“Sometimes they mock her, but she knows what she has found and she stands firm.” Diandra* finds it hard to explain to her family why she has peace while living in prison. She has difficulty understanding it even for herself. Finding peace in prison is not what she would have ever expected.
As course facilitators, Louise* and Ben* have spent time with Diandra, discussing what it means to have joy. How joy is more than just feeling happy. “We explained to her that joy is something that the Holy Spirit gives you, and that is why she has so much peace,” Louise said. “She told us that when she had a day in court, which would normally have freaked her out, she was reading her Bible in the waiting room and had absolute peace.”
“When Diandra first heard about The Prisoner’s Journey, she came to us and said she hadn’t even heard about Jesus. She has now attended three courses and has brought someone along each time. She’s not only become a disciple but one who makes other disciples. Diandra even asks visitors not to come on TPJ days – she’s had 100% attendance!” Louise is excited to see Diandra’s steady growth. “Her kids would like to be a normal family and go to church. Now Diandra can’t wait to get out and go to church with her family.
“We do challenge the course participants about what things stand in the way of following Jesus. I was very impressed by Diandra’s honesty in terms of the things she needs to change and let go in order to grow. She was quite specific about the things she needed to change. Her understanding of God’s grace and her joy is amazing.”
Louise sees how valuable The Prisoner’s Journey is for its ability to speak into a difficult time for prisoners. “We don’t have a high completion rate for the course because people are moved before they can finish. The uncertainty [of prison life] is hard for the women. There’s a lot of ups and downs in the process. It’s helpful to get a long-term perspective of something that’s eternal, especially in prison life.”
The eternal perspective of the gospel is presented clearly and simply in The Prisoner’s Journey, and Louise believes this is the strength of the course. “Who Jesus is, why he came, how we can respond. For me it expands grace and how Jesus died for sinners. One of the things we share is that there are two ways we can miss that message. One is to say ‘I’m too bad; God can’t forgive me,’ and the other is ‘I’m too good that I don’t need saving.’
“I feel humbled that God allows me to go in and share this message. About seven years ago I had a dream where God told me to work with Aboriginal women in prisons. I searched for an avenue to do this for quite a while. The day before the first course of The Prisoner’s Journey began, someone called to ask if I would be available.” Louise says she never would have expected to be serving people in this way but is passionate to meet people where they are with the good news of Jesus.
“A few weeks ago we were saying to the guards, ‘thanks for always walking us around and helping us to get to [the unit].’ The guard actually said, ‘we need to thank YOU because we see the change in the people as a result of the course!’ Praise God.”
Joanna Mann, Staff Writer
Brendon entered the local juvenile detention centre on Good Friday to skate with young offenders. As a sponsored skateboarder and Prison Fellowship volunteer, Brendon asked Danny* if he is ready to go skating.
“Can’t,” Danny said. He pulled his hands out of his hoodie pocket to reveal a bandaged hand.
“Well, last night I got really angry about my situation and started hitting my wall,” Danny explained, almost proudly.
“Oh bro, you’re never going to win that fight! Your wall is concrete!”
Danny described blood spattered everywhere and the intense pain in his hand.
“The nurse had a look at it and said I broke the two smallest knuckles and pushed them back into my hand about 2cm and broke the bone on the side of my hand. She said I’ll need major surgery otherwise it’ll heal broken,” Danny reported.
“Look Danny, I know you did this out of anger and it’s self-inflicted. But would you mind if I prayed for you?”
“That’s not gonna do anything!!” Danny laughed.
Brendon was unfazed. “Well, I’ve seen incredible things already and I know God loves you and He would like the opportunity to show you.”
Danny gave the go-ahead, so Brendon sat down with him and three other incarcerated youth and began praying.
“Bro, bro, bro, STOP!!” Danny yelled suddenly.
“What are you feeling?”
“It’s like a firecracker in my hand!” Danny was alarmed.
“Some people do feel strange sensations when God is healing,” Brendon explained. “God is answering our prayers.”
The group continued to pray, then Brendon encouraged Danny to test his hand.
“See, I told you I couldn’t- ” Danny stopped mid-sentence. His fingers began bending. As there was still some pain, the group began to pray again. Now Danny could make a whole fist.
“Broooooo! I couldn’t even wiggle my fingers a second ago. I could feel the knuckles that were 2cm back but now they are in the right spot!” Danny was astounded. He pressed on the side of his hand where the last bone had been broken, and yelped in pain.
“Told you it didn’t work,” Danny immediately challenged.
Brendon was still untroubled. “No, I told you God loves you and He’s going to show you. Let’s pray again.” They prayed, then Brendon told Danny to push on that bone again.
Danny’s face couldn’t contain his shock. He was so amazed he started swearing and punching things. He unwound the bandages and checked out his restored hand.
The prison staff watching on had their jaws on the floor.
“You know it’s Easter, right?” Brendon said. “At Easter, Jesus died on the cross for you and for me. Through his death, victory was made perfect. He rose again to resurrect us out of the grave because we were all destined for death and destruction and separation from God. He wants to restore us and give us new life.”
At this, some kids asked, “Can you pray for our addictions?”
Three young people sat side by side as Brendon prayed for their hearts and their addictions. He prayed that God would set them free from their burdens and bondage.
Fearing the kids misunderstood where this healing power comes from, Brendon encouraged them to pray for one another. Seb* had injured his ankle climbing a fence, so Brendon asked Cameron* if he would like to pray for his fellow inmate Seb. After Cameron prayed, Seb was able to sprint around the room. (A few weeks later, Cameron asked Jesus to be part of his life!)
The kids were all amazed at God’s power and His care for their situations.
“So… do you want to go skating now?” Brendon asked them.
Joanna Mann, Staff Writer
As he walks off the plane, down the walkway, and into the terminal, Ian knows he is a long way from home. When he left Adelaide three hours ago, it was cold and rainy. He breathes in the air, heavy with heat, and makes his way out of the Darwin airport to his car.
Ian Townsend is the Adelaide-based State Manager for South Australia and the Northern Territory, and is overwhelmed by the sense of peace he feels in both remarkably contrasting locations. “I don’t know if it’s because Darwin is becoming familiar, a bit like a second home, or the opportunity to enjoy a very different environment, but a peace comes over me as I drive down these (now!) familiar roads,” he said. “There is beautiful scenery, a lack of people, and I know the outback isn’t far away. That conjures a lot of peace for me.”
The next day, Ian is offered the chance to preach in the Darwin Correctional Centre. “During the worship time and leading up to the message, the [inmates] are talking to each other and messing around a little, but the moment I start to preach God’s word, a peace fills the room.” Some of these men may have waited three months to attend a church service, so when God’s word is spoken, they choose not to waste a moment. Their full attention is on Ian during his whole sermon.
Prison Fellowship has an amazing opportunity to provide regular church services in Darwin prison, and to allow inmates to experience God’s love and peace, even if for only a short time. In John 16:33, Jesus says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Ian Townsend, SA/NT State Manager