It is a funny feeling walking into a prison where a guard is marching backwards and forwards, M16 at the ready, surveying his human targets. Somehow you just hope he does not have to use it while you are there.
My Dad often said later that if he knew where we were going on that mission trip to Papua New Guinea, I would not have been on that plane. In fact it was one of his first thoughts as we touched down in that Land of the Unexpected, back when I was only 14, and his first views were of coils of barbed wire dancing precariously over walls that glimmered with broken glass, threatening to shred the feet and hands of those intent on making their way in to cause destruction.
I had my own teenage moments of pricking fear as I lowered myself into the front row of wooden pews inside the prison chapel and the dark-skinned prisoners filed in silently, perhaps even sullenly. My imagination ran wild as I wondered how my family would manage to get my body home if I got stabbed in the back with a pocket knife?
Thankfully that scenario never played out and I quickly lost my nervousness as the prisoners began to worship God and praise Him and when I walked into that place again four years later I knew that regardless of the fact that we were going into one of the nationsí largest prisons, that I would be safer inside than if I was walking down an Australian street in the dark.
Godís Word had transformed that institution from a place where the worst criminals were sent to be punished to a place of complete healing for body, soul and spirit. The swept clean womenís dormitory that our tiny team from Victorious Ministry Through Christ stepped into that day was alive with testimonies of Godís grace and transforming power thanks to the hands and feet of Christ made human by the Prison Fellowship ladies that regularly visited.
As our team shared about bondages and barriers to healing, wounds and scars of the past, occult bondages and confession of sin and forgiveness I was surprised to see the little bundles carried by some of the women moving, and even crying, and with a few questions I discovered that some of them had tiny babies or roaming toddlers incarcerated with them. I was saddened to hear that at the age of 2 these precious bundles were removed from their mothers and sent to relatives until their mothers were released.
I was later delighted to find out that the international Prison Fellowship Ministry is also committed to caring for the children of inmates through a program known as Angel Tree. This ministry invites church families to purchase gifts on behalf of the childís parents to show that they are still loved and cared for even though they are physically separated from one or both of their parents. These gifts open doors to share the Gospel not only with the child, but the whole family and can help provide reconciliation between the family later down the track.
Would you like to donate
or become involved? This ministry, as you can see, goes far beyond a simple Christmas gift. As is happening in Papua New Guinea, the Prison Fellowship Ministry is opening doors to transform the culture of prisons from violent cycles of crime, to a place where complete healing takes place, and giving a gift is just one part of the process.