Tonight I had the privilege of taking a group from my Church to lead worship at Oakhill Secure Training Centre. It was our second visit to lead their Chapel service, and I was looking forward to it. I’ve heard some great things about what the Lord has been doing at Oakhill over the last 12-18 months.
This morning I asked the Church to pray for us during the time we’d be at the Centre; specifically that we’d provide a good witness, that the Lord would continue to move and that His Spirit would be powerfully present during the service. I reminded them of the story in Acts 12 where the Apostle Peter has been imprisoned for being a follower of Christ, and the Church were outraged and prayed hard, and an Angel of the Lord came and broke Peter out of jail. I didn’t want to be personally responsible for a break-out at the STC, but we prayed that there would be a breakout of the Spirit in the Centre.
We led the trainees through a number of songs, prayers & scripture readings before Andrew Gale, the Chaplain, preached on ‘who is Jesus?’, and we then shared communion together. Whilst the outward audience participation in the service is not great, with some muttering and sniggering from time to time, there was a powerful sense of the Spirit’s presence. But for me the most inspiring part of the evening was when the service was over and we had a chance to chat with the trainees. I spoke to each of the young men and I found that many were slightly uncomfortable and awkward, but that a number of them couldn’t wait to talk about how they’re following Jesus, the difference he’s making in their lives, how they pray and read their Bible every day. I was able to take in a box of Bibles which had been donated, and Andrew handed them out almost indiscriminately among the trainees, and they were immediately cherished (they couldn’t wait to have the ‘presented to…’ page filled in); one trainee was quoting Scripture within two minutes of receiving his Bible – another took great delight in telling me how he has three Bibles that he’s reading.
I had a great conversation with one trainee who I’ll call ‘B’ who shared how he’d come to faith in Jesus & been baptised whilst ‘inside’ and how he now had something to live for. He told me that when he’s released in 18 months he’d like to be a ‘mercenary’ (I suggested he might mean ‘missionary’ and he agreed). Please pray that God would continue to transform him, and equip him for the Lord’s service on his release.
Pray also for ‘J’, a young man who told us that he loves Jesus, reads his Bible and prays everyday, but that he ‘isn’t quite ready’ to sing in front of his fellow trainees; I pray he’ll be set free from his inhibitions and go all out for God in the months ahead.
Please pray for Andrew Gale as he continues his ministry among the young trainees at Oakhill; ask God to bless his efforts as he seeks to call the young men to Christ and disciple them in the short time he has with them (in most cases).
As I drove to Oakhill the weather was pretty miserable, with constant drizzle removing any sense of pleasure from the drive. But I turned a corner to be greeted by the sun bursting into my eyes and painting the most beautiful sunset across the sky. As I turned the next corner away from the sun, there was a rainbow in the sky. Whilst being a sign of God’s great promise, I rarely look twice at rainbows. But what struck me about this one was the fact that at the end of the rainbow was the Oakhill Secure Training Centre, and I had a sense that the Lord was re-iterating a message He’d set in my heart that wanted be to bring to the Staff and trainees: that no matter what the public perception of the Centre was, it was absolutely full of promise and potential, and that there was still work for Him to do there. As we ended the service my prayer for the Trainees and Staff was as follows:
I pray that the Lord will bless in ways you don’t expect,
– and in ways you cannot explain…
I pray that you would have peace which only He can bring
– and that you would know His unconditional love
and I pray in the powerful & merciful name of Jesus Christ – AMEN
I praise God for the opportunity to serve Him at Oakhill every few months!