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To the Ends of the Earth: The Caribbean Christianity Explored Ministries

When you picture the Caribbean, what comes to mind? White sandy beaches, turquoise seas, palm trees, Piña Coladas and... a thriving prison ministry?

In 2017, Prison Fellowship Trinidad and Tobago launched The Prisoner's Journey®, a three-strand evangelism programme adapted from the prison edition of Christianity Explored.

The Prisoner's Journey®, developed in partnership with the CEM team, is a transformational evangelism and discipleship programme that puts the living Word of God in the hands of prisoners and introduces them to Jesus.

Prisoners around the world are cut off from society and left alone to cope with their feelings of hopelessness and despair. They are one of the least reached groups in the world. In the Caribbean, this is no different.

Across the nine Prison Fellowship countries in The Prisoner's Journey® Caribbean Coalition, there are 36 prisons and 14,000 prisoners

Watch The Prisoner's Journey® promotional video to get a taste of the course:

We're delighted to share how God has been using the programme to change lives in the Caribbean.

Prison Fellowship Trinidad and Tobago is the managing partner of the Caribbean Coalition, and they work with eight other Prison Fellowship affiliates to implement The Prisoner's Journey®.

Christianity Explored Ministries' Director of Prison Ministry, Stephen James, was heavily involved in the creation of The Prisoner's Journey® and travels around the world to deliver training. He visited the Caribbean in 2017 ahead of the launch.

Stephen James with a copy of the English language version of The Prisoner's Journey®

Since its launch the Caribbean coalition has graduated 1,464 prisoners from The Prisoner's Journey® (all those who complete the course graduate). 5,046 prisoners have been given an invitation to meet Jesus through the programme.

A remarkable story

Robert Payne is PF Trinidad and Tobago's Executive Director and also leads The Prisoner's Journey® in Caribbean prisons.

"This guy here," he says, pointing to Nyron, a prisoner, "he was difficult."

"When we first introduced The Prisoner's Journey® in Carrera Prison, I told the prison programs staff to 'send me your worst ones'. I wanted the worst behaved, most hardened prisoners to get invited to take the course first.

"So, this one, Nyron, was in my group."

Robert goes on, "He decided he did not want to take the Course. He got up in the middle of a session and walked off. I went after him.

"The prison guards told me to leave him alone. They told me not to walk into his cell block, that if I did it’s at my own risk. But I told the guards that Jesus left his sheep to go after one. And I’m going after my son."

Nyron made the decision to rejoin the group. And what happened after is remarkable.

Nyron picks up the story where Robert left off.

"Y’know I’m all tatted up. People see me and they think, that’s Nyron, he’s never going to change. He’s bad. I know him. He can’t change. And if they don’t know about me, they look at my face and see these tats all over my face and think, he’s bad.

"But The Prisoner's Journey® has made me see God. It made a change in my life. It taught me a lot. I’m different now. I’m changed. I want to apologise to my victims.

"I have to tell myself that no matter what happens, no matter what charge you have, you are free if God is in your heart."

Nyron goes on to explain how he's been encouraging others to experience The Prisoner's Journey®.

"Just like Robert came after me, and I kept saying, ‘No, No, No’, I started inviting my fellow prisoners, like this guy here", Nyron turns to point to The Prisoner's Journey® graduate behind him.

"I would go talk to this guy and tell him he should sign up and take the course. He would just sit there, smoking his cigarette, saying, ‘No, No, No’. And so I kept going after him, inviting him to do it. Eventually, he agreed.

"Now he’s a graduate and now he is going to keep spreading this fire to other guys he knows."

Below you can read more stories of incredible change in the Caribbean, from the perspective of prison staff, course leaders and prisoners themselves.

Stories from prison staff

Gerard Wilson, Commissioner of Prisons

"I am amazed that our society’s view of the men and women incarcerated in Trinidad is negative and not rehabilitative. Yet, 95% of prisoners in Trinidad are released back into society.

"I wish members of the public could be here to witness the testimonies of these The Prisoner's Journey® graduates. Today I felt the presence of God.

"I’ve seen the change in prison. There is a different level of calmness in the prison walls. It’s amazing to see changes take place. Programmes like The Prisoner's Journey® help prevent prisoners from returning to their old ways."

Wayne Jackson, Superintendent of Maximum Security Prison

"I really like The Prisoner's Journey®, because while prison programming can create surface-level change in prisoners, I believe that true change within can only take place through Christ.

"There has been a general reduction in violence in the past few months in the Maximum Security Prison. I link this to the The Prisoner's Journey® programme. I love this programme because it is associated with Christ.

"Last night, an inmate said to me, 'I am trying to follow Christ, but I’m being harassed by other inmates and officers. It is hard. But I don’t want to disappoint Christ.'"

Stories from volunteer course leaders

Veronica

"I attended the first The Prisoner's Journey® training here in Trinidad with Christianity Explored Ministries' Stephen James.

"What I’ve found is that this material engages the prisoners. They don’t just come, sit down, and listen. There is a lot of discussion. They are asking a lot of deep questions. This Course engages the prisoners in a way that’s different from other programmes.

"Another thing I’ve seen through the Course is that prisoners, from all different backgrounds, learn to respect each other’s views. The programme causes them—all of us, really—to put God’s Word in context.

"As they go through the Course, I see prisoners to want to give their lives to Christ and to formally train as Course Leaders themselves!"

Conrod

"I volunteer in Carrera Prison, where there’s a significant Muslim population.

"It’s been beneficial for me to think strategically when leading groups through the sessions—the participants in each group come from very diverse backgrounds, and starkly different religious beliefs. I’m very strategic in the way I facilitate discussion in the sessions, so I do not marginalise participants of varying faiths.

"This course is an opportunity for discovery—to come and meet Jesus, to come and ask questions.

"It was a great joy to see someone who was a Muslim change through the programme—and give his life to God!

"The residing Imam in Carrera Prison has himself signed up and graduated from The Prisoner's Journey®. He told me that after the course, he told the Muslim prisoners they are free to choose whether they wish to enrol in the programme. There’s no resistance. Each Muslim prisoner is free to choose if he wants to embark on the journey."

Stories from prisoners

Stacey Ann, Released Prisoner

"I was in prison for eight years. I was separated from my daughter. During my time in prison, Prison Fellowship came in, and never stopped visiting me.

"I signed up and graduated from The Prisoner's Journey®. And the journey has been an awesome one. But it doesn’t stop there. God is still God. I give God all the thanks and praise.

"I finished my prison sentence and I’m released now. I am back with my daughter. And now I come back into this prison as a Prison Fellowship volunteer to deliver The Prisoner's Journey® to other prisoners."

Keevin, Prisoner, Golden Grove Prison

"I’d like to thank God for my life and protection. Before I came to this prison, I was out doing wrong things. I was arrested and came to prison.

"I heard about this programme. This programme changed me. I am no longer addicted to smoking. I don’t use foul language anymore.

"I pick up my Bible and follow Christ."

Madalay, Prisoner, Women’s Prison

"I am 18 years old. I came to Trinidad from Venezuela for a better life. That is why I am in prison, probably for three years.

"This has been a test of my heart. I realised I am here to find God. He put me here for me to know Him. In The Prisoner's Journey®, I met God. God has forgiven me. And I give Him all the thanks."

Renaldo, Prisoner, Maximum Security Prison

"I’ve been incarcerated for seven years. I was one of the first prisoners to graduate from The Prisoner's Journey® here.

"After I graduated, I was selected to take training to be a Course Leader. I think it is a privilege to be part of this programme.

"If I can pass the message of Jesus along, then my life will not be in vain.

"No one is beyond redemption and Jesus Christ can transform any life. Who the Son of God sets free is free indeed."

Ixya, Prisoner, Women’s Prison

"I didn’t believe in God. I had no knowledge of Christ. I came to Trinidad from Venezuela to get medicine for my child. This man told me if I gave him money, then he would stamp my passport. But he just took my money. So, now I am here in prison for three years.

"In Venezuela, I was involved in the mafia, drugs, guns and prostitution. I had an abortion.

"I took the The Prisoner's Journey® Course and I loved it. I used to believe in an Afro-Caribbean religion. I would light a candle and pray, worshipping idols.

"My heart completely changed during the Course. I cried during the videos. We can identify with the stories in the videos.

"Now I know Jesus. And I realise those were just idols and images I was worshipping."

We are thrilled to hear these stories of change as people encounter Jesus in Mark's Gospel.

Prison Fellowship Trinidad and Tobago have also told us that The Prisoner's Journey® is benefiting the wider church in the Caribbean.

Because of its methodology unpacking the Gospel of Mark, church members are growing spiritually, participating more often in the church, and at increasingly higher levels of church leadership:

“Churches and its members benefit from receiving The Prisoner's Journey® training. For the longest while, members of the local church have just been sitting in the back of the church. But now because of this training, they are going into the prisons to lead courses. Their lives have been empowered. They have blossomed, mushroomed as believers.”

This year there is a unique opportunity to help support our ongoing partnership with Prison Fellowship International and our other international projects.

With To the Ends of the Earth, every pound donated as a new or increased regular (eg monthly) gift will be matched by some generous friends and given to our international work.

Help us to help people love, live and tell the good news of Jesus to the ends of the earth.

Every £1 you donate enables one person to hear the gospel through our ministry.

  • £10 per month - the total matched amount of £150 (including Gift Aid) helps train 15 pastors to share the gospel in East Africa.
  • £20 per month - the total matched amount of £300 (including Gift Aid) provides eight East Asian churches with local language resources.
  • £50 per month - the total matched amount of £750 (including Gift Aid) could sponsor 15 rural Albanian churches to run Christianity Explored.
  • £100 per month - the total matched amount of £1,500 (including Gift Aid) helps us provide start-up funds for new translations.

We'd like to thank Bethany MacDonald from Prison Fellowship International and her colleagues at Prison Fellowship Trinidad and Tobago for providing the content for this article.

Find out more about the work of Prison Fellowship International

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Created with images by Mariamichelle - "cancun mexico beach" • Daniel Hjalmarsson - "untitled image" • ShonEjai - "background graffiti spanish" • GregMontani - "cuba caribbean trinidad" • Mariamichelle - "willemstad curacao caribbean" • atsme - "caribbean sunset sailboat" • Tai's Captures - "untitled image"

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