It was a regular Sunday morning at church when Richard first heard about Prison Ministry.
A father of 3, working in the construction industry and heavily involved with church ministry, Richard’s life was already busy but there was something about Prison Ministry that appealed to him, so he thought he’d give it a go.
He was connected with a young man called Alex* who had 6 months to go on his prison sentence.
They started writing letters to each other and eventually, Richard asked if he could come in and meet Alex face to face.
They sat facing each other through the glass divide. That took a little getting used to. But Richard persisted, coming back regularly to meet with Alex.
Richard had a troubled past himself, struggling with drug addiction for 28 years, so although he had never found himself behind bars, they understood each other and became good friends.
Richard picked Alex up from prison on the day of his release. First stop: Maccas, followed by Centrelink and the bank, to help get him off to a good start.
Alex started coming to church with Richard, joined a Connect Group, was Baptised and even went on a Young Adults Retreat but after a while, he started catching up with his old mates again.
Alex was eventually arrested for assault after relapsing into drugs. Richard went to court with him, and provided a character reference. He assured Alex that no matter what happened, he would always be there for him.
Alex went back to prison for another 12 months and struggled with depression, Richard visited him regularly.
“Richard’s life was already busy but there was something about Prison Ministry that appealed to him, so he thought he’d give it a go.”
About half way through the sentence, he was moved to a different prison further away.
Eventually, he was given the option of applying for parole but decided to stay for his full sentence. Richard was there to pick him up again at the end of his sentence. During the 4 ½ hour drive home, Alex was on the phone to his old mates the whole way and Richard gave up hope.
But, to Richard’s surprise, Alex started coming to church again. He stopped seeing his old mates, and he’s starting an apprenticeship as a chef. He’s in a relationship and he’s made some solid Christian friends.
It’s been a 3 ½ year investment for Richard and he is ready to do it all again with a new person in prison in need of a mentor. He has been a challenging journey but the rewards are so immense.
If you’re interested in mentoring a person who is in prison and approaching release, you’re invited to attend a ‘Caring for Ex-Offenders’ training event at the QB offices, Gaythorne on Saturday 18 November.
Caring for Ex-Offenders works with churches to make them safe and welcoming places for people who have been in prison.
*Name has been changed.