The Day I was Challenged by a Prisoner
By Tim Wood
I’ve never been to prison before, so I didn’t know what to expect when I visited Parkhurst, on the Isle of Wight. Having recently taken on the role of Chief Executive of Through the Roof, I was keen to see our wheelchair refurbishment workshop for our overseas programme – Wheels for the World, which demonstrates God’s love by providing mobility to disabled people in developing countries.
Turning into the car park, with our programme co-ordinator, and two donors, we were faced with a looming, bleak concrete wall, not dissimilar to the old Berlin Wall. Once through the locks and inside the walls, however, we were greeted by a beautiful cultivated, courtyard garden – an oasis of green against the grey.
In the workshop inmates delighted in showing us the fruits of their labour. They talked passionately of how every wheelchair is lovingly restored by hand, from scrap to new. The Prison Officer told us how the men gain an Open College Network qualification in wheelchair maintenance – a certificate of Employability – to give them hope of a job when they leave.
From their latest innovation of welding a bike to a chair to form a ‘trike’, to the careful spray-painting of each part, to the nicknamed ‘MOT-inspector’ who ensures nothing leaves without his quality stamp of approval – every man visibly brimmed with pride in their work. And then it struck me – I was challenged because so few people will witness what these dozen men produced, and yet they gave their work their all, 100%, total dedication. Not for the reward of £10 per week, but because it is a natural innate expression of themselves, a reflection of God’s glory as Creator and Redeemer.
I don’t know the spiritual ‘status’ of those men and whether they are conscious of God or not, but I do know that as a professing Christian I have no excuse not to give my all to the One I know delights in all His children – whether disabled or not; prisoner or free.