A Daylight volunteer writes about his regular visits to a prison…
There is a good team of volunteers working with the chaplaincy here.
A Muslim is the coordinating chaplain, who looks after the 100 or Muslims here, is also doing a master’s degree in multi faith studies. He has a real heart for the men and has been very supportive of initiatives to engage Christian volunteers in ministry to the prisoners.
The chaplaincy team here has recently been strengthened by the addition of a full time Anglican chaplain who I think will be a real asset to Gospel ministry here. He is an evangelical, down to earth, and has already established a good rapport with the guys.
My main involvement here is to help with the afternoon Bible study attended by about 7 or 8 men. I sometimes lead this but we (volunteers) take it in turns. We are working our way through Acts at the moment. This should be a weekly activity but twice a month there are ‘lock downs’ due to staff shortages when the guys are locked in early with no evening activities. This means we are often down to only twice a month.
Volunteers are also welcomed at the Sunday morning services; so far I have only done this once as it conflicts with our own morning service. I am going to try and make the sacrifice to do this more regularly as it does give valuable time to talk to the men after over coffee.
We are also in discussion with the chaplaincy about a local reformed church taking the whole morning service perhaps once a quarter, with their minister preaching and some of the members coming along to help lead the singing.
I am told that the prison service are trying to let men serve sentences nearer to their home community in order to engage the men with local volunteer agencies (Churches!) towards the end of their sentence so that they have useful contacts who can re-engage them with society in a positive way when they are released.
We are now about halfway through running a Bible study course here which I am a helper for on a Wednesday afternoon. There are 20 men signed up for the course with 18-20 turning up each week. It is run very simply with a half hour talk taken in turns mostly by the vicar and assistant vicar of a local church – straightforward Gospel presentations – (no frills, no videos), then we break up into 4 groups and I have one of the 4 groups for an hour. These hour long sessions have been so valuable in getting to know the guys and having enough time to answer all their questions.
When I first got involved with prison ministry I imagined it to be a pioneering evangelistic activity taking the Gospel into a Godless environment.
When I started I found that God is already very much at work in prisons everywhere, the men themselves are polite, respectful, appreciative, and eager to learn. The task is much more to do with discipling, (3 or 4 of the guys in my group are already Christians). There are certainly some who know nothing at all, and are hearing the Gospel for the first time, like the man who enquired whether the name Gideon on the front of the prison Bible was the name of the man who wrote it!
There may well be 900 or so in the rest of the prison who would be perhaps more rude or arrogant, but I have to say I have only ever encountered politeness and respect and when I ask my guys about attitudes generally they seem to think that there are definitely some thugs and bullies in prison but the majority are just like them – likeable fellas, but those who would admit to having got in the wrong company, had too much to drink one day or got involved with drugs (or often all 3!)
The rudeness and arrogance I have found is more to be found with the ‘law abiding’ folk on the outside when you engage in open air evangelistic work!
After an hour’s questions and talking with my group at a Bible study session I ponder, where else do a group of men listen to a Christian message for half an hour and then sit and talk it over for an hour afterwards, considering how it applies to them personally? – In my experience, only in prison!