Tears and transformation: the Bible changes lives in “juvy”

From Eternity newspaper

Just how life-changing is the word of God? To find out, you have to go to the front-line, where chaplains are giving Bibles into the hands of thirsty people.

Every year, the Bible Society gives free Bible based material to chaplains to use in their work. And every year, it changes lives.

The Rev Graeme Liersch works at the Riverina Juvenile Justice Centre in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales where he is chaplain to young offenders. One of those young men is Fred* who is serving a long sentence after being involved in petty crime and a car accident which killed some of his friends.

When Fred first came to the Centre, he was aggressively against anything to do with God. “I never gave God a thought,” says Fred in a hand-written testimony given to Graeme.

But one day he found some Scripture material in his unit common room and he started reading.

“I went through a rough time in my life and ended up in custody, one day I was given a Bible and I thought I’d just flick through it. After I read a few different stories, I became really interested in God.”

Fred asked Graeme for some more information, because he wanted to understand the Bible more easily, which Graeme joyfully provided.

Fred says, “I feel that it’s helped me a lot. I read the Bible every two days at least and it helps me when I’m feeling down and I even think a lot more about my future.”

Meanwhile, at a Forensic Hospital in Sydney which provides mental health care to people who’ve been in contact with the criminal justice system, the Rev Brian Woodhouse has also seen the Bible’s impact.

Tim* asked Brian if he could pray over his room because he felt afraid when he went to sleep sometimes. Brian asked a nurse to come with him to Tim’s room, where found a neatly-made bed and a number of Bibles; some on the floor, others on his dressing table.

“I like the Bible,” Tim said. “It helps me relax.”

Brian wasn’t surprised Tim felt afraid when he was going to sleep, because as a child, his room had never been a safe place. He was surprised, however, when he saw the Bibles; Tim was unable to read.

The chaplain sat on Tim’s bed.

“I invited the God of the Bible to come, enter Tim’s room, and fill this place with security and peace,” says Brian.

“After I prayed, I looked at Tim. Tears were in his eyes as he thanked me. He said that he could feel God’s peace in his head and his heart as I prayed. There were still two other surprises waiting for me.”

When he left Tim’s room, the nurse who’d been with him wanted to ask him some questions.

“What happened in there?” she asked. “What do you mean?” answered Brian.

“I felt it, like a shivering and then a wave of relief, I just felt so relaxed, so peaceful as you were praying,” she said. “I’ve never felt anything like it.”

The next day, Brian went to the ward to see how Tim was doing. “Chaplain!” he exclaimed as Brian entered the ward. “I slept last night. All night. I never woke up once.”

For Tim the God of the Bible had given him real peace.

*names have been changed

If you would like to support this work of Bible Society, call 1300 BIBLES or visit www.biblesociety.org.au/grants to donate