An early morning epiphany saw Bryan Edwards change the course of his life, ending up helping ex-prisoners through The Salvation Army’s Reintegration Service.
I’m a first-generation Salvationist, all my growing-up years were at The Salvation Army Miramar Corps (church). I think I was the youngest Corps Sergeant Major to be appointed, when I was 18 or 19 years old. But in my everyday working life, I worked in the electronics industry.
In 1994, I moved to Christchurch. I ended up buying a business that I ran for 12 years, and then in early 2010 we had to make the hard decision to close it.
I was doing some soul searching, thinking, ‘Why has this happened to me?’ Th en I had an epiphany on 1 April 2010, about 3 am. Our company motto had been ‘fixing things for people’ and it was like God said to me, ‘Bryan, I’m going to take you away from that business, to helping people fix things in their lives that count for eternity.’
I started a social work degree and did some work for Th e Salvation Army’s Christchurch City Community and Family Services. God kept bringing me people who had come out of prison. They’d come in saying, ‘I’ve run out of my Steps to Freedom money, I’m living in the park and I’ve had all my stuff stolen, can you help?’ And I thought, ‘There’s got to be a better way than this.’
I also did some work for the Army’s Addington Bridge addiction rehabilitation service, and again I was working with guys released from jail. In 2011, a job became available at the Army’s post-prison Reintegration Service. Here I am still, almost six years later and I really believe this is where God wants me.
I go to the prison to interview clients, prepare a plan with them for when they join our service, and pick them up on the day they’re released. We support the guys with Work and Income applications, doctors’ appointments, getting settled into a property with us for 13 weeks and then getting their own property. And we work with Probation.
Some clients come to our Wednesday Bible study. Some came to a course run through our doctor called Steps to Freedom in Christ and a few have given their lives to the Lord. And that can be the difference for them. A privilege of this job is to pray with guys and support them when they say, ‘I’ve made a mess, but I’m going to give God a chance in my life.’
We’re very concerned about mitigating any risk to the community. If we sense they’re getting into behaviours that might be a risk to the community we get Probation and the Police involved. My guys are very clear: if they go back to their off ending, the only support I can offer is going with them to the police station to hand themselves in.
It can be challenging, but we have a high success rate. I worked with a guy who did 21 years in prison and is on life parole. I got a text from him a couple of weeks ago saying, ‘I thought I’d let you know this is my fourth anniversary of being out and I’m still going well—thanks for your part in my journey.’ Th ere’s no magic formula, it’s just caring for people and you see lives transformed, and because their lives are transformed society is reformed as well.
By Bryan Edwards (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 20 August 2016, pp 9
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