CA’s Prison Chaplains
Once entrenched in a life of violence and gang activity and having served time in prison, Paul Ogunyemi believed life was built on power, where there was no right or wrong. But a meaningful realisation that Jesus Christ died to save him from all he had done invigorated his spirit with faith in new beginnings. Now a Commissioned CA Evangelist and Prison Chaplain – thanks to the experiences formed by his past – Paul works towards inspiring others down different paths while proclaiming Christ’s love all around him. His story reminds us of hope; no matter our past mistakes or negative experiences there is always potential for redemption when we open ourselves to His love.
At just 16 years old, violence and crime become a way of life for me. I was heavily involved in gang culture and my criminality didn’t end after being released from prison for robbery with violence. A street evangelist changed everything; He asked if I believed in Jesus Christ – at that time, I was planning to take a rival gang members life – when his words stopped me dead: “Jesus died so you could be saved”. His message caused an epiphany within myself making me question how God would see someone like me?
I tried to find some good things about myself, but I couldn’t, I was a very violent person, I was a criminal, my life was about money and power. I couldn’t find any redeeming features. A spiritual battle then started within me, I was having a conversation with the enemy who was saying “You can’t be forgiven, you’ve done too much, you might as well carry on as you are”. After being released from another arrest I found myself in a church and crying out “God if you’re there you need to give me something that I can hold on to, anything, otherwise I’m going to kill someone or be killed. Please give me something”. Then I had a vision of something like a screen, and all the wrong things I had donea ppeared on this screen-like image before me, it was crushing because I had done some awful things and it was all laid out in front of me. I had been to prison as a punishment for breaking the law, but at that moment I saw that all the things I had done had broken God’s law and I recognised I couldn’t pay for all the bad that I had done. It struck me right there and then why Jesus had died, I knew it was true. I then felt an overwhelming sense of the presence of God’s love, an unbelievable feeling of being forgiven and I knew God existed and that I would never enter back into that violent life again. Even though it meant that I would be in danger, I knew God was protecting me, I wasn’t afraid.
God led me to train as an evangelist with Church Army. It was in the third year of training when I heard someone talk about prison chaplaincy. I knew that was my calling and after much time spent praying about it, I have just been licensed as a prison chaplain. My previous life makes me relatable to the inmates and enables me to hold a conversation
with them. They are keen to know my story and how I dealt with things before I had faith and after. God has used my mistakes and experiences to help and guide others to a more fulfilling life. My evangelist training from CA has been a great help with my ministry. CA gave me the opportunity to consider other people’s opinions and to listen and always respond with gentleness and love. I want to help people understand what is true and along that journey grow in my understanding too.”
- Pray that chaplaincy teams have the space to replenish their own fellowship and not neglect their own spiritual needs.
- Pray that the chaplains would be able to reach out to the inmates and help them to see the hope that is available through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
- Pray that God would provide opportunities for the chaplains to share their faith with inmates who are receptive to the message.
- Pray for wisdom for the prison chaplains as they navigate the challenges of working in a prison setting.