The women who pass through the doors of the Vanier Centre for Women have usually been victims of tremendous abuse and untreated mental health issues.
The women also are criminals, often multiple times. Within the Centre, the specific program I run is for women who are in protective custody, either for their own safety or that of other inmates.
One day in this group, a young woman carried a Key to Freedom Bible, produced by CBS and given to her by the chaplain. The Bible was all marked up in its margins and filled with notes.
She shared that she had been reading through the Psalms all the time, saying it calmed her anxiety and her nerves. She was preparing this Bible to give to her dad, who was not a believer.
She found Jesus through Christian programming in the prison. You could see that her life had taken a different turn. A repeat offender, when she left the prison this time, she continued working with Prison Fellowship Canada volunteers to learn from the Scriptures, and she was being transformed by the message of the Bible.
“When you are inside a maximum-security jail, and they must lock you inside, you have the feeling of darkness and freedom lost. But at the same time, you can also experience the freedom gained from the message of the Bible, when you see it touching the lives of inmates.”
– Stacey Buchanan oversees Prison Fellowship Canada’s programs and volunteers across the country and runs a program at the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton, ON.
“What is really telling about Key to Freedom Bibles is how it looks when they are returned to us. These Bibles are read, pages earmarked, verses underlined and highlighted, and the Bibles are fattened with sweat of many hands. We give them to one person, and they travel through the institution, inspiring one after another, until we give them rest. They have been read, and re-read, until they are no more. I can say, from my perspective, what a privilege it is to sit with inmates with this Bible in their hands.”
– A chaplain at a large provincial jail in Ontario