IN a small but joyful ceremony, the inmates from the Minimum Security Unit (MSU) and visitors at Bomana prison in Port Moresby were enlightened with songs of praise and worship and the sharing of the Gospel.
For me, it was more like an experience than the usual attending to assignments, listening to speakers and taking notes. I sang and prayed along with them and it didn’t even feel like we were in a prison camp.
The inmates’ faces lit up with smiles as we made our way in to set up. I could tell they were pleased to have visitors to their unit. I thought to myself, maybe for some of them, they hardly have visitors due to reasons or circumstances beyond their control. But at least now they were receiving a visit from people who had hearts to reach out and make someone smile and feel loved no matter what they had done or what type of person they were. That was enough to assure them that the love of God is unconditional and it broke all evil. That I saw in the joint fellowship with the Salvos and the inmates – how beautiful was that, I pondered.
The Salvos had been involved in the prison ministry for more than 20 years and the Christmas visit is part of that. Every year, they do Christmas visits to the different units at the prison and give the inmates gifts, Bibles and food. Due to the recent breakout, they were only allowed to visit the Minimum Security Unit. The inmates were presented with seven Christmas cakes courtesy of the Churches Partnership Program of the Salvos. The unit visited got one while the rest were distributed to the Maximum Security Unit, Women’s and Juvenile Units and the Main Compound.
The highlight of the program were the songs sung by the inmates from different denominations and the sharing of the Gospel. It was amazing to see that despite what these men had done to end up in prison, they were gifted with the voices of angels. The melodies from the songs they sang were beautiful. Each time they put on an item, they thanked God for their talents and blessed the visitors and their ‘brothers’ with the songs. What really touched me was when one of the pastors from the Salvos was called up to share and then I saw some of the inmates take out their Bibles and started turning to the verses that were given.
Seeing each of them with a Bible, it complemented what their representative said at the conclusion of the program; that spiritual rehabilitation by the power of God was the only way to change a person. They testified that God had given them talents and that they must use them to praise Him. It was evident that some have converted to being Christians and I could tell by the look on their faces that they were happy; physically imprisoned but spiritually freed in Christ!
Major Jim Cocker, the personnel secretary at the Salvation Army Headquarters, shared a little about second chances in life. He said everyone needed a second chance.
Referring to the gospel of John in the Bible about the story of a woman who was caught in the act of adultery and was condemned to death, Major Cocker spoke of how Jesus gave her a second chance because of the power he had to forgive sins.
“Many of us here have acknowledged the blood of Christ. We’re no longer on the road to destruction. Christ wants to give you a do over (second chance),” he said.
“Christ came to save us from our sins so we could have victory over sin. There’s consequences of sin (death) and by accepting Christ, you will live in eternity forever. Rejection of Christ causes spiritual death, you make that decision,” he told the gathering.
Yes, it was true that everyone deserved a second chance. Spiritual enrichment was also required in rehabilitating a person. In what I saw up there, these men were happy that they were spiritually saved and were looking forward to a new life when they come out. Providing them life skills is one thing but to keep them strong mentally and spiritually is another important component of the rehabilitation process.
While mingling with the inmates, I came across my one my ex-school mates. He had completely changed and wasn’t the man I knew back in school. We shook hands and chatted for a while. He told me that he was coming out soon and had planned to take up Theology at the Pacific Adventist University. He was determined and wanted to do something better with his life.
I also met some familiar faces from my own neighborhood that I haven’t seen for nine years. We were just teenagers back then when they were sent up to do time. It was good to see them again and although it had been a while, I could still recognise them.
As we closed the program and headed back to the city, I felt kind of sad. Seeing them all and thinking, that could have been my father, brother or husband or a close relative. But I know they’re happy because they’ve already gotten a second chance.