Gosse Elzinga (one of the permanent volunteers at YFC Knysna) has been involved in prison ministry since 2012 when he joined Frans Alkema of Immanuel Ministries. They were hoping and praying that Gosse could have his own section in prison. Their heart was to reach more inmates and in 2014 he was allowed to start his own prison ministry.
Gosse made some changes in his approach. He felt that the inmates should come in by choice, not by receiving gifts or incentives. He has a small group but they are more dedicated and interested and ask a lot of good questions. He does Bible studies and devotionals with them. He recently started to just listens to them and answer their questions. This way, he answers a direct need.
After attending a session about honesty, one of the inmates shared that he had to go to Court where he decided to tell the truth. He admitted that he stole a cell phone and a bread whereafter the judge let him go free. For the rest of the group this was a major testimony.
This is just one of the ways we see God at work in the hearts of these men. They often come to Gosse for prayer for themselves, their families and their pending court cases. He makes a point not to judge them and sees men that need help, not criminals. What they share with him, stays with him.
He finds that the guys he works with are in jail because of bad choices made in life. They are not bad people. There are exceptions but mostly they are in there because of bad choices and bad friends.
Frans and Gosse found that the guys they work with have no idea what true love is as they never experienced it from their parents. They have heard the guys in various sections saying: ‘If only my father had loved me enough to be there for me and to correct me, I would not be here today.’ They desperately want to hear what love is. They need to hear they are loved no matter what they have done and that is the message that Gosse shares on a weekly basis. This is for Gosse, as a father himself, heart-breaking. We can tell them about God the Father but if they have a wrong idea about what a father is, we will be missing our mark.
Gosse spends a lot of time telling these guys who God is and what a good Father looks like. Often he is the father figure in their lives. The men come to him with various issues. He takes each one seriously and tries to help where he can. One of the inmates gave him a letter recently and asked him to please give it to his family. He tries to locate family if possible and assist with the reconciliation process.
A halfway house is needed for the guys when they get out of prison as they often have no place to go to as the family usually does not want anything to do with them. They face temptations and it takes a really strong man to keep saying no when faced with it constantly. We have seen many guys who accepted Jesus in prison fall back into their old ways because the temptation was too big and they had no support system.
We also have seen many guys, who indeed did some major crimes, come to Christ and change. One guy gave his heart to Jesus during one of the sessions. All this time he was claiming to be innocent and he would have been released the following week. However, as a new creation in Christ he knew that he had to be honest and confessed that he was guilty of the crime. He is now serving his sentence but God, honouring him for his honesty, has placed him in a better section and he is now on kitchen duty in jail. He is serving his time for the crime but he knows he is doing the right thing.
Many similar stories and testimonies can be shared as men change their hearts after getting to know God’s true love for them.