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Stories of hope

20 Years of Lives Changed

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“It all started off when I went to the Prison Fellowship prison in America,” said Glenise. “My friend Tim was a psychologist who was asked to go to England to learn about ministry in prison, and he needed someone to work with him. I didn’t even know I was going until two weeks before we flew out! I just had to book flights and the Lord went before us.”

It was the year 2000, and flights in and out of Australia were difficult to come by, because of the Sydney Olympics. Glenise and Tim finally sourced a round-the-world ticket allowing them to take the trip via America! 

“Tim had a sister in Houston, Texas so we stayed with her and her family for three days, before flying to the UK for what we thought was the main purpose of our trip.”

However, while in Texas Glenise had the opportunity to visit the Prison Fellowship-run Carol Vance unit of the local prison. Prisoners join the unit through an application process towards the end of their sentence. Upon acceptance, the unit has unique requirements of its residents. They must lift their education to high school standard, and their wives are invited to join the inmates to study Christian programs together. 

“I sat eating lunch with those guys and thought, ‘if my father or husband saw me now, they would freak out!’ But the men treated me with utmost respect, and I had no fear. I saw the good in them.”

This American stop-over had such a profound impact on Glenise, that when she and her psychologist friend returned home, she said, “Maybe it’s actually Prison Fellowship that we are supposed to work with.”

Glenise launched into ministry with Prison Fellowship Australia. 

“In those early days we used to meet once a week for a prayer meeting and in the course of all that, I met Graham Hembrow in 2002 or 2003. He hadn’t long given his life to the Lord!

“I was doing voluntary work wherever there was need. As a volunteer, you just help with whatever projects have need.”

Glenise’s servant heart opened the door to become a Prison Fellowship chaplain, and to take part in the Sycamore Tree Project (STP). 

“I helped set up STP in Queensland. They were short of people, so I went in on the victim team. Everyone was so nervous going into the prison, but I was so excited I could hardly walk, I was floating!”

Glenise described the team: six victims face-to-face with six prisoners, for eight weeks. 

“Five victims had had a homicide in their family. Five of the prisoners were involved in a homicide. The other was a drug dealer, and my niece had died of a drug overdose. It was like we were linked and supported each other.

“John* was in on a double homicide. He was young, had been to university, and travelled the world.”

John’s life took a tragic turn when his girlfriend ended their relationship. Broken-hearted, he set fire to her doorstep, only to later discover two strangers were in the house and lost their lives. 

“He spoke to me on the last day. ‘Your face is real,’ he said to me. It was an honour for him to say that. I know he has since been baptised. He will be in for a long time, but he is now mentoring all these young guys going in. He is like a pastor on the inside.”

In 2007 there was great need for an Angel Tree coordinator, Glenise stepped up. She proceeded to coordinate the program for fourteen years, ensuring thousands of gifts found their way to children of prisoners throughout Queensland each year. 

“Last year an Angel Tree request came through; there were eight children, two of whom were deceased. The prisoner asked for an item that would shine in the night to be put at their gravesite. 

“I asked a pastor I knew to go with the family to the gravesite with the gifts and pray with them. He’s now trained and going into prisons!”

After twenty years of faithful service, Glenise is ‘hanging up her lanyard’ and retiring from Prison Fellowship. Glenise’s willingness to follow Christ into both administrative tasks and to minister face-to-face with prisoners and their families has been invaluable to the kingdom of God. Thank you, Glenise! 

– Joanna Mann, Staff Writer

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