven me.” Michael played guitar for us on Saturdays, spent out his days in Berrimah, and then after his sentence he went home to become an influential leader.
Benny*, a young Christian man from Borroloola who worked in the kitchen, whom I had also known, came to me after our meeting and said, “Mr Meehan, could you please pray for me?” I asked what the problem was. He said, “I’m feeling really bad because this morning when I was giving out the food, I gave my countryman double.”
One morning, Roger*, another inmate who attended the services regularly, said he was so glad to get away from the company he had just been with. He said, “All they can do is talk about dirty, filthy things.” This inmate was working hard to change the way he speaks.
In the days when the Government was imprisoning Indonesian fishermen who were caught in Australian waters, we got to love Daud*, an elderly man from the island of Rote. He was being released, and it also happened that I was in a mission team which was going to visit his island! We arranged to meet there, and, on the day, our team arrived at his village with cakes and drinks, and the locals cooked up rice and fish. How beautiful it was to stand with him and his family worshipping together under a canopy outside his crowded house before the feasting began!