TOMÁŠ | Czech Republic

Testimony of a New Friendship 

I would like to share with you a real-life story about two friends and the testimony they shared in the chapel of Rýnovice prison. Before I start telling this true story, I have to go back in time to introduce to you the two protagonists and shed some light on their previous lives. The story starts with gossip, hatred, pain and fear, but ends with reconciliation, understanding, cooperation, forgiveness and hope.

Addicted and Harmful

There were once two young men who lived in the same town. They knew about each other but hadn’t met yet. What they had in common was that they were both drug addicts. At some point, they finally met and became friends, although I am not sure you can call a relationship between two addicts a friendship. Anyway, they started spending more time together, selling drugs together and supporting one another.

But, as expected, the drugs eventually took their toll and started tearing them apart, destroying the core of their being. Their characters changed and so did their priorities. They started badmouthing, stealing from and generally hurting each other. I cannot say which of the individuals was worse. They both share the blame for what happened between them. They started hating each other to such an extent that it could not end well. Eventually, revenge and retaliation followed. It went so far that one of them contributed to the other ending up in prison. And even then, they hadn’t stopped. The one who was not in prison continued to do bad things to the other one until he too ended up in prison!

Even though they landed up in different prisons, the hatred didn’t stop. They both spent their evenings thinking about how they would get back at each other when they got out.

Crossing Paths

Back then, they had no idea that their paths would cross sooner than they imagined. They would end up standing side by side, face to face in the same prison. What none of them could imagine actually happened. And so, they crossed paths once more, and it happened in the strangest place one could ever imagine. That place was the chapel of Rýnovice prison, and they met because they both, independent of each other, decided to enroll in the program called The Prisoner’s Journey®.

I think that on the day they met again, they both had very mixed feelings about what was going to happen and doubts about where it was going to lead. But God wanted their paths to cross again, and they even ended up sitting next to each other in the chapel. As they sat there, they started sharing their lives again, explaining each other’s point of view, and most of all, apologizing to each other.

The idea of forgiveness started taking shape.

Finding Reconciliation and Forgiveness

With each subsequent meeting, their relationship flourished. They started cooperating and reading the Gospel of Mark together. They watched videos of bad deeds that ended in compassion and hope. They even drew the scene of the Last Supper, which is all about betrayal but also forgiveness. Instead of war, peace entered their lives. Out of hatred came a new, true and pure friendship—a friendship without drugs. They promised each other they would no longer pursue revenge once they were released. In fact, they were quite sad that the program was ending.

Not only did they find out about the Lord Jesus and the reasons why He came to the world, but they also resolved a long-standing conflict between them, forgave each other and became friends again.

Everything written above is true because I was one of the two friends!

MATTHEW | Liberia

Matthew was born into a Christian household, surrounded by the familiar rituals of faith and attending church with his family. However, as he traversed the tumultuous path of adolescence and entered adulthood, the allure of the world tugged at his heartstrings, gradually luring him away from his spiritual roots. He distanced himself from the church, seeking solace in the fleeting pleasures of life.

“In the five or six years before I entered prison, I stopped going to church,” Matthew confessed, reflecting on his journey.

The once-vibrant flame of his faith dimmed, casting shadows of doubt upon his soul. As he found himself confined within the bleak walls of a prison, anger swelled within him, fueled by the perceived injustice of his circumstances. “Why did God allow me to suffer for something that wasn’t my fault?” he bitterly pondered, wrestling with his shattered trust.

His friends, who had enrolled in The Prisoner’s Journey®, extended a lifeline of hope. They urged him to join them, their words brimming with excitement. “You should come, Matthew,” they implored, their voices carrying the echoes of transformation. The first class left them awe-inspired, eager to share their newfound insights with their incarcerated friend.

Intrigued by their tales of personal growth and captivated by the videos of prisoners from distant lands, Matthew hesitantly agreed to participate. Little did he know that this reluctant step would mark the beginning of his own remarkable journey toward redemption.

Through The Prisoner’s Journey, Matthew found his mind and heart unfettered, liberated from the shackles of anger and resentment.

“I am free now, even though I am still behind bars,” he joyfully proclaimed.

The burdens he had carried for so long were surrendered to a higher power, as he learned to trust in the process of healing and forgiveness. The program had touched him deeply, prompting Matthew to remark, “The Prisoner’s Journey has really changed my life for good.” He reveled in the newfound freedom that blossomed within his soul, an inner transformation that defied the confines of his physical surroundings. Inspired by the profound impact of the program, Matthew resolved to become a course leader himself, driven by a heartfelt desire to guide and uplift his fellow prisoners.

“I am so grateful for how The Prisoner’s Journey has changed my life,” he gratefully declared, his voice resonating with a profound sense of purpose. Matthew had journeyed through the depths of despair, emerging on the other side with a renewed spirit and an unwavering faith in the transformative power of hope.

In the tapestry of Matthew’s story, threads of doubt and anger were woven with strands of redemption and gratitude. The Prisoner’s Journey had become the loom on which his life was rewoven, knitting together the broken pieces of his existence into a tapestry of resilience and spiritual renewal. And as Matthew walked the path of redemption, he discovered that even within the confines of a prison cell, the light of faith could illuminate the darkest corners of his soul.

Transform Prisoners like Matthew

Paolo Found Forgiveness

Paolo was transferred to an APAC in Brazil to complete his prison sentence. An APAC is an alternative prison model that aims to provide better conditions and opportunities for the rehabilitation of prisoners. Soon after arriving, he was invited by fellow recuperandos* to participate in The Prisoner’s Journey, and he gladly accepted.

He shared, “It was very important to me to be part of this program and journey because it tells the story of a prisoner who suffered, was rejected, massacred, and excluded from society. That prisoner is called Jesus Christ.” Throughout the eight-week course, Paolo realized how much he related to and understood Christ’s story. He knew what it was like to be rejected by society and to suffer. “But that doesn’t matter because I now know that, even in prison, there is someone by my side who gives me strength.”

There was one Bible verse in particular that resonated with Paolo, Matthew 25:36 – I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. “This verse showed me how much Jesus is by my side, helping me through various people,” he reflected.  “They support us, give us the strength to continue fighting every day, showing me that I still have hope. Through The Prisoner’s Journey, I learned that just as Jesus won the world, I am also capable of winning. The course has helped me to see what I did not see, which is that there is a God who has already forgiven me and who suffered to pay the price for me. I loved the course.”

In fact, Paolo loved the course so much that he is now training to become a facilitator for The Prisoner’s Journey within APAC Alfenas. He plans to help other offenders find the same forgiveness and hope that he experienced.

* A recuperando is an offender assigned to an APAC. Recuperando means recovering.

Regaining His Self-Worth

Those in prison are cast off from society, often vilified and forgotten. But when they are invited to participate in an eight-week course that invites them to learn about Jesus, why He came, and what it means to follow Him, they can regain a sense of self-worth and inherent dignity.

Amavi’s bad life decisions led to his arrest and serving a prison sentence in Togo. “I used to seal from others in my community regularly until the police finally arrested me,” he says.

When Amavi first came to prison, he noticed some of his peers inviting others to join a course. Then, they invited him. “I decided to accept and joined The Prisoner’s Journey course,” he says.

During the course, learned there was a better way to live life. “My eyes were opened to what my life was really like,” Amavi says, “so I gave my life to Jesus. Through accepting Him as my Savior, He forgave my sins and transformed me. I feel a deep peace in my heart.”

When Amavi is released from prison, he plans not to return to his old way of stealing from others. “I have learned that I must be patient and work to earn my pay. Jesus is, and always will be, my light.”

Because Amavi chose to accept the invitation to participate in The Prisoner’s Journey course, he will now be able to return to his community restored.

Free and Secure

Locked away, cut off from society, forgotten, Britney’s day-to-day routine serving a prison sentence was mundane. When there is nothing to look forward to—no visits or calls from family or friends, no celebrations, no special outings—it only increases the feelings of being hopeless and bored.

And Britney was bored. Then one day, something different happened—she received an invitation to participate in Prison Fellowship International’s eight-week in-prison evangelization program, The Prisoner’s Journey.

“I was not interested in the course,” says Britney. “I only signed up so I could come out of the cell.”

But after the second session, Britney realized she really needed this class because it could help her. She attended the sessions, learning about Jesus, why He came, and what it means to follow Him.

“The class impacted me in such a tremendous way—growing my knowledge of my Savior, building my faith, and showing me that all is not lost. God could still redeem and set me free. My mind became free and secure in my Father’s care.”

Britney completed the course, receiving a Bible and certificate during the graduation celebration.

When Britney was released from prison, she had accepted Christ as her Savior. She connected with a local church and continued to grow in her relationship with Christ. Soon, she was sharing her story to help others.

Today, Britney is a motivational speaker, especially for inmates. “I look at my graduation certificate each day. I say I will do everything for the will of God. I am grateful for the open door that gave me this start!”

Patricia’s Journey from Anger to Understanding

Patricia was angry. Very angry. She believed she did not deserve to be in prison. Her anger continued to smolder until volunteers came to her prison, in Spain, and invited her to participate in Prison Fellowship International’s eight-week in-prison evangelization program, The Prisoner’s Journey®. Immediately, Patricia identified with Jesus’s story.

The program teaches about Jesus—who was wrongly accused and imprisoned—why he came, and what he wants prisoners to do with their lives.

“At first, I thought the lesson The Prisoner’s Journey was teaching is that Jesus was also imprisoned without reason—just like how I thought I was!” says Patricia. “It wasn’t until I finished the course that I realized what I thought was the lesson was wrong.”

Patricia learned that Jesus was a man full of goodness, who always forgave everyone—even when he didn’t have to. Even when he was wrongly accused.

“I also learned that Jesus was rejected by society as all prisoners are, which has helped my anger, my anguish, and my fears to shrink,” says Patricia.

Patricia says she now prays that we would not be blinded and hindered by our obstacles. And instead, that we would take advantage of them so that we can grow spiritually. Just like how God met Patricia in her anger and revealed himself to her, igniting a journey toward understanding and healing.

Mitchum’s Transformation

The Prisoner’s Journey® evangelism and discipleship program is changing hearts and minds across the globe. The program was recently implemented in the Caribbean region. Mitchum, a prisoner in the Cayman Islands, says before taking the eight-week course, he worried a lot and regularly felt depressed and confused.

“As I listened to and watched the videos and participated in The Prisoner’s Journey, I found out who Jesus really is,” says Mitchum. “He is the Son of God and came to save us from sin.”

Halfway through the course, Mitchum and two other men asked to be baptized.

“It was the best decision I ever made in my life,” says Mitchum. “I have found my Lord and Savior. Any problems I have, I take to Him in prayer and ask Him to show me the way. I ask him to protect me each step that I take and the choices that I make. I have an inner peace that can only come from God.”

Give a to Help Prisoners Like Mitchum Hear the Gospel

Changing Lives in Uruguay

Cristihian Melo is a graduate of The Prisoner’s Journey program offered by Prison Fellowship Uruguay. He shares his story:

“I was incarcerated in the Durazno Prison for 11 months. I agreed to attend the course when I was invited because I told myself that it would just be listening, watching some videos, and filling out a book. I thought it will be good to read a little—and that was the only thing that mattered to me.

But something happened while I participated in the sessions. I became interested in the Gospel of Mark workbook. Then, I was shocked by the videos. I looked forward to the sessions and knew my head had changed.

Today, I am free. I have changed my way of thinking. I am with my family again. I have a house and I am working. I no longer want to do wrong. I have a different way of seeing things. This course changed my thinking and God changed my life.”

Help A Prisoner Like Christihan Today

Fighting COVID In Zambia

As soon as Prison Fellowship Zambia learned of the COVID-19 pandemic, they realized the probable impact in Zambia and sprang into action.

Sensing an imminent lockdown, the staff wasted no time in organizing a food distribution for caregivers of children in the program. At the distribution, they enforced social distancing and kept the groups to ten people. They also provided information about COVID-19. Each caregiver received instruction on handwashing, hygiene, and social distancing practices.

Since the lockdown in Zambia, the staff has used innovative ways to serve children, like connecting through phone calls and WhatsApp.

Help Protect The Most At Risk Today