‘In prison, we can’t go down the street and find a new church. There isn’t one!’
Gavin’s story | Unity and the Spirit of God in prison
“I’ve been in prison in central Queensland for the last 19 years. I became a born-again Christian at the very beginning of my time here. Perhaps you associate prisons with things that increase your heart rate. There’s a lot of unpleasantness in prison, but I want to tell you about a light and a person you might not associate with jail. The light is the light of the Gospel and the person is the Lord Jesus Christ. I have seen the wonderful grace of God in prison for nearly two decades!
The gospel of Jesus is being preached in here, by inmates, in all its fullness. We share about repentance from dead works and then faith towards God. I find that when men respond from their hearts in this way, Jesus enters them, heals them physically, emotionally and mentally. He delivers them from demonic oppression and then the Holy Spirit fills them and begins the transformation process. I’ve seen men completely laid out on the floor under the power of the Holy Spirit as they’re being healed. I’ve seen hardened men weep freely as the Spirit of God moves upon their hearts. I’ve seen Jesus turn brutality and hatred into passion and zeal for the kingdom of God, and righteousness. These men who were so broken have become some of the most loving, generous and joyful people in the place.
The entire time I’ve been here, there has always been a core group of committed believers who love Jesus and each other sincerely. Jesus is planting and building his church in prison and God has always supplied what is needed. If a brother goes home or moves to a different part of the centre, then God will send another brother, or he will convert an unbeliever, to provide what is needed for the body of Christ to grow and function.
The church here experiences unity and love for each other in unique ways. One reason is we can’t run from the uncomfortable parts of organic church life and fellowship. If there’s conflict between brothers, there’s no option to go down the street and find a new church, because there isn’t one. We’re forced to face the hard truth about ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to change us and conform us into the image of Christ. We also have to die daily to our pride and forgive each other often … but what we find on the other side of the tough stuff is real unity, real love and God commanding a blessing upon it, like it says in Psalm 133, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (v1)
The church here is also highly visible because of the context we’re in. The people we minister to around the compound are also the people who see the reality of our lives 24/7. Our confession must line up with our conduct or we experience zero credibility in our Christian walk. God has taught me to pray so much. Sometimes there are up to five men praying in my cell at night. We pray as the Holy Spirit leads us, and as we do, we see the whole atmosphere of the prison change. The incredible peace and presence of God descends in thickness and richness. Afterwards, many conversations about God happen, and I know that these moments have been created by God and released through our prayers.
We’ve been taught to stand on God’s word in simple faith through life’s storms. We’re so thankful for the Bibles that have been given to us. Every inmate has an opportunity to read the most important book on the planet – the Bible. We believe it, as little children, and we desire to obey it. Thank you for praying for us – in, at times, a forgotten place. Inside a seed is a potential forest. We pray that every Bible in here would result in a forest of believers … and then a great revival! May the Lord set the spiritual captives free!”
Gavin’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.