National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

Taking the gospel beyond bars

November 2019

In 2014, I was the most unchristian person you could ever meet. I had a gambling addiction, I lied to everyone and I was taking other people’s money.

But it came to a point where I knew that they were going to find out, I couldn’t cover it anymore. So I made a serious attempt on my life. And it was then that I had God reach out and save me.

I’d taken around 700 tablets and tried to drive into a tree. But my car flipped and landed a centimetre from the tree. I saw a white figure and a white light. The figure, who I now believe was an angel, was telling me it was going to be okay.

After that, I spent time in hospital and, while I was there, a woman opposite me read her Bible out loud every day. She had a friend who came in and I started bringing the curtain back around to listen. I remembered what a Christian friend of mine – who had stuck by me through everything – had said, ‘Give yourself to God’.

The two women offered me a Bible and I started reading the book of Job. He went through all this pain but he still believed in his God. So I started to have a conversation with the women about what it meant.

When I went home, I knew that I had to get over my addiction to get my children back. So I did that and I engaged in a church. Two women mentored me and walked my journey with me.

I had stopped gambling, I had a job and had begun training in peer support. I was involved in gambling help. But nearly three years into my recovery, I was charged with fraud.

Through 10 months of court hearings, I was so blessed to have an amazing church family around me, who encouraged me and told me God was going to be with me no matter what happened and that he had forgiven me. We prayed that if I went to prison, it was going to be purposeful.

In 2016 I was sentenced to four months in prison. In prison I spent a lot of time praying and, when I was prompted, I followed what God wanted me to do. I read the Bible to other women. I helped them with basic things, like learning to read a book, I prayed for them and talked to them about God.

After six weeks, I was released early on home detention. After my parole period, my young children were able to be with me.

Prison was tough, but in some ways it was tougher to come home because I had seen so much of God at work when I was in there. I saw women change. In six weeks, I know of 33 women who came to faith from sitting and reading the Bible and seeing what God had done in other women.

It was an amazing spiritual time. I would receive letters every day from people from my church, from people I didn’t even know, and my new friends that I had made. And I got to see how that affected women who never received cards or had visitors. I had tracts sent in and just to hear the women say, ‘Can I have that to put it in my room?’, was so heartwarming. I would sit with them and ask, ‘Can I pray for you?’. To see the look on their faces to see that someone cared about them was wonderful.

When I got out, I prayed, ‘What do I do now, God?’. It wasn’t until January 2017, four months after my release, that I knew he wanted me to start a ministry writing to women in prison. I had seen what a simple card could do, sent to someone letting them know that someone cared for them and was praying for them.

Women at my church were willing to write letters. As Nanga Mai Women’s Prison Ministry, we’ve written to more than 500 different women. We write and pray that it goes to the right person and that it’s a message that God is intending for them.

There’s so much more that we’d like to do but we’re only a small group. However, we are growing and now have three separate churches involved.

This ministry has always been based on prayer and we would be blessed by your prayers as we endeavour to serve women who are often forgotten by our society.

Rachel (not her real name) is a member of the LCA/NZ. If you have women’s names to suggest, or would like to become involved, contact Nanga Mai Women’s Prison Ministry by emailing nangamaiministry@gmail.com or writing to PO Box 43, Park Holme SA 5043.