“Good News” Is Being Preached in Prisons
JESUS CHRIST told his followers: “People will lay their hands upon you and persecute you, delivering you up to . . . prisons.” (Luke 21:12) This is happening to Jehovah’s Christian witnesses today, especially in lands where their work of preaching is under governmental ban. This has not discouraged them. While in prison, they have seized the opportunity to speak to fellow inmates about the Bible. As a result some of these prisoners have become devoted servants of Jehovah God.
One young man in East Germany came to appreciate Bible truth in prison. This man was dissatisfied with living conditions in East Germany. In a letter to his brother he implied that he might leave the country as a refugee. He did not do anything about it, but his letter was intercepted by the authorities. He was therefore put on trial and sentenced to fifteen months’ imprisonment in a work camp. The officials tried to change his resentful attitude, but to no avail. The young man reacted by refusing to obey their orders. Therefore, on one occasion, they pointed to the exemplary conduct of Jehovah’s witnesses in the camp. This aroused the young man’s curiosity. But the officials did not answer his questions about the Witnesses.
Later this young man was assigned to work with one of the Witnesses for about a year. What he learned from the Witness had a wholesome effect on his attitude. When the officials learned the reason for the young man’s changed attitude, they transferred the Witness to another work assignment. It was, however, already too late. The young prisoner had decided to become one of Jehovah’s witnesses. After his release he finally succeeded in establishing contact with Jehovah’s witnesses and is making fine progress.
The good results that come from preaching in prison are also illustrated by the experiences of a Witness in Malawi.
On his first day of confinement he was approached by an imprisoned ex-member of parliament with the request that he give a Bible sermon. After that the Witness gave six Bible discourses to an average attendance of twenty-six, over half the number in prison.
Later the Witness was transferred to another prison. There he had to share a “detention yard” (measuring 84 feet by 60 feet) with 98 other prisoners. Under a huge tree in the center of this yard, other inmates of various denominations gathered twice a day to hold prayer meetings of their “united church.” When one of the prisoners found out about the Witness he asked him why he did not join in the services. The Witness explained his position toward interfaith. The young man then asked, ‘Don’t you agree that the Israelites, when they were in prison, had to pray?’ The Witness requested that the young man get the Bible, the only book allowed in the detention yard and shared by all the prisoners. It was torn and many parts were missing. Still the Witness was able to show why he could not join in the prayers of the “united church.” He also started a study with the young man, held daily during the next six weeks at a time when the tattered Bible was not being used by others.
The young man made it clear to the Witness, based on what he had learned, that he no longer wished to be a member of the Anglican Church. When he was strong enough to defend his faith he began to speak to other prisoners.
Continuing his preaching, the Witness was able to start a study with a man who had twice been present for the study with the first young man. This man soon joined the Witness in speaking about the Bible to other prisoners. A month later another inmate began studying. In yet another month the leader of the prison’s “united church” approached the Witness and asked him many questions. He, too, began studying the Bible with the Witness. Two months later, the Witness was unexpectedly released to rejoin his family. Though having suffered unjustly, he rejoiced in having had the opportunity to help four persons come to a basic understanding of true worship.
Thus, in lands where legal restraints exist, people are hearing the “good news” even in prison. It is just as the apostle Paul declared: “The word of God is not bound.”—2 Tim. 2:9.