Least reached & behind bars

Vojta Prkna (third from right) and The Prisoner’s Journey® participants in the Czech Republic. 

During one session of The Prisoner’s Journey® program, one of the inmates in the group named Milan was grappling with the concept that Jesus’ death some two thousand years ago should apply to him and his sin. I did my best at listening to his concerns and his processing, affirmed him and encouraged him to try and stay with that tension and not leave it until he comes to some sort of resolve. During the next session two weeks later, the video testimonies that are part of each lesson were especially touching for Milan, and he shared that he felt really drawn to the gospel and to what Jesus offers. Each time after the session, we would walk back to the units, which is a good time to connect with inmates one on one. And right then I asked Milan if he was ready to accept Jesus. He said “yes” and did it right there on a bumpy sidewalk in the middle of the prison compound!

After COVID restrictions were lifted and prisons opened again to non-governmental workers, a wide door swung open for an evangelism program called The Prisoner’s Journey® (TPJ) to be presented to inmates in a group setting of eight to twelve people. Thanks to God’s favor, this was also possible because the new director of the entire Czech prison system is a believer in Jesus. This is quite special in a population with fewer than 0.5% evangelical believers. This eight-week program presents the good news, following the storyline of Mark’s Gospel, along with video testimonies of people who met Jesus in prison from different places around the globe.

This material was translated and published in the Czech language about 10 years ago, and after a slow start is currently being used in about 20 out of 36 prisons in the country by chaplains and volunteers. The team who created TPJ also developed a follow-up material called Discipleship Explored Prison Edition. This program has the same format of lessons, and uses the book of Philippians in each of the eight sessions. These sesssions focus on a specific area of what life with Christ brings (e.g., righteousness, joy, contentment, etc.). It’s easy to make a list of the things Christians do — go to church, read the Bible, pray, share the gospel — but that doesn’t really tell us much about what following Jesus is actually like. That’s where Discipleship Explored comes in.

Besides all the good work that prison chaplains do in their programs and one-on-one meetings, there’s a growing number of graduates of TPJ along with others who would benefit from having a program to participate in to further explore the path of following Jesus. This Discipleship Explored material has been translated into Czech and is being tested in one prison. The plan then is to offer it to all leaders of TPJ so they can add this to their toolbox and offer an eight-week follow-up program mostly to TPJ graduates, just as the Discipleship Explored Prison Edition is designed to be used. For this to become reality, the materials need to be officially published along with the accompanying videos that are yet to be translated and dubbed. With your help, we will be able to publish the Czech translation of the Discipleship Explored Prison Edition.

Vojta Prkna and his wife, Stacy, and their children serve with EMM in the Czech Republic. 

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