I’ve just spent the day in prison. Well it’s called a ‘Secure Education Centre’ but it’s really more a prison for children age 13-18, even though there is an amazing educational staff and centre there. These boys don’t go anywhere unaccompanied inside the centre and there is no way they could ever escape.
I shadowed Baptist minister Andrew Gale and caught a bit of an insight into how he does what he does. The day involved loads of varied activities: meeting new boys who had just arrived, playing cards and talking with some of the lads, eating our meals with the boys and seeing how they were doing and we also got to watch the first England game in the Euro championship. Fun. It also involved inviting some of the 90 or so ‘trainees’ to church in the evening where I was the speaker.
Andrew is only allowed a maximum of 18 boys to church which is further complicated as some boys aren’t allowed to mix with others due to fights.
Tonight we had 12 boys attend chapel with 5 of the workers and a team leading singing from a local Pentecostal group. It just blew me away to see some of the ‘hard’ gang land type lads singing and dancing in the chapel. One lad even enthusiastically led some of the action songs. Amazing!
Then it was my turn to speak. I spoke about boldly approaching the throne of grace. We also had some fun and games with balloons and I shared the story of how I became a Christian.
And as I sit on the bus somewhat exhausted I’m thinking of my day I am in awe of how chaplains like Andrew can day in and day out so generously share their lives with young men who so desperately need hope.