Most people don’t like going to prison. If you ask those who are in prison, more often than not, given a choice, they’d choose not to be there.
But Reuben Alu chooses to go to prison. He has attended Bomana Prison faithfully every Sabbath since 2003 and he loves it.
When I walk into gate 24 and leave my freedom, my spirituality is revived. I come away rested.
Bomana is one of Papua New Guinea’s biggest prisons. In Port Moresby, the main compound holds 800-1000 prisoners in minimum security, a women’s unit and a maximum security section.
Mr Alu, head of security at Pacific Adventist University, takes church to the prisoners, helping to organise programs, build a sense of community and nurture the roughly 250 Adventist prisoners. They call him Elder Reuben and he is very well respected. “You have to get to their level, pray as much as you can, study God’s Word and witness as much as you can,” he says. He has washed the feet of one of PNG’s most notorious criminals, a cannibal.
“You must have a passion for this ministry,” Mr Alu says. “The heart needs to be there or it is a waste of time. I’ve developed a heart for them. When I walk into gate 24 and leave my freedom, my spirituality is revived. I come away rested.”
Mr Alu says every inmate now knows the Sabbath truth and he has been challenging them to bring someone to Jesus. “I am trying to nurture, develop and get them to maintain their spirituality,” he says.
He is hoping to use PAU theology students (one in each compound) and resources to help with the ministry. He runs baptismal classes and sees an average of 50 baptisms a year.
Prisoners help Mr Alu by running and organising their own MV programs, devotions, a prayer warriors group and mentoring other prisoners. “I always enjoy the testimonies,” he says. “I am blessed by ministry. Even at PAU the singing is not as good as in prison.”
The prisoners have their own singing group, Visions of Home, and often tell Mr Alu that when they get to heaven, Elder Reuben will be the conductor of their heavenly choir.
A prisoner prays during worship service.
Dennis Perry, from Operation Food for Life, has provided Bibles for the inmates and he even takes them copies of RECORD. The South Pacific Division has donated hymnals. They are also able to watch DVDs produced by Wahroonga church, NSW. The payoff? Seeing the inmates who have left prison and are now on fire for God. A former inmate, called Daniel, now preaches on the bus, giving his testimony and what God has done for his life.
“When you have—when you know—the truth,” Mr Alu says, “you should share it with others and make sure you walk it!”