NEWS | Anne Lim
Friday 26 June 2015
As a pastor preached to inmates in the quadrangle of a prison in Johannesburg, South Africa, little did he know that someone he couldn’t see was about to be transformed. Watching unobserved through a gap in the brickwork was a young man called Jeffery Paraffin, in prison for a double murder.
With one of the highest crime rates in the world, South Africa’s prisons are full of young offenders, most illiterate and homeless, who had turned to violent crime and ended up disowned by their family.
Imagine Jeffery’s sense of isolation and despair as he heard Pastor Willie Dengler invite the inmates to receive Christ and be forgiven for their heinous sins. Afterwards, Jeffery came up to the pastor to confess about his crime. “I’ve never considered God. I didn’t want to know him,” he said. But when Jeffery went back to his cell, he decided to pray: “God, if this is real, I’ll let Jesus Christ save me today.”
The next time Pastor Willie saw Jeffery, the young man introduced himself as his brother, saying he had been saved in his cell two weeks earlier.
That was just the beginning of Jeffery’s spiritual journey. He took the 16-week discipleship course coordinated by Pastor Willie, president of Mayfair Baptist World Hope Ministry. The course teaches inmates about the love of God by engaging them with
the Scriptures. Last year 3408 South African prisoners enrolled in the course and 2008 completed it. When they graduate, they receive a copy of the Bible in their own language.
About six years after graduating from the course, Jeffery was given parole. He went to see Pastor Willie to tell him that he was moving to another town to get married and start a church. Today he is running two churches, and is a full-time facilitator of the discipleship programme in a prison of nearly 3000 people.
What amazing fruit of the investment seeded by Bible Society supporters in partnering with Mayfair Baptist World Hope Ministry.
Together, you are providing God’s word to prisoners in South Africa and offering them a future free of guilt.
As well as giving prisoners the hope offered in the Bible, the course also aims to help with rehabilitation. It helps them to be disciples of the gospel to other prisoners, and to become valuable contributors to society after their release.
In the 12 years since this programme began, with the vision of giving every inmate the word of God, it has been extended from two prisons to 214 (out of a total of 252 prisons across the country). The 52 facilitators include prisoners, pastors and spiritual workers. Pastor Willie continually receives invitations from heads of prisons to bring the discipleship programme into their prisons. It’s no surprise, given the change that’s seen among inmates.
“You don’t know who is there,” says Pastor Willie, referring to Jeffery’s amazing conversion experience.
You can offer those behind bars a new start.