“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
My name is Benni* and I am nearly 30 years old. I am currently incarcerated in a maximum security prison.
Growing up I was taught morals, manners and respect. I excelled in primary school but by Year 9 I decided that I was tired of being good. Maybe it was the single incident of sexual abuse or maybe it was watching my older brother being bullied throughout his school life. I didn’t want to be a victim so I decided to be the polar extreme. I became what I was scared of.
I ‘met’ God when I was 16. I was attracted to a Christian girl and asked her out. She rejected me. So I asked to go to church with her. I was not genuine but used it as a way to be with her. When I went I got ‘goose bumps’ all over my body and thought “Maybe this God dude is real”. I kept going to youth group on Fridays and church on Sundays.
I felt like a black sheep but at least I was a sheep.
I became a Christian, was baptized and played in the youth group band. For about a year I was truly happy. I had a romantic notion of going to Afghanistan to hand out Bibles, be killed and become a martyr for God’s cause. When it didn’t happen I became angry with God and fell away.
I started using drugs and very quickly became an addict, I ended up homeless and was imprisoned for armed robbery. I bargained with God to “Let me go home and I’ll be good”. Instead of the 4 years I was expecting, God gave me a suspended sentence!
It was a miracle.
18 months later the same thing happened – again the charges were miraculously dropped.
My drug use took me to a house, one thing led to another, and by the end of the night a man was dead. I had killed him.
In my first few years in prison my behaviour was out of control. I was ostracized and for a whole year nobody spoke to me in the unit. I cried out to God and began reading the Bible.
God used this time to rebuild me into His creation. When I got moved from that unit into a different area with more freedom, amazingly, I was given a single cell and a job in the prison chapel.
As a result of this I have been heavily involved in the Prison Fellowship programs and have been a mentor and peer facilitator on many The Prisoner’s Journey courses.
God has completely transformed my life.
He has turned my mistakes into a beautiful testimony that has enabled me to do His work within the prison walls. I now have work to do for His Name and His Kingdom and all the glory goes to God.
“A volunteer who has been on a few programs with Benni has heard him share many times how God is actively working in his life, growing him into the man God wants him to be. They said his understanding and way of expressing God’s grace, total acceptance and love to the other inmates, with a very practical picture of what that looks like in a prison environment, is profound. His prayer life is bringing about dramatic changes to his way of thinking and behaving and is in direct contrast to his old ways.”