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Stories of hope

“Prison Fellowship cares about us”

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“To all the volunteers and Prison Fellowship people, you’re doing a great job!” Without Prison Fellowship volunteers, Christopher* says his life would be radically different. “If I didn’t meet the Prison Fellowship volunteers that I met in prison, I would have gone back to my old ways.” 

“As a kid, I got caught in the revolving door of prison and heroin. I went to boys’ homes and youth training centres, and ended up in Pentridge Prison when I was 17. I had 3 brothers in prison with me, and after a while, I didn’t really mind being in prison. I got a bit of a reputation for myself – I got into a few fights, made a few friends, and the older guys would take me in. I was liked a lot by these guys. So within 2 years, I was dealing drugs for them, but I knew that if you see no evil, hear no evil, you’re gonna be sweet. Prison life wasn’t too bad up to a point.”

“But then all of a sudden, it changed just overnight. Halfway through the 90s, the prison management changed, and there were security cameras everywhere. I didn’t like that. We used to sit there in jail with our drugs, and then the ball game changed and it didn’t suit me anymore. I was used to feeling in control and not monitored like that. And then I lost my brothers.” 

For years, Christopher felt that everywhere he turned, whether in prison or in the community, he’d find a Bible, as if he couldn’t get away from it. “It was everywhere in prison, and I would just ignore it. Even when I got out of prison, everywhere I went, it was there – in motel rooms and everything. So one day, I just sat down and started reading it. I kept reading, and I got stuck on it. It seemed to speak the truth.”

“Back in prison, there was a Prison fellowship magazine, and I saw that one day and asked this guy who was often hanging around if that had anything to do with him, and he said, “Yep, that’s us!” So I started meeting with Don and Paul, who were volunteers from Prison Fellowship. By that time, the Bible had begun to change my heart, and I started thinking that anyone who cares about prisoners is alright by me – these volunteers come from the outside, and yet they care about people in prison.”

Don and Paul’s gentle kindness and care towards the inmates broke through to Christopher. “Over time, I had become a bit of a personal trainer for the other inmates. I had built my own routine, and when I wasn’t doing that training, I was spending time by myself. I didn’t like mixing with the other inmates, and I’d voluntarily get locked in my cell a lot earlier than I had to. But when Don and Paul came in, it was like having time for myself. I would sit down and have a good conversation with them. We wouldn’t talk about crime or who’s beat up who. I would make them lunch, and we would talk about things like the Bible that I didn’t know much about, and I wanted to learn. I got a fair bit out of that.”

“It was very stimulating and educational because I didn’t know anything about the Bible. We’d talk about certain people and things from the Bible, like what happened to John, Job, Peter, or other people that we liked in the Bible. I’ve read the Bible a couple of times now, and I really like the stories. I get a lot out of it. The only part of the Bible that I didn’t like was Numbers! It just goes on and on! But all the other stories rang true for me.”

“I’ve done all the prison courses about anger management and drug management, but they don’t work. But the conversations with Prison Fellowship volunteers over the years were different. We’ve got a fair bit in common, and they’re full of wisdom – they’re very helpful people.”

“Once a year at Easter, they would bring around biscuits for the Easter Biscuit Bake. It’s a good thing they’re doing – it’s really nice for us inmates. But there aren’t many thankful people in prison. The inmates just think the biscuit delivery is a routine thing, that they deserve them. I used to think that too. But I can see now that it’s a good thing! People are doing something nice for the inmates. Before I met Don and Paul, before I read the Bible, I would have been rude and made fun of them. But now, when they bring the biscuits around, I’m thankful. Now I can see where I’ve made mistakes in the past.” 

“Paul’s been there since I’ve been out. He’s been number one. Every time I ring him, I worry that he thinks I’m going to ask him for help. But it’s not like that – I just want to ring him to say ‘Hello’ and see how he’s going. But Paul just keeps helping and helping me. I can’t believe it! He’s given me so much help!” 

“I’d like to say thank you – it changed my life. Just helping one person is awesome, but Prison Fellowship helps a lot of people! Keep doing what you’re doing! Other people hate inmates, but Prison Fellowship cares about us.”

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