Reflections from a TPJ facilitator: “We’re always amazed how God makes himself visible to people in prison.”
“I’ve never had a course where someone hasn’t said ‘There’s something different about this group – what is it?’”
As a volunteer-driven organisation, we rely on your support and donations to serve those in prison, and their families. Our volunteers run courses like The Prisoner’s Journey (TPJ), an 8-week course that introduces inmates to Jesus, allows them to ask questions, and learn more about the Christian faith.
Rosy is one such volunteer, and she knows the incredible power of a course like TPJ.
“It’s a process of discovery,” she says. “Those 8 weeks are crucial – we see it play out in an amazing way. Someone will say in week 4 or 5, ‘I just stopped swearing. What’s that about?’ These are the natural side effects of being in God’s word. TPJ is very distinct from anything else.”
Maria* had always been a fighter. She was a very passionate leader and had a short fuse. But something changed when she joined TPJ. After a fellow inmate had hurt Maria’s relative in the prison, she confronted her, but instead of becoming aggressive and physical as she usually would, she was peaceful. “My muscle is our Father God,” she said. “People are asking me, ‘Are you going to bash her?’ And I said no, I’m going to give her a cuddle.”
“The course is really well-designed in that the participants create the safe space themselves. We have a piece of paper and we invite them to establish the rules for the space and the course. They add things like ‘respect’ and so we tease out what that means. Then all the girls sign the piece of paper, and they keep themselves and each other accountable throughout the course”
Rosy says, “There are always people who want to stick around and hear us as we pray, but not participate. But invariably, by the end of the course, they want us to pray with them. One woman asked if she could pray one day – the next time she marched into the room glowing. She told us she had prayed on the phone with her husband for the very first time. It had been the most precious experience. She was so excited for what this could mean for her to be able to pray with her husband.”
“We’re always amazed how God makes himself visible to people in prison. On the outside we have so many access points and support systems open to many of us. But when those are taken away, God shows up in dramatic ways. Over and over in our courses, people say to me, ‘This makes sense, but I just don’t know if this is real.’”
Invariably, God shows up to these people. One girl in particular said she had a really rough time, and she wanted to know if she could trust God. We prayed for her, and the next week she was a completely different person. She said, ‘I had a dream, and it was the most powerful thing. I saw Jesus and he showed me that I could trust him.’”
“We’re amazed at the way that God works. We just trust him. The last course we did, there was one lady who never gave anything away the whole time. Izzy*, was very closed off. She was just there to get out of her cell. She was just playing the game. But she still came every single week. We would pray for her and pray for her. But the very last graduation day, still very blank faced, she got up from her chair and went to the front of the room, grabbed a whiteboard marker and signed her name on the board and said, ‘I’m in’. Her body language changed instantly. It was like this veil fell away. She had been taking in what we were talking about, and it was incredibly powerful to see that God is always at work. It reminds us to be consistent in prayer because God always wants to break through.”
“Our graduation day is a very special day, so we make a really big deal of it. We celebrate together, we invite the participants to share something – a song, a memory, something they’ve discovered. It’s a really encouraging time. One of the girls shared a story about how when she was at her worst time in life, planning to end it all, God showed up for her. She saw a vision of a cross that glowed before her. She had been trying to figure out the significance of that vision, and she had found that through The Prisoner’s Journey.”
“The women all thank us so much at the end of the course. It’s overwhelming! They’re very special relationships because they’re formed in a really safe space in what is otherwise not a very safe space.”
“It’s the greatest privilege of my life so far – to be part of this team is really special. We all grow together.”
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