“Ex-prisoners are very excited to share their story of transformation. Their stories provide hope and encouragement to others.”
Since 2015, Annette Spurr has been writing the stories of former prisoners for The Inside Story, the newsletter of Inside Out Prison Chaplaincy, to help increase awareness about the invaluable role of prison chaplains.
“I remember sitting across the table from an ex-prisoner, ready for our interview and I asked, ‘So, what were you in for?’ He responded: ‘First degree murder.’ I nearly fell off my chair,” Annette recalls.
“I was suddenly flustered and nervous and even a little bit afraid. But hearing how God had totally changed his life was incredible.
“It completely changed my outlook on prisoners. Each one of them has a story to tell and each one of them is just as worthy of God’s love as I am.”
Annette says while it is often hard to listen to prisoners’ confronting personal accounts, she also feels uplifted by their stories.
“During some interviews I’ve found myself sobbing. Many prisoners’ stories are so raw and heartbreaking. Many suffered unspeakable abuse and neglect as small children,” Annette says.
“They speak about how they experienced love for the very first time when a prison chaplain treated them with kindness and humanity.
“They speak about finding freedom for the first time as they read the bible in their prison cell.
“And they speak about finding new life when they leave prison and connect with their local church, finding the sense of community and acceptance that was missing in their life before going ‘inside’.”
Annette says many of the former prisoners she has interviewed for The Inside Story are now involved in ministry themselves.
“One fellow wants to start a ministry especially for fathers as he said, ‘Prisons are full of men with bad or absent fathers’,” says Annette, who also volunteers with children’s and women’s ministries at her own church.
“Through his experience, he wants to teach men how to be positive role models and leaders in their families and communities.”
Annette believes stories like these provide hope and encouragement to people who are “going through a tough season”.
“Their stories about the transformational power of Jesus Christ in their lives are more powerful than any sermon,” she says.