Sent to Prison
by Marjorie East, UK Territory with the Republic of Ireland
Who says that retirement can't be exciting? After I had spent years teaching, the school had to cut back staff so I took early retirement. I was teaching my last term when a student greatly influenced my choice of retirement activities. My student's grandmother had died. I desperately wanted to help him grieve. Through this experience I was introduced to the bereavement counselling organisation, Cruse, and took a bereavement training course with them.
Majorie proudly displays her medal for service presented at Windsor Castle
After several years as a bereavement counsellor, an advertisement in the paper caught my attention a training course for adult literacy. I immediately applied and went to the course. At the end of the training, the course organiser spoke to the group detailing the places we could use our training. She said, 'Some people even go to the prison.' There were surprised gasps around the room, but I expressed my interest in starting there.
The prison wasn't new to me; I had previously visited with a corps group. Soon, my prison ministry began. I started by assisting, and then eventually taught the adult literacy class. There was a change in teachers and I took a break from teaching in the prison.
Hardly any time went by and the corps's visiting minister asked me to assist him. We visited the prisoners and patients in a nearby hospital. Sadly, he had a stroke and died soon after, but I felt I needed to continue this ministry God had given me.
One day, the Salvation Army officer in charge of prison ministries asked me to become a Salvation Army Chaplaincy member. I agreed and have been privileged to work with colleagues from numerous denominations and religions, including Muslim and Sikh.
My weekly duties keep me busy. An evening group I assist, called 'Befrienders', gives me a chance to use my bereavement counselling skills. The death of a family member can make a prisoner extremely upset. Not being able to be with the rest of the family really shakes them up. Often, a prisoner will not speak to anyone for months about a death that has taken place. I am glad to be able to encourage the prisoners in their grief.
God led me into bereavement counselling and prison work and I am blessed to have gained friendship, experience and guidance from the staff I work with and from the prisoners. I am greatly honoured to have become a member of the Order of the British Empire for Meritorious Service and to have been issued a medal by Her Majesty the Queen. I still cannot believe this has happened to me!