I was saved 29 years ago, when I was 20. I taught in special schools for 23 years, before being moved by the Lord to leave that employment in 2005. I had enjoyed my work with children, but my desire was to spend more of my time speaking to people about the Lord. I had spoken to colleagues about my faith and had some opportunities to share the gospel on other occasions, like doing door to door work, around the local area.
Introduction to prison work
Soon after beginning personal work full time, we were brought into contact with a young man who had been in prison. He had made a profession of faith but sadly went back to drugs and crime, and then to prison again. I visited him in Milton Keynes Prison (HMP Woodhill). Steve Clegg from Kilamarsh had introduced him to us, and I had been to Steves Bible class in Doncaster Prison. That had amazed me. So many young men, with big problems in their lives, coming and listening to Steve preaching to them and teaching them from the Bible, for nearly 4 hours, with just one coffee break! I had taught some similar characters in school, but not with the liberty that Steve had. These men were coming willingly, to be taught about the Scriptures.
In HMP Woodhill
While on my visits to Woodhill, I took the opportunity to ask the chaplain if I might take a Bible class. That was acceptable to him. I believe the Lord over-ruled and, despite a delay of about a year, I was given official clearance and permission to run a Bible study group once a week.
I have been blessed throughout the last twelve months, with the tremendous privilege of taking the gospel into a prison which seems to have very little other evangelical witness. I have shared the gospel with nearly 100 different men, most of whom have been to the Bible Class at the chapel, and some of whom I have visited in the cell blocks. Each man has to choose to make an official application to come to the group. I arrive about lunchtime and have had eight or nine men present over the last couple of months. There is a big "turnover" of inmates as some are only on remand and are at this prison for just a few weeks.
We begin with a quiz on the previous weeks Scriptures. Sometimes the questions provoke more questions! Then we have discussion and teaching as we read the Word of God together. Some men are not good readers and will just listen, but all are free to raise questions and most do. We begin at 2.00pm every Tuesday, and we finish at 4.30pm, when the men go back to their cells for "lock down" time. They are next allowed out of their cells at teatime which is about 6.00pm.
A typical week
This week was fairly typical. B often adds his thoughts to the group discussion time. He does not seem to understand that salvation is not turning over a new leaf and doing your best. His comments give me opportunity to stress again the need for whole-hearted repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone. H has got his friend N to come this week: they are both Roman Catholic traveller lads. They do not read, but they manage to listen with interest as I share the gospel, making reference to it being useless to ask a priest to forgive our sins.
O is back for the 2nd week. I had a lot of time to talk to him last week because my class was cancelled, and he turned up unexpectedly from healthcare. He is a quiet, politely spoken, Roman Catholic lad, and you would not guess he had been involved in drugs and self-harming because of problems from his childhood.
S, another Roman Catholic, spoke to me in passing. He was not happy that he had been taken off my list for a few weeks by the Roman Catholic chaplain (this chaplain has just started a Bible study for Roman Catholics twice a week). I am very grateful to the Salvation Army chaplain who reinstated S to my group. S is an intelligent man and listens quietly.
Since I have been here, the Imam has also begun two mornings a week of Koranic studies on the wings! Please pray that we will continue to have the liberty to present the gospel truth. The light will then take care of the darkness!
I have not met D before, but he knows all the answers to the questions from last weeks passages! He has to go at 3pm because he is due for his medication back on the wing. He says he will make sure, next week, that they give him it at a different time.
After class is finished, I need to wait an hour before I go to the "wings", or I will only be able to speak to men through a locked cell door. I want to talk to D again. A lady officer tells me that he is not happy that he missed half of Bible Class today. She says I must put notes in his file after speaking to him. He is a self-harmer on suicide watch, but she unlocks him early for tea and I am able to sit with him and talk. He opens up about his past, telling me that his problems stemmed from 7 years ago, when he found his fiancée dead. He has been cutting himself since then. He is not a drinker or a drug user, "just a smoker".
While on Ds wing, I ask to speak to B who had written to a Christian organisation asking for a Bible. They had written back to the chaplaincy at the prison and I was able to provide him with a Bible. On to another wing and only thirty minutes left until final "lock down". I met P on the wing nine months ago. After four months he came to Bible study and has only been a couple of times since, but he asked me to visit him. He wanted to talk about "religion". He has obsessive compulsive disorder. He is a very strong man who has to turn sideways to get his shoulders through the cell doorway. He has a great Bible knowledge and philosophical knowledge, which is rare in here! Then, after writing some brief notes in the office and recording my total contact hours for the chaplaincy records, I leave for the Tuesday night meeting back in Northampton.
Items for prayer
For those who like statistics, in just twelve months of Bible study I have had over 700 contact hours with the prisoners. That would be equivalent to having fourteen outsiders in for each Sunday night gospel meeting for a year. But, statistics dont save souls! Please pray for prison work and that the Lord would send more workers into this harvest field.
We value your prayers, too, for the Thursday morning evangelistic Bible study at the Gospel Hall. This is a two hour study, on exactly the same lines as the prison work. Numbers are lower here! This is primarily for those contacts made through the door to door work, and the emphasis again is on the gospel, and systematic Scripture reading. We seek to apply the Word of God to all those problems of today, giving answers to the real questions and real needs of society.