Criminals get a fresh start
From violence and sorrow to new joy and purpose in life through Jesus
“If I had not been imprisoned when I was, I most likely would have ended up dead,” says Daniel, a prisoner who found hope when he was sent to jail.
Daniel is one of about 200 prisoners who have been studying the Bible through correspondence courses run by Adventist Media in 15 prisons across the country.
As I listened to the words and really understood the depth of love and grace in them, I broke down into tears and it felt like all the hurt flowed right out of my soul.
“My life was filled with drug use, violence, constant sorrow and separation from my family,” says Daniel.
Then one day Daniel heard an announcement over the prison PA system for the weekly church service.
“It was like I was being nudged or led to the unit door to attend church. About halfway through the service, the song Amazing Grace was played. As I listened to the words and really understood the depth of love and grace in them, I broke down into tears and it felt like all the hurt flowed right out of my soul.
“I prayed for the first time to God asking for forgiveness and the gift of love and grace. I truly felt God come into my life that day, and since then I have been baptised, clothed in Christ and devoted my time in here to the study of the Bible and the life God has intended for me,” says Daniel.
Adventist Media has been running correspondence courses in prisons for nearly 35 years. Its most popular course is called Taking Charge of Your Life, and enables prisoners to live a life markedly different to the one that landed them in prison.
“That is why we are here – to show the love of God and show that God really cares about them.” – Sharon Martin
Sharon Martin, coordinator of the programme, says, “Perhaps many of them will not get baptised or go to church, but hopefully it will make a big impact on their life so it will look a whole lot different to what it was like previously.
“That is why we are here – to show the love of God and show that God really cares about them and just to make a difference in their lives.”
“God has given me a ministry here.”
Troy is another prisoner who has been studying the courses and says, “Even though I knew Jesus prior to being incarcerated, I have finally come to a point in my life where I can say I have hit rock bottom and sat at the foot of the cross and let God have my all. I now live my life every day for Jesus.”
Remarkably, Troy can now say of being in prison, “God has given me a ministry here.”
Some prisoners share freely about their past, while others remain guarded.
“It’s actually a beautiful thing that they feel they can trust us with their whole life story,” says Martin. “Some go into their past in great depth and it can be horrific but also incredibly sad. You find that the people who have been abusive or cruel have often had similar things happen to them in their childhood.”
More than anything they are overjoyed to be making a fresh start.
I feel joy, peace and happiness and a sense of security following Jesus,” says Mahlon.
“I was lost and confused before I met Jesus, and there was no direction or purpose in my life,” says Mahlon. “I had other issues as well: addictions, self-control problems, and I hated my own life, and everyone and everything around me.
“Life with Jesus in it has changed everything. My addictions have been replaced with his life-changing love, and I feel joy, peace and happiness and a sense of security following Jesus,” says Mahlon.
“He continues to restore me and heal me from my past and draw me closer to him.”