When we think of a prison, many of us think of the lowest place in society. But Terry Eyles, from global chaplaincy organisation Prison Fellowship, knows it’s a mission field.
Eyles works for the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre, Queensland’s largest prison. He says that men behind bars are hungry for God. “You’re in your cells, you’re in your units, you can’t go anywhere. But you can be set free with the power of the Gospel, with what God can do in your lives. And there’s been a big change, especially in this prison, in the last 12 months.”
Talking to Neil Johnson on Vision’s 20Twenty program, Eyles said that once inmates understood what Jesus had done for him, they’d often shed tears, and ask for prayer on the spot. These saved criminals aren’t part-time believers, happily attending church and Bible study.
You see they’re alive, where once they were pretty much dead in their sins.
Chaplains have the freedom to enter any of the prison’s 24 units, and mix among the inmates. When they arrive, it isn’t uncommon to find groups of 15 men praying together. “And then when the Church comes along on a Sunday, you will have a majority in that unit turn up for Church. It’s very encouraging for Chaplains, but all glory to God.”
Eyles said many inmates have never heard the Gospel message when he first speaks to them. When they first understand the idea of repentance and forgiveness, it’s a real eye opener. “They’re very willing to confess to a Chaplin. And I say to them well, you’ve got direct access to God.”
“You can sit in a cell, you can pray to another believer, and you can talk to God and confess all those things. And you know what? God just wipes it clean, once you believe by Faith.”
The Word for Today and Vision 180 magazines Vision produces are in high demand at Arthur Gorrie. “It’s critical,” Eyles said, “because we’re in there every day, but the guys are in their cells for long periods during the night.”
“The guys have their Bible, and to look up the Scripture, everything’s according to the power of God to transform. So it gives them hope. It gives them a new plan. It gives them a future. So we come in, and the guys will ask us questions about those devotions. They will certainly say how it really uplifted and encouraged them. And it sets them on a new path.”
If you live near a prison, and feel called to reach out to unchurched inmates, Eyles says it’s easy to get involved. If you’re a Christian and you’ve completed a course or attended Bible study, you can get in touch with Prison Fellowship, and arrange an interview.
But I think the most important thing is you have a heart for men that are in prison.
To get in touch, check out Prison Fellowship Australia’s website.
Tune into 20Twenty and join the conversation with Neil Johnson, weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Click here for your local times and more interviews.