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40 Stories of Hope - How Faith Has Changed Prisoners’ Lives by Catherine Butcher (Book review)

40 Stories of Hope - How Faith Has Changed Prisoners’ Lives by Catherine Butcher (Book review)

This book speaks loudly about HOPE, and particularly ‘hope’ within the criminal justice system. If you want to know about how God is moving within the prison community, then this is a good book for you. It’s very clear that Christianity and faith are significant to so many people within prisons in the UK. 

Journalism only looks at one side of the picture, but this book informs us that there is another aspect to the prison service. Christianity is real, and many prisoners are going to Chapel services, and are finding faith as a result. 

 ‘40 Stories of Hope’ reminds us that God cares deeply about people in prison. 

The Author

This book was created in partnership with Prison Hope, and compiled by Catherine Butcher. She is a journalist and editor working as Communications Director for Hope and other Christian charities. 

Prison Hope is a partnership of Christian denominations, prison chaplains and organisations involved with prisoners, former prisoners and their families. 

You can find out more details about Prison Hope at www.prisonhope.org.uk

The Book

In this book, as the title suggests, there are ‘40 Stories of Hope’ from prisoners and chaplains who have all been within the prison system. Yes, there are clear worries about the prison system, but this book points us to the presence of the Holy Spirit dealing with so many people there. This is truly a book of HOPE - Praise God!

The book is written as a Lent title for 2018. It is the Churches Together for Britain and Ireland recommended Lent Book, and the foreword is written by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

Justin Welby is fulsome in his approval of the book, and one gets the impression that he is a real supporter of the prison ministries. He states, ‘the resurrection of Christ is the hope for our world, because it proclaims the defeat of all that is evil and destroys human nature’. 

In the introduction Roy Crowne, on behalf of Prison Hope, talks about how the book is based on the Gospel of Mark. After each story, there is a ‘Scripture to read’, then ‘Something to think about’, followed by a prayer and a number of other sections including a range of people speaking about their own experiences.  

Overall, the book contains 6 weeks of reading material which includes the stories from prisoners and ex-prisoners who have found that Jesus as the answer to their own needs. 

There are two people in the book that I know quite well. One was in Bible College with me. Another one, I met whilst working for CWR. These are real people who had an encounter with God, and experienced hope for themselves. 

On page 31, a prisoner said this, ‘that night I had an encounter with love that would change my life for ever. God answered me. He forgave me and set me on a brand-new path of healing, restoration and wholeness’. 

This is really a book of ‘Stories of Hope’. After a number of these accounts, there are some pages of ‘Looking Back, Looking Forward’. There are points here to understand what is ahead of the reader, and what some of these stories may be saying overall. There are items here to ‘Think’ through, there is a ‘Life Lessons’ and also a section of ‘Looking Ahead’

As I read the book, ‘HOPE’ does indeed flow through all of the chapters, despite the varied content. Often people have been dealing with dreadful situations at home; this has led them to crime and drugs, which in turn has put them into prison. This situation occurs again and again. Many prisoners recognise that they need to get away from evil, and often the Chapel services give them a way to find faith - and hope. 

These are the amazing stories that prompted the writing of this book. At the end, you may wonder how many other stories there must be across the prison system. 

The Publisher, CWR, says, ‘We have raised sufficient funds to send 15,000 copies free into prisons via Chaplains. We are matching every single copy purchased at full price with another copy being sent free into prisons. 

You can pray for the work in prisons. It’s a hidden activity really for the church, and yet so much is happening. ‘Prisons Week’ equips and enables the church to pray for all those affected by prisons: prisoners and their families, victims of crime and their communities, those working in the criminal justice system and the many people who are involved in caring for those affected by crime on the outside and inside of our prisons. 

For more information, visit www.prisonsweek.org (second Sunday in October).

Overall, it is both extraordinary and wonderful that the Christian faith can present such a ‘message of HOPE’ to so many prisoners in the UK. 

Eddie Olliffe

Bookseller and Distributor for the past 35 years. Now Consulting Editor of Together Magazine. I blog on Christian Spirituality, UK Publishing and Bookselling matters.

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Products mentioned in or related to this blog post
40 Stories of Hope (Paper Back)
Butcher, Catherine; Welby, Jus
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