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
The Gap between prison and the “real world” beyond the gates can be very daunting for inmates nearing release. Many are more fearful of The Gap than they are of life inside prison. The Gap is a dark, blank space between a past that they never want to go back to and a future that seems beyond their reach.
On average, 46% of all inmates return to prison within two years of their release (termed “recidivism”). Consistently high recidivism rates, throughout the country (and throughout the world) point to the difficulty of crossing The Gap.
In Tasmania, Prison Fellowship Australia is involved in a unique partnership to prepare inmates for The Gap. Prison Fellowship’s volunteers partner with Onesimus Foundation to facilitate a six week course for inmates, called Inside Out.
Onesimus Foundation grew out of the Christian Family Centre, a church located next door to Risdon Prison. The foundation works primarily with offenders and their families and provides a range of services that complement the work of Prison Fellowship (and vice versa). The Inside Out course takes inmates on a step-by-step restoration process based on individual engagement. The course was written by Tony Carter, who volunteers with both Onesimus Foundation and Prison Fellowship and is a member of the CFC church.
Upon graduating from Inside Out, inmates are invited to meet regularly with a mentor – including after their release. Sam successfully negotiated The Gap before the course was available, having served a 21-year sentence. He is made of strong stuff, but openly admits that, after his release, “There were times when I sat down and cried, because it was all too hard.” Sam now urges inmates to find a mentor to support them on their journey through The Gap. He promotes Inside Out because it helps inmates to “get real” about the difficulties that lie ahead of them and to see the benefit of talking through the issues with a mentor who they trust.
Prison Fellowship’s partnership with Onesimus Foundation brings together volunteers from both sides of The Gap – some working predominantly on the inside (with current prisoners) and others working mostly on the outside with ex-inmates and with families.
The setting for the course is special. It is held in a low security facility, representing a significant level of trust in the participants by prison management. Participation is a privilege, and this alone elicits a positive response from the inmates. Each week, participants share a home cooked meal with the facilitators. They then spend the afternoon discussing their plans to journey through The Gap. Personal testimonies, written reflections and practical exercises fuel the discussion – most of which takes place in small groups.
You will not be surprised to learn that not all participants experience the complete recovery that we might all hope for, and that not all graduates have been able to negotiate The Gap successfully. The good news is that this partnership, utilising Prison Fellowship volunteers, good food, good fellowship and “real life” discussions have combined to change the lives of many inmates who have now been able to “reclaim the second half of their lives” – as Sam has done.
– Michael Wood, TAS Chairman