In 2008 the Gideon who offered Bibles to prisoners in police holding cells in Pretoria, South Africa, passed away and there was a gap to be filled. Visiting prisoners was never my dream but looking back I see that this was a calling from God. I put my hand up and, unexpectedly, over time, found that I loved visiting prisoners in the cells on Sunday mornings, talking to them and offering them Bibles. Many of the encounters were unforgettable.
When I moved to Australia in 2013, the first thing I explored was how to get into the prison system without having to stay in. I joined Prison Fellowship as a volunteer to do in-prison visits in the Melbourne Assessment Prison. One fellow volunteer described this prison as follows:
There is no beauty, there is little colour, there is only harshness and hardness in the physical realm, hard surfaces, hard doors and metal gates and barbed-wire fences and multiple locks. I guess all that makes it a place where people who love God must be!” – Morag Zwartz
I found great encouragement in seeing God work through the Holy Spirit in the hearts of people when life was hard. When I was young I expected to experience God’s presence or actions through a miracle or something extraordinary happening. But in the many years visiting prisoners in prisons, I have witnessed God’s personal interventions in the smallest of small details in people’s lives.
he didn’t know whether there was a GOD or not”
One day in prison a young man walked past and I asked him if he would like to talk. He seemed reluctant but nevertheless said yes. He said to me that he wasn’t a Christian or religious at all. We started to talk about general stuff, but after a while he suddenly changed the subject and said he didn’t know whether there was a GOD or not, but the previous night he was sitting in his cell and wondering, and he then wrote a letter to God. I said, “Really?” He then got up, went to his cell, came back and showed me the letter, written on a sticky note pad. It read as follows:
Dear God, I broke into properties to steal to get money to buy drugs. That was wrong. Please forgive me my sin and help me to get bail.”
We had a good chat and I posted him a Bible. The following week he joined and attended a life group in prison. This is but one of many amazing interventions by the Holy Spirit that I had the privilege to witness in my visits to prisons.
There is also an annual camp for kids of prisoners. One camp leader said:
We are called to be Jesus’ hands and feet, and this camp was the perfect opportunity.”
Jack, a kid who attended a camp, said:
When I was young I would say to the leaders: ‘I want to become like you,’ because they honestly helped me so much in life in general. There is nothing better than someone being there for you and saying ‘you are not alone and you are never alone’.”
And another one:
If children didn’t have this camp, they would go down a very dark path. We could just follow our parents, go where they are going. It’s not that these parents are bad people. But they’ve been put in certain situations where they’ve done bad things.”
Want to get involved?
There are so many ways you can get involved in Prison Fellowship. Members of Hills Bible Church support Prison Fellowship in various key areas, including:
Visiting In Prison
Members regularly go into prisons and build long-term relationships with inmates.
Home-baked biscuits are packaged with an Easter message and distributed to each prisoner.
Gifts are donated to children of prisoners on their behalf. On Christmas morning, these children will experience the joy of receiving a gift from their absent loved one.
HBC volunteers also carry out important administration and office-related tasks in the Doncaster office.
You can find more information by contacting their office or by visiting the Prison Fellowship Australia website at: https://prisonfellowship.org.au/