On Saturday, April 23rd members and supporters of Prison Christian Ministries gathered together in the Courtyard Restaurant at the Ramada Inn in Fredericton in what turned out to be a gala event.
The evening began with a delicious meal that would have tickled the palate of any first class chef. Succulent roast turkey and luscious baked haddock with all the fixings and salads were followed by a choice of decadent desserts that proved to be pleasing to the taste as well as to the eye.
The dessert was sweet, however it did not compare to the sweetness of the presence of the Lord that followed as all joined together in a time of true worship led by Miles and Rosemary Blair. All were in unity of purpose to reach the heart of God, not only in song but also in a times of testimony and sharing of the vision of Prison Christian Ministries that followed.
An amazing testimony was shared by Candis Laagland and her husband Rein. Candis had been fighting a losing battle with terminal lung cancer that was inoperable. It had ravaged her body and was in the end stages. Doctors had given her a “death sentence” with the expectation of living at most six months, with the possibility of death stealing her at any moment. Through an encounter with Sheila Bishop, Brent Bishop’s wife, which resulted in much prayer, two marvelous miracles resulted. First and most importantly Candice received Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour, as Brent shared the gospel and led her in the prayer of salvation, her future being assured, no matter her time left on earth. A second miracle became evident when she went for a cat scan and no trace of the tumor was found in her lungs; one that could not be humanly explained, the glory belonging to Jesus! Death was defeated as new life in Him reigned in her physical body too. What a glorious victory for Candis and her family. Praise God!
Next everyone was blessed by the songs and testimony of Mark Colley. Mark had spent years in and out of prison but had finally surrendered to the call God had on his life. And surrender he did! His songs were alive with the joy of the Lord and it was infectious. Hands clapped and hearts were raised in elation as Mark ministered under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Hope filled the room, Mark being a living testimony of Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope”. Several men from the Village of Hope had also been invited and welcomed in for the evening festivities. Hearts surely must have been encouraged and touched by Mark’s ministry! Our prayers go out to them and to their families as they heal and reclaim their lives through the love of Jesus.
A video followed that depicted real life changes in men and women in prisons who had given their lives to Jesus Christ. Many would continue to live out the rest of their lives behind the prison walls, yet they all had become faithful followers of the Lord, “the church behind the walls”, remaining in Him. It was heart rendering to see the sincerity of those who gave testimony and those baptized in Jesus name. One woman who spoke, obviously at peace in Christ, was later executed on death row, hers yet the victory, now living in His eternal light.
Pastor Mike Cody spoke of the trip to Africa that Brent, Miles, Bill and himself had taken part in. This was a mission trip to prisons in Kenya. Mike showed a video of many of the prisons they visited. The conditions were appalling, overcrowded, unsanitary, and unjust, to say the least. Yet, the prison choirs were joyful, humbling to behold, making music from crude instruments that when played with voices raised in true worship sounded as though the angels had come down to join in. Wow, that’s God!
It was heart wrenching to see the children’s prison, some children condemned for life, but praise the Lord there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Many of these little ones had discovered this truth and once again angelic voices sang and worshipped the Lord. Yet again however, deploring conditions, basic needs not met, including little food. Great is the need!
The woman’s prison seemed almost surreal, seeing babies clinging to mothers, children up to 4 years old, who could only be suckled for food, as there was no provision for them. Seeing these wide-eyed beautiful children brought home the reality that most would be set outside the prison gates on their fourth birthday to fend for themselves. Such an atrocity! Pastor Mike Cody shared the vision of Prison Christian Ministries, a vision of hope and help. To build an orphanage for these precious innocent children. A vision is the beginning, so now the time for prayers, strategies, funds and action to materialize and break forth.
Finally Pastor Brent Bishop shared another vision, one closer to home. This was a vision to provide a home for men coming out of prisons after serving many years, resulting in a loss of family, friends and a virtually all supports. These men come outside the prison walls to a foreign land in many ways, and integration into society proves too much for them to bear. Brent told of one such prisoner, who living in a half-way house had taken his own life.
But praise God, Prison Christian Ministries was given a generous gift to help fulfill the vision of such a place, a Jesus House. A one hundred acre lot was donated north of Miramachi City in a lovely secluded wooded area. Although the donor was a bit of “a collector”, and there was much work to be done to clear out and restore the house and barn the potential is unlimited because God is the provider. The property also had other outbuildings and hardwood that could be cut to help provide funding. Can’t you just see it? Catch the vision! We are His hands and feet, “labourers in the field”.
The evening ended with Allen Johnston feeling led to take a collection toward the visions of Prison Christian Ministries, putting faith in action, prayed and passed an offering plate. The response was one of cheerful giving.
Before everyone left, they gathered for a group photo by the pond to show their support and unity of purpose for Prison Christian Ministries.