The room was filled with prison ministry representatives from 11 countries. They had gathered in Nairobi, Kenya to learn how to implement ‘The Prisoner’s Journey’ programme.

I was in prison, and you came to visit me.” 

Stephen James, director of prison ministry for Christianity Explored Ministries and the lead trainer for The Prisoner’s Journey, begins the training session with a deeply personal reminder of the impact of reaching out to prisoners – like himself. In 1997, a group came to the prison where Stephen was serving time on a drug charge and shared the good news of Jesus. Filled with hope for a better future with Christ (not drugs) at the centre, the prison ministry team discipled and supported him after he was released. At the time, he said to one of the trainers, My life has changed because of people like you.”

Ten years later, Stephen was back in prison – this time sharing the good news and adapting the Christianity Explored course for prisoners in the UK. In 2014, Christianity Explored Ministries was invited by Prison Fellowship International (PFI) to partner together to reach a million prisoners around the world with the gospel by 2020. Since then, 1,253,800 prisoners in 655 prisons in 40 countries have been invited to explore who Jesus is, why He came and what it means to follow Him through an interactive study of Mark’s gospel tailored specifically for those in prison.

547,434 prisoners have completed the programme and over 80% of these have carried on exploring Jesus in a discipleship course. 

The Prisoner’s Journey is a three-strand evangelism programme, a transformational, evangelism and discipleship journey that puts the living word of God in the hands of prisoners. It brings the hope of Jesus to people like Matías and Asher. 

Matías, a prisoner from Uruguay, describes his experience: At first while in prison, I was disconnected and didn’t care about anything. One day while working, I was invited to take The Prisoner’s Journey’ course; at first I just laughed, but the following week I reluctantly signed up for it. By the second class, I was enjoying the subject and something began to change my life. The videos were very moving, and I knew that God was calling me to Himself. Today, I am a new man. My family can testify that I have changed. I no longer feel anguish or resentment. I met Jesus and I do not plan to leave Him. The TPJ course changed my life and that of my family.” 

Another prisoner, Asher, in South Africa, recalls: One day in prison, I heard people talking and asking if people wanted to register for a programme called Prisoner Journey, that takes place in the prison. I never went to the church inside the prison. I decided to register myself. It was the most positive decision that I have ever made. One Sunday, I went to church and the same day I felt something change inside of me. I started to see life in a different way as we continued with the programme, and I am a better person today. I know the power of confession and repentance and forgiveness and how I can forgive. I also learned how to communicate with God and how God communicates with me. I am at peace with everyone and more especially myself, thank you God for allowing me to be in prison so that I could learn the wonderful news about You and how You restored hope in my life.”

Stephen James, director of prison ministry for Christianity Explored Ministries and the lead trainer for The Prisoner’s Journey
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The Prisoner’s Journey also impacts the lives of prison officials, chaplains and volunteers. Robert, a volunteer leader from Liberia, shares, I am so grateful for The Prisoner’s Journey! After going through the course leader training, my mindset toward prisoners is completely different. It is almost like I have rediscovered Jesus and cannot wait to introduce Him to others. I have been ministering and evangelising to others for some time but have not experienced the style of introducing Jesus according to the gospel of Mark the way that The Prisoner’s Journey does. This is surely a life transforming course cause I am transformed again.”

Throughout the conference, we heard many more stories of lives transformed by Christ through this gospel partnership. It was so encouraging to see church leaders and volunteers excited to use these materials beyond the prison walls – to help their churches and share the hope of the gospel. We are inspired by the scripture Matthew 25:35 – 36, as we continue to transform the lives of prisoners and restore to them freedom and liberty through Jesus.

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. – Matthew 25:35–36

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