Can you imagine being locked in, and never stepping out at will? Can you picture endless Christmases, birthdays, deaths and occasions when your family gathers, without you there? Could you fathom going for years without the hug of a loved one?
For the inmates of South Africa’s 243 prisons, this is life.
At any one time there are 160,000 inmates in South Africa’s teeming prisons, 45,000 over limit. Most are aged 18-35 and from deprived backgrounds, and have never known a simple, normal life. Wrong choices lead many to time behind bars, where initial shock gives way to bitterness, anger and aggression. Each day begins and ends with a harsh reality: incarceration.
For them, an open door can only exist in their spirit.
“… if anyone enters by me, he will be saved,” Jesus says in John 10:9.
For close to 20 years, Bible Society South Africa, working with ministry partners and volunteers, has entered prisons to extend this invitation of saving grace. A Bible study course taken over two years helps each inmate experience the forgiveness of God, and learn how life can start anew. Inmates know that the work is funded by people on the outside, from as far away as Australia. For two years, these ‘disciples in prison’ have a constant reminder that there are people who haven’t given up on them, who themselves know the God of second chances.
“I am comforted only by the word of God,” explains a grateful Charles Sadiki, former inmate
and now a pastor with the same prison ministry that led him to Christ. (See video above)
Each person who completes the course receives the Bible in his or her own language. 3500 Bibles and course materials are given out each year, and that’s what we’re aiming for this year as well. Not even COVID-19, which has prevented volunteers from entering the prisons, has stopped the work of sending God’s word. For as long as people give, Bibles will reach the hands of South African prison inmates.
Thousands of the incarcerated are opening the door of their hearts to Christ. It’s a freedom no prison wall can contain.