Syd Eaby writes

“After school my dad said it was up to me whether or not I continued attending church. I felt I had ticked all the religious boxes I needed to, and avoided church completely. I went on to destroy a marriage, most of my relationships with family and friends, my health and career and do most of the things that go along with alcoholism including a few brushes with the law (one of which earned me a police record.) By 1990 I had been attending AA meetings for over a year and was still drinking. I was 30 years old.

I really believed that suicide was the only answer.

“But God” (I love that phrase) intervened. On the 23rd April 1990 I drank for the last time. I must admit that I only came to know God through faith in Jesus Christ a few years later – but looking back it is clear that the Lord laid his hand on me that day.

In 2001 I left my secular job to study theology at BISA. At the time I was not sure what the Lord planned for me. Perhaps to pastor a church or perhaps to be a missionary in some foreign land. (Hopefully near a good coffee shop.) But I never imagined that I would ever work in a prison. I thought it wonderful that there were Christians who visited prisoners but it was simply not on my radar. However later that same year I accompanied someone who was working in Helderstroom Maximum under the Andrew Murray Centre banner. Something happened to me during that visit. I was now looking at fellow men, not prisoners: Men with faces, families, stories and especially one great need – and that was Jesus Christ.

Their need was just like mine – they needed forgiveness.

For the next 7 years I visited Helderstroom Max every week that they would allow me inside, sometimes being turned away 3 or 4 weeks in a row. In those years I worked under the Andrew Murray Centre security clearance and I used their material. The Lord God took our feeble attempts and made great things happen. Inmates came to know the Lord through faith in Jesus Christ, and those who did know the Lord grew in a way only God can make happen.

And I grew. I was studying through the Bible Institute Distance Learning Program and one of the great blessings was being able to use what I was studying at BISA, in the ministry.

Finally after many attempts I was able to start a class in the Youth Centre in Drakenstein. The first day when I arrived I met a wonderful young man who said to me – “Pastor this is an answer to 18 months of prayer.” I said “Explain.” “Well you see pastor the church behind bars in Drakenstein is in tatters. There are a quite a few inmates who call themselves Christian. And a few of us are recognised as ‘leaders’, but we have no idea what we are doing. We have been praying for someone who can come and teach us how to lead so that God may be glorified.”

Syd Eaby co-founded and lectures in BISA’s Christian Leadership programme at Drakenstein and Helderstroom prisons in the Western Cape. He graduated with a BTh in the Distance Learning Programme.

Click here for information about how to apply for the Christian Leadership programme at the Bible Institute