On Thursday 17 January 2019, I arrived back at the office after a successful Bible placement at the Johannesburg Central Prison. A gentleman holding a Bible was standing at my office door. I invited him in and asked if I could possibly help. He introduced himself as Pastor Matthew. He told me that he was going from door to door to try and raise funds to repair his church tent, which had been ripped to pieces by a storm. I told him that unfortunately, I didn’t have any money for him, but we carried on talking about the things of the Lord and got onto the topic of the Gideons.
“Oh the Gideons saved my life,” said Pastor Matthew. “I was in Johannesburg Central prison lying on my bed, planning on how I was going to kill myself. It was on 26 November 1997. I remember the date because it was my mother’s birthday. Someone from the Gideons came into the cell and gave me a Bible. He spoke to me, but I took no notice of what he was saying. Later that day, I decided to read the Bible, and from that moment on, I lost the desire to kill myself.
The Gideons came to the prison again a few days later, on 5 December. This time I wanted to hear what they had to say, and I gave my life to Jesus on that day. I read my Bible every day and God started talking to me. He told me I was going to be a pastor. He even gave me the name of the church. God told me to go and talk to some of the long-term hardened inmates – most of the time, they chased me away and threatened to stab me, so I asked God for guidance. His answer was: “Fast and pray”. Sometimes I would fast for 30 days for those men, and I saw their hearts become soft and more willing to listen to the Gospel.”
Matthew was transferred to the Pretoria Central Prison where he finished his studies, along with three other certificates from various Bible schools. He became the first person to be an inmate at that correctional facility as well as one of the facility’s official pastors. He was released in 2003 and went on to form the “Emmanuel Church” in Randfontein. He joined us today on a visit to the “Sun City” prison where he had found the Lord all those years ago. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, he and I never got to see the inmates, but he has vowed that he will go back again.
A message to all my fellow believers out there: We may never get to see the fruit of the seeds we sow, but be obedient in your labour, because God’s Word never comes back void (Isaiah 55:11).