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
“When I was asked to participate in the Sycamore Tree Project: Justice and Peace (STP) to share my experience of being the victim of a crime, I felt that sharing my experience would be beneficial for the course participants. Soon after accepting the invitation to participate, I began to internalize what happened so that I could contribute to the program and I started to get cold feet as I became more aware of what I would be doing in the prison.
One thing that gave me security was that the facilitators assured me while I was participating inside the prison, I would be part of the Prison Fellowship Uruguay team and would be cared for by them. Something that also caught my attention was the fact that I was told that in STP, the victim is also a part of the recovery process towards freedom from the crime. I honestly did not understand what that meant until I was in the prison and speaking with the STP participants.
Before entering the prison, there were many emotions stirring within me. All of my uneasy feelings went away when I got into the prison.
The facilitators instructed me on what to do, and it really helped me feel like I was one of them. Although I did not express it, I felt a great sadness as I entered the prison because of the large youth population. Once the class started, I felt the sadness in my heart disappear. The facilitators created a calm and pleasant atmosphere, and I could see that the participants were paying attention to what was being shared. I did not feel uncomfortable despite never having entered the prison to talk about my life before. As the course proceeded, I became more aware that I was sharing my experience with those who have caused others a similar or greater evil than my own.
As I was sharing what was happening within me during and after such an experience, I felt a sense of freedom from what I experienced. This produced a sense of healing that went beyond the material! It allowed me to put into words how I felt, for the first time in my life.
On an emotional level, I felt that I had connected with many of the prisoners in the course. I know that they are in prison to pay for their crime, but if at least one can take the opportunity to reintegrate into society using the lessons from STP, then being a victim participant is worth it.”
Daiana, Victim [Montevideo, Uruguay]