A set of four insights into our prison ministry. The first is from Lucy Merino-Calongos, missionary at HMP Downview:
The Lord promises that he himself goes before us and walks with us each day. I give thanks for the opportunity to serve him in this prison.
I recently sat with a resident who’s experienced hurt, rejection, humiliation and used drugs to numb all those feelings. As she shared her story, I was praying and the Lord enabled me to share his love with her by opening his word. She agreed to take a Bible and read from the gospel – she said she wanted to know more about this Jesus.
Another lady opened up about the pain of being put up for adoption – feeling useless and unwanted, the negative words and comments she’d been told as a child resounding in her mind. Although she’s heard the gospel, I’m praying for her to receive the love of God.
A lady I’ve known for the last two years is ready to leave after five years in prison. She was remembering how God has helped her through the storms of her life, answering her prayers not always how she wanted but recognising that his ways are best.
Two other ladies left the prison rejoicing that God’s been with them. They said they’d never forget their experience in prison and were full of gratitude for the support received through Bible studies, pastoral visits, singing group, and Sunday service.
I thank God for everyone who has met him and has grown in their faith while in this place. May the Lord watch over them as they move out into their community. May the Lord continue to draw women to himself and reveal himself to them as the Saviour, the Lord of all. My Lord is sufficient for the many needs in this place.
Pamela Brown-Peterside, Field Director for West London:
My recent visit to prison was full of surprises. I met Neil Gillespie and Luke Carson, two of the King’s Cross and Camden street outreach team, at a cafe across from HMP Pentonville, along with Jo Davies, a chaplain from Holy Trinity Brompton, and Karis Carson (Luke’s wife) who’s with Caring for Ex-Offenders. The four are part of a team of chaplains and volunteers who run Alpha and a prayer course weekly at the prison. After going through security, we prayed in a small office and then made our way to the prison’s Board Room (who knew prisons had board rooms?). As we were setting up, there was a rumble outside, and from a balcony I saw lots of men, most in grey tracksuits, coming out of the wings, crisscrossing through the prison centre on their way to the afternoon’s activities. Eight men joined us. After a warm welcome, Carol Hayward, a volunteer who’s visited Pentonville for the past twenty-five years, gave a talk on the Lord’s Prayer, explaining line by line how it connected with her life, and the gift it is to all of us. I’d earlier discovered she’d become a Christian through Graham Jones, an LCM missionary who’d visited her regularly for years! Afterwards, Neil asked our small group about what they’d heard. A spirited discussion about fatherhood, the pleasure of taking drugs, and God’s forgiveness followed. I came away from my visit so encouraged! How marvellous that the good news about Jesus is being made known in this London prison.
Luke Carson, King’s Cross and Camden street population team:
I saw a man at one of our drop-ins who I hadn't seen for years; he used to attend Webber Street a long time ago. I sat down to talk and noticed he had a copy of the Ragamuffin Gospel book. I started asking him about it and it led to a great chat about faith and religion, and then he shared with me the Bible reading notes he’s been using. I asked if he ever thought about the Bible character who shared his name, and did they have any similar traits? We will continue to read the Bible together all being well at the Tuesday drop-in.
Neil Gillespie, King’s Cross and Camden street population team:
One man has been out of prison for a couple of months now. He became a Christian inside. Upon release he had no accommodation and was facing street homelessness. After big efforts from many people and a lot of prayer, we got him short-term accommodation. He’s attended church with us a few times. He still has many issues and needs a lot of support. He has always struggled with crime; his world view and lifestyle still pose concerns. God is moving in his life but he is still young in his Christian walk and is very vulnerable.
These accounts first appeared in Changing London.