By THEO YASAUSE
GREG Teine can be described simply as a carpenter of the human soul.
He holds the rank of corporal in the PNG Correctional Services and is the spiritual coordinator at the Minimum Security Unit (MSU) of the Country’s premier prison – Bomana.
Teine hails from Kundiawa-Gembogl District in Chimbu and is a no-nonsense guy and a straight shooter.
His line of work deals with the soul and instils true change in life to transform the spiritual and physical appearance of anyone who enters Bomana Prison.
Teine recalls a story about Michelangelo who was commissioned to work on the great statue of David. At the time, he had a big block of marble that was spoiled and abandoned. Most artists would say “Who needs this ruined chunk of marble?’’ This marble block was called the giant. It was over 16 feet and weighted over a tonne. It was lying in the mud. They were going to cut it up for tombstones.
But Michelangelo couldn’t take his eyes off of it. Every day he would walk to where it was, and he would touch it, measure it and caress it. He decided to work with it. And so it took some time, he worked out without contact with the outside world. He chipped off the parts that were bad. And he chiselled the rest of into the image he wanted.
Today his amazing statue of David is counted among the greatest works of art. It was wonderful example of how an artist can take something that is marred and turn it to something that is marvellous.
This story is true for all prisoners that come into Bomana Prison. To help change a prisoner is not an easy task; it is a long winding road of perseverance and hard work and only with the grace of God and divine intervention can you change a man of his character and behaviour. It is a difficult task when dealing with people of different walks of life but when you turn that person’s life around, you can sit back and marvel. Only God can do that when we become vessels and instrumentalities.
Bringing God into big decisions/seeking directions
Teine says as prisoners come into prison, their lives change completely. Many questions plague their minds, and fear begins to grip their hearts. Which directions should they take? How will they know what life holds for them inside the prison walls and when they will leave prison?
Standing at the brink of life-changing encounter, they have to wrestle with the pros and cons of subsequent actions. Taking stock of their individual life, how to shift the relevant and irrelevant factors? It is self-evaluation time and they have to be prepared to tackle a decision-making process of this magnitude on their own terms. It’s a prisoner cross-road where impressions, emotions and realities collide.
This is where Teine comes in to assist people make real and true decisions.
“All I do is encourage them, put the nails in the right places, saw and harmer and start the building project of the human soul,” he says of his work.
He says he sees himself as akin to a carpenter. As humble as he, Teine is on a rescue mission to help prisoners make big decisions. As he listens to the inmates’ testimonies and life stories of many converts, he was asked if he would like to say a word.
This is what he said: “For some time now, I have been given an opportunity to observe something. It has been a privilege to listen to the testimonies of men and women who were glad to know what Christ has done to them. I know nothing about their life stories, but I confess I cannot otherwise explain what has taken place in their lives,” Teine says.
“A few of them I recognised as drunkards, even drug addicts and criminals. Some have been in and out of the prison and in bad shape. But here they are, alive, delivered and in their right frame of mind. I do know the miracle; nothing can account for this change in them. This is what the world needs, our society and communities and families need. I am thrilled by the big life changing decisions they have made to have accepted Jesus Christs as their Lord and Saviour.
Desiring God, transformation and monumental change
“You can see God is in the transformation business. My role is to bring prisoners to a desire for God. Once they do that, God looks at our clay, and sees a vessel of honour.
“God does not need gold or silver. All you have to do is give Him the clay. He is the Master Potter. He can create treasures out of the trash, jewels out of the junk, glory out of garbage, riches out of rubbish; he can make diamonds out of charcoal.”
Teine says one thing he is very well aware of is that if a prisoner or anyone else lets God into their life, God can bring deliverance to the drug adict, can fix a broken home, and give another chance in life. God builds churches and humanity with misfits and throwaways.
• Give God a dreamer like Joseph – He turns him into a commander over Egypt
• Give God a murderer like Moses – He turns him into a great leader
• Give Him a shepherd like David – He turns him into a king
• Give Him a child like Jeremiah – He turns him into a prophet
• Give Him a fisherman like Peter – He turns him into an apostle
• Give Him a prosecutor like Paul – He turns him into a preacher
• Give Him a prostitute like Mary-Magdalene – He turns her into an evangelist
• Give Him a Mandela who is a prisoner – He turns him into a world icon of great deliverance
Teines says one thing he is assured of is that misfits and throwaways can become something of value society needs and desires.
He points out that the starting point is God Himself. He is a role model to admire and emulate. We all aspire to live like Jesus as we were in fact created in His image. Everyone has the image of God in them and they are our resilient nations created for a purpose to be dominant and multiply to subdue the earth.
Teine is very mindful that each prisoner is unique; when you look up the word image it means reflection, likeness and representation. A prisoner, or anyone for that matter, was created in his spiritual, intellectual and moral nature.
All of us are the climax of God’s creative activity and are put in charge over all the earth. We all receive the authority to look after certain parts and places of the creation. All of us are here on earth for a reason. So we are different, unique and special. We are all resilient nations.
Along the way, the image was tarnished as we read in Genesis with the disobedience of Adam and Eve. The image was no longer perfect and needed restoration. It does not mean we are totally removed because of the tarnished image, we still can go through Jesus as the link between us and God to restore the spoiled images or blue print.
Teine is like a seasoned carpenter who follows blueprints and building plans to meet the needs of clients – the prisoners. All he does is guide and install structures and fixtures such religious programmes and activities and provide direction. These also include the measuring, cutting, shaping of wood, plastic and other materials to ensure the structures are well positioned.
“You see prisoners come in different shapes and sizes, different social classes and standing. I have to look at their specific needs and design programmes most of which are ongoing and get them to participate.
“I see them through the eye of God through Jesus Christ. It is because Jesus is the image of the invisible God. When Jesus came people were allowed to see and feel God.
“Adam and Eve had a relationship before sin, but we can now have a relationship through Jesus to restore that broken relationship through sin. Our images, our brokenness, our sack clothes are redirected and restored. Therefore, we become new people, new creation and with new thinking, attributes, attitude and behavioural change.
“It is not for me or anyone to condemn the prisoners; our role is to facilitate change in our brothers and sisters in the prisons to be given a second chance and become good citizens when they return to their families, community and society.”
Teine says that is the highest calling for him in the institution. It is to give a second chance to the marginalised segment of our society.
“We are who we are in God or I am who I am in God,” says Teine.
• The author is an inmate at the Bomana Prison and chairman of the peace and reconciliation committee comprising senior prison staff and prisoners.