I’ve told a number of stories through this blog about men who have been changed mightily by the gospel. I’ve also often said that in some 35 years of ministry the best ministry I have ever done is being chaplain at the Remand Centre at Silverwater. This is because the men I encountered there were so spiritually hungry. Every single day I had serious gospel conversations with the inmates.
Remand is the place where they put you after being arrested and not making bail. You can be there for three months before you get a mention for a court date. Inevitably the police are not ready and request more time. Come back in another three months. All this time you are incarcerated in maximum security, locked in your cell for a minimum for 18 hours a day.
The men I ministered in this situation were in a constant state of anxiety and tension. Not knowing what more charges the police were going to come up with, not knowing a court date, not knowing what the judge would be like, what the jury would be like. And then, if found guilty, not knowing what their sentence would be for yet more months. In these anxious months, and years for some, many of these men begin to ask the fundamental questions of life. Why did I leave God out of my life? Where is God for me now? Why didn’t I listen to Mrs Jones who taught me Scripture at school?
These are the questions I was asked every day as I wandered around the gaol yards, living areas and work places. On some occasions, in the middle of a conversation, an inmate would say to me, “My mum (or aunt, or grandmother) is a Christian and she prays for me every day.” At these times it was me who became a little anxious. Anxious because here is what I call an “eternal moment”. What I suddenly realise is that this is not an ordinary conversation. Here is a conversation that God has brought about in answer to the prayers of one of his godly servants. And I realise that God is using me to be part of that answer. I never feel up to that and so I get a bit anxious that I might muck it up. But as I continue the conversation and reflect on the fact that there is some saint in the world praying for the man I am talking to, that he would come to know Jesus and get his life fixed up, I determine that I can’t muck it up and with all the gifts God has given me and with the empowering of his Spirit, I try to make sure that that saint will soon be rejoicing at the answer to their prayers.
It really is a great privilege to be involved in such a ministry. We have nine chaplains in the Diocese ministering in prisons and juvenile justice centres. Please pray for them in their “eternal moments” that God will uphold them to be faithful and that he will be answering the prayers of his saints.
Feature photo: Josh Kenzer