Mary Wade Correctional Centre transitioned into a women’s maximum security remand prison at the end of 2017. I had been with Prison Fellowship for about 20 years and felt that God wanted me to do more. I called Richard Feeney, who was the NSW State Manager at the time, to tell him. As it happened, only hours earlier, Mary Wade had called him asking for a team from Prison Fellowship to come!
Mora* came to our first meeting. We had worship time, prayer time, sharing the Word, and individual prayer time for the women. Afterwards, we encourage the women to share if they have anything they would like to say. Mora shared how she had been desperate, suicidal, crying out to God, when Jesus appeared in her prison cell. He held His arms out to her, nothing said, just radiating love & acceptance, then disappeared. Mora was so overwhelmed with His unconditional love for her, she gave her life to Him there in her cell & immediately began sharing Jesus with others. She had her ups and downs, but was still growing in her Christian faith & leading others to Jesus inside Mary Wade. In fact, Mora had brought two indigenous sisters to join our service that day whom she had led to faith in Christ during the week. She was literally only there a few months then was moved to another prison.
Our first Prison Fellowship meeting at Mary Wade typified the rest. It was a Holy Spirit “hot spot”!
We met another woman, Alicia*, who had no Christian background whatsoever. She began having visions in her cell of Jesus, and the full Gospel story. Her cell-mate happened to be a Christian who was able to explain the Gospel to her! Alicia told her cell-mate about a vision of a lady named Mary crying, and then one of Mary happy outside a cave. The cell-mate opened the Bible to read the story of Jesus’ resurrection, and said, “Is this what you saw?”
“YES,” said Alicia. Amazed, the two women came to chapel together and joined the others who were meeting.
Our team also did a lot of bread-and-butter Bible study meetings led by another volunteer, Dee. She would teach them how to study the Bible, and how to find stories. We gave an overview of the Bible and discussed the different text types (poetry, history, etc). The women would look up the scripture in their own Bible and read it in their own language and then share what it means. They felt like they knew where to find things.
We had seen Leena* become quite depressed over the time she had been coming to meetings but then God said to me “it will be a healing year”. One day, we were talking about our identity in God, that once we are forgiven we can get a real understanding of how much God loves us. When Jesus forgives us, he doesn’t just forgive us, he makes us family. We are not only daughters of God, we are the bride of Christ. When He looks at you he only sees you. I would tell them all the time, “you’re God’s favourite.” Leena, “getting it”, jumped up and shouted out, “I’M GOD’S FAVOURITE!!!”
I’m 61 now and have worked for decades in prisons around the world, but have never seen the things I witnessed in Mary Wade.