LANCASTER – Across the UK around 92,400 men, women and teenagers are currently serving prison sentences. With many of them finding themselves at the lowest point in their lives, they need a new hope to help them turn their lives around. Day in, day out for the last 15 years, Message in Prisons teams have been going into prisons across England sharing the good news of Jesus in word and deed.
Their work doesn’t stop at the prison gates. Teams continue supporting ex-offenders when they
are released, helping them avoid being drawn back into their old lifestyles.
One way this happens is through the Message Enterprise Centre (MEC) that provides ex-offenders and those at risk of offending with the full-time jobs, training, supported local housing and discipleship they need to rebuild their lives and deepen their faith.
Joe is one of those success stories. As a heroin addict, he spent many years going from prison to prison. After coming to Christ through the ministry of Teen Challenge he was helped to grow in his faith at the Messsage Trust home for ex-offenders called The Oaks and now works at their Enterprise Centre cafe as a fully-qualified chef.
“I was born to two alcoholic parents. Then when I used to come home from school sometimes my dad would be lying on the garden path because he was absolutely drunk. So growing up with very difficult. Everybody around me was taking drugs or had some addiction. By the age of 16 I’m taking heroin. By the age of 22 I lost my brother to an overdose of heroin. Four years later my mum had a stroke. She was having a stroke and ambulance drivers were there. They took her out to the ambulance and while she’s out there I’m steeling from her purse. The ambulance driver’s come back into the house and asked me if I wanted to go with my mother and I said no.
I didn’t realize that was the last time I was going to see my mother alive. I didn’t know I’d be stealing money from my mum’s purse as she lay there dying in the back of an ambulance. After I came out prison I moved to a place called Lairds I went onto a Teen Challenge bus. I met outreach workers there. They were different these people. There were something I didn’t know what they had. They had a peace and a calmness that was attractive to me and I wanted what they had. And I was ready to try anything. I tried the drugs, I tried counselling. I tried everything and nothing had seemed to work unless I was willing to try. Because I had seen it made an impact on other people’s lives.
So when they got me into the classroom, he said the prayer and I repeated it after him and it was one of those situations where absolutely nothing changed, but everything changed as well. So the circumstances and situations that I found myself in were all the same. But something inside me was starting to change. The guilt, the pain was all starting to fall away. It was like everything I’d been through was starting to make sense.
My outreach worker get a phone call from somebody at the Message Trust and he told them about the Oaks and said that I would be perfect to be at the Oaks. So I was at the Oaks for 12 months and then I was offered a full-time job in the Mess Café. I’ve worked there for two years got qualifications and now I’m a fully qualified chef. And I love working beside people from my similar backgrounds.
When I first came to the Oaks I was the one that needed support but now I am now one of the ones who is giving supporting now. So I get to come alongside the guys at the Oaks and support and mentor them. I really feel that I am called to the Oaks.”
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