We must love those in our prisons
"Jesus!" Steve looked up to see a raised hand giving the "Say Jesus" greeting and a grinning face beaming down from the second landing on H-block in Wandsworth Prison. Steve, one of our leaders, was visiting someone else: the smile and hand belonged to a new brother who had found Jesus while visiting us on "home leave".
Members of the Jesus Fellowship are in touch with many people in prison and are discovering increasing numbers of men and women seeking the living Jesus from the confines of their cells. Virtually daily we receive letters from prisoners who have heard of us or seen our literature.
They respond enthusiastically to the Streetpapers and Jesus Life magazines sent to chaplains or to fellow inmates; they've read our story, Fire in Our Hearts, in the prison library. They can see that this is not the story of a few Christian "heroes": here are ordinary people in Britain now -- people like themselves who have been changed.
The modern Jesus Movement is beginning to travel inside our prisons!
Several "lifers" have already found Christ, been baptised and become Covenant Members of the Jesus Fellowship -- in prison! They've no immediate prospects of release but are enjoying freedom: freedom from guilt and despair, freedom from the hurts of rejection by society and authority, freedom to laugh and to praise! We've laughed, wept and celebrated too, as we've seen their photos on the overhead projector screen as, with others who are there in person, they are received into membership.
Love and forebearance
It was our work on the streets which first brought us into contact with the scale of the need. We began to meet young people (and older ones too!) with long criminal records, often on the run, living under false names and surviving on their wits. They could identify with the Jesus who lived on the streets; they found confidence to turn themselves in, knowing they'd found not only the "friend of sinners" but also a Judge who'd declared them "Not Guilty" and friends who would stick closer than a brother. We spoke in Court for such people and still do. Judges and magistrates have been moved by their changed lives. Often the lasting change has emerged only after we've shown a great deal of love and forbearance toward them.
Some have committed crimes which could only be punished with prison sentences but we've kept in touch by letter and by visit. Some, we believe, were wrongly convicted. We've prayed with and for our brethren in prison: we've sent them our music tapes and videos. Sometimes we've been able to hold meetings where they are. Some of them have become ambassadors for Christ and for the Jesus Fellowship among their fellow inmates.
Our mailing list to prisons is always increasing. In a number of prisons, groups of men on fire for Jesus are beginning to come together to inspire, encourage and disciple one another. God is on the move!
We are grateful for the help received from prison governors, chaplains and officers. Pray for them too!
If you would like us to help with a prisoner or ex-prisoner, please contact us.