SUPPORTING AN EX-OFFENDER WHO HAS TURNED TO JESUS AND INTEGRATING THEM INTO THE BODY OF CHRIST IS THE WORK OF THE WHOLE CHURCH COMMUNITY, SAYS LCM TEAM LEADER FOR PRISONS MINISTRY LUKE CARSON
A Christian friend living in a probation hostel brought another guy from the hostel to church one Sunday.
He wasn’t a Christian but from the beginning we got on well. We started meeting for lunch and I was building a friendship with him and sharing the gospel. It was clear that the Lord was at work in his life. Sadly he broke his curfew and was recalled to prison.
I’ve been visiting Pentonville Prison for a few years. I prayed for him to be sent to Pentonville. There was no particular reason why he would have been, it was against the odds.
Instead he was sent to a prison in West London. But while he was in the van taking him, the driver got a radio message that there was a change of plan. He now headed for Pentonville.
I was able to keep visiting the guy in his cell, keeping the relationship going. He became a believer and got baptised.
He went through a huge number of difficulties. Life was terribly hard, it was a real journey until he got moved to another prison.
I knew the chaplain of the new prison really well and was still able to spend time with him in the segregation unit. Then I met him when he got released.
Connecting with other Christians who have also been through similar life experiences and imprisonment is incredibly valuable. So our team is discipling men who have been through the experience of being in prison. Their life experience means they are able to speak into people’s lives so much more directly than I could.
The prisoner was released during the first lockdown and has gone from strength to strength. He’s now in full-time work, rents his own place and goes to church. He sees his kids all the time, and some day he wants to bring his daughter to church. He’s doing really well. But that said, we had to journey with him through all the challenges of the system for a long time.
Sticking by a person who’s in a bad situation means trust builds up, so when things settle down, they want to stay in touch with you. I’m not just there to help, it’s a proper friendship.
The whole church has been supportive. Someone in the church donated a smartphone so he could join a small group which was meeting over Zoom. He’s been going to the group’s house for dinner and spends time with more people from church now. It’s just quite beautiful to see it.
A lot of the work is about having really honest conversations, reminding him how he can do things differently. Those are tough conversations. There’s been a lot of occasions when he could have done something that took him back to prison, but he’s resisted that.
It’s crucial that the support has not come from just me and the team. There’s a group of people from the church who will always be there for him - it takes a lot of people to support one person.