Not Just Counselling

The work of Settlers reintegration is a combination of friendship, advocacy, social support, counselling, bible study and discipleship. When I reflect on the long term, ongoing support ex-offenders need to reintegrate well into living productive, contributing lives within the community, it is clear to me that this is lifetime, life-style support.

Let me share the story of one of the men we are journeying with as a Settlers team.

L was introduced to Christian life and decided to follow Christ through the friendship of Navigators Des & Mercia Barton and their prison ministry in Waikato. When L was released, his restrictions required that he be transferred to Christchurch. L knew no-one and had no family in the South Island, so this left him in a vulnerable position. Des got in touch with John who is a member of the Settlers team in Christchurch. John then introduced L to me for counselling and to Bob, another member of the Settlers team, for Bible Study.

When L was abruptly recalled to prison for 18 months, I transitioned from counsellor to social support person and Settlers initiated a regular visiting programme. John, Bob and I ensured L was encouraged to continue his journey with Christ. I continued to counsel L in my visiting slots. The Holy Spirit helped L move from the frustration and anger he felt at what he saw as unjust treatment. He began to think and pray about his fellow inmates and to speak to them about Christ and to reach out to them in friendship and love.

Upon release Settlers has continued to support L on his re-integration journey. L has also connected with other organisations, and we are seeing the fruit of this wider wrap around support.

The counselling journey continues to assist L as he faces daily challenges and frustrations. Advocacy with Parole Board hearings and probation sessions are a continuing reality. Several of the Settlers team have been designated official support people for L by the Corrections Department. This enables L to attend Bible study and social outings that help broadening his community network as he works towards independent living and constructive contribution. He is currently praying and working towards gainful employment in the future. This month we celebrate with L the longest period of ‘Freedom’, 12 months in the community since his original sentencing.

This encouraging story of restoration and renewal continues….

Julie Baker / Counsellor