Travelling with God
“For the Lord hears the poor, and does not despise his prisoners.”
“Let the groaning of the prisoner come before you: According to the greatness of your Power preserve those who are appointed to die.”
When I was first asked to write a blog, I really struggled with the notion of where to start, what it should contain, how long it should be etc. I had to take a step back and let God speak to me. In doing so, I’ve had the chance to reflect on the last ten years of my life and even further aback.
On January 20th 2006 I was remanded into custody at H.M.P Wandsworth. This was a game changer for me, having spent the majority of my teenage years in and out of Young Offenders Institutes such as HMYOI Feltham, Huntercombe & Hollesley Bay. I would always think that part of my life was over until I found myself back behind the wall again. I had had enough – my way was not working, and there was no other option but to surrender to Gods’ will.
My first child was going to be born that summer and even though I wanted to be at his birth and be there for him from the beginning, deep down I knew that was not going to happen. I could not accept that this was the consequences of my actions. It was a period of accountability which I never wanted to accept. To me, it was always everybody else’s fault but mine.
This was the attitude I had always adopted, angry with the world for all my woes and shortcomings, I believed the world owed me. This time round, however, something in me was different. I had a different attitude towards my mistakes, and started to assume responsibility for my crimes. I completely surrendered my life to God – accepting that I was failing miserably, and not wanting my child to follow in my footsteps. I firmly believed that I needed to be a good role model for my unborn child.
I remember seeing my uncle being accompanied by Officers as he passed my Wing. He told me to put my name down for the Sunday afternoon Bible study group. He took my Cell number and Prison number to make sure that I would attend. When Sunday afternoon came round, I felt humble and open minded in attending the Bible study group.
I was greeted by two men who ran the group – Brother Winston and Brother Delroy. I must say they were beaming with the light of God! They collected men from various Wings within the prison – I could see by the way the men greeted Winston and Delroy that they were truly loved and respected by the guys.
That Bible study session was truly uplifting. It did not feel like we were in prison. I felt the strong presence of God. We sang, we danced, testified, prayed and explored scriptures from the Bible. I felt at peace, safe and that I had hope, even though I was incarcerated – as the Bible says “iron sharpens iron”, I felt strengthened to face the coming week.
I was a regular attendee of the Bible study group whilst in HMP Wandsworth. Whilst doing my time there, I had visions of myself returning to the prison as a free man to give my testimony, to encourage the men and preach the word. I am truly thankful to God that this has come to pass, as I have been able to visit a number of times over the last year. On my last visit I was approached by an officer who remembered me – he encouraged me and told me that he was proud of what I was doing.
All I could do was give God the glory as it was all down to Him. I remember an officer questioning me whilst I was serving my sentence, as to why I attended Church and the Bible study group. He did not think I was genuine, and asked if when I was released, would I attend Church and carry on my walk with God. I told him that I would, but could see the disbelief in his eyes.
On my return to the prison I saw this same officer, who greeted me with a Hallelujah! Although, I did not blame him for not believing me back then, as the amount of men I saw returning back to prison after being released was high. I found it very sad to see so many men giving up on hope, believing that the only life they had was one of crime because they did not feel like they belonged within society. Many felt that they could not turn to God because of the sinful lifestyles they were living and also that the crimes they had committed were too big of a sin for God to forgive them. I give thanks to the Lord, for always loving me despite my shortcomings. As the Word says He will never leave me nor forsake me. I consider myself blessed to know that no matter what I did in the past, no sin is too big for God to forgive, for God is merciful and loves us unconditionally.
Nine years later, I became a member of New Testament Church of God Charlton – the Church which Brother Winston attends. Also as a result of my journey, I am embarking on a filmmaking project called “Unlocking Faith” – a documentary highlighting the Christian work being undertaken within Prisons in the UK. The film will show how Prison Ministries positively effect the national statistics of reoffending and rehabilitation, and also give a chance to those who were once living a life of crime to share their testimony to encourage others who may be finding it hard to cope without God.