THE CITY OF BELLS!
(The Terry Wilson Story)
By: Terry Wilson
This is my story of how I found the Lord ... or rather I should maybe say ... how the Lord found me.
It was April, 1965. I had not long turned 17 and had never been in trouble with the law, aside from riding on trains without a valid ticket.
I still don’t know why my friend and I did what we did that April night. There was no need for it at all. We both had good well-paying jobs. I was working at a cable-making factory, and my friend had a good job with the railways. So why on earth did we go out joy riding in other peoples’ cars?
Of course we were caught by the police some hours later following an accident where I collided with a horse and cart. (The horse was not injured by the way).
My friend was only sixteen at the time, so he was placed under juvenile care. And me, being seventeen … I was bound for the high jump. The big house…H.M. Prison Pentridge, Australia!
So there I was, in the cells of the old ‘Moonee-Ponds’ police station, charged with a number of car thefts and larceny. I remember that I had to wait in that police cell for about two days before I was to appear in the magistrates’ court to receive the recompense for my crimes. This was my first experience in a police station cell, and it would certainly not be my last!
As the police officer opened the cell door, I shuddered with both shock and surprise over what my astonished eyes beheld. No bed … just a bare wooden floor with a pile of dirty gray blankets and a concrete toilet bowl in the corner of the cell.
I gathered up a pile of blankets that were heaped in the corner of the cell and made myself a bed to lie on. My thighs and hips soon became very sore from lying on the hard wooden floor. I slept through those two days. I suppose the shock of it all put me to sleep.
I can remember senior police checking on me throughout the night, or was it day? I did not know. I was wakened for my meals that I quickly devoured and returned to the merciful escape of sleep.
Throughout my experience of prison life around Australia, I was always amazed at the number of prisoners who possessed this uncanny ability to just simply ‘will themselves to sleep.’ Some men would literally sleep their way through an entire prison sentence. The guy would just close his eyes, and that was it. I soon understood why so many prisoners would refer to their prison sentence as a ‘sleep’; it was incredible to see such a thing!
I appeared in court with uncombed hair and my clothing was not looking the best after sleeping in them for two days. I looked a real mess. I soon learned that this is the typical state of a defendant’s appearance if he/she has spent the night in the police cells.
My appearance in the magistrate’s court the next morning was like a dream – or I should say a nightmare. I received eighteen months imprisonment! (It was later reduced to six months on appeal). The magistrate placed me on a fourteen-day pre-sentence report where I would spend the next fourteen days behind the murky bluestone walls of Pentridge prison.
The prison van arrived later that afternoon to deliver me to my place of residence for the next two weeks. I was ‘escorted’ to the van in the vice grip of the driver. He held me tightly at the back of my pants. He had such a hold on me that my feet did not touch the ground. He carried me to the van with my legs flailing in mid-air! (This was a trip that I grew to be so very familiar with).
He bundled me into the rear of a van that reeked with vomit and disinfectant. I sat on a cold metal bench that was so slippery that I would slide all over the place each time the driver threw the van around a corner.
It was a noisy ride to prison … the whining of the differential … the grinding of the gearbox each time the driver crunched through the gears.
During each trip, the occupants would eagerly await the day when either the differential or the gearbox would blow up! The gearbox actually did blow out one day in the middle of peak-hour traffic. The occupants were ever so overjoyed!
A couple of small air vents were located at the front of the van, and when they were open, we could see where we were going. If not…well it was all a matter of guesswork.
A hard turn to the right, followed by a long loud blast of the horn, brought home to us the harsh reality that we were approaching the ‘pearly gates’. There was something about that horn blast that froze my blood, as we turned towards the ominous specter of Pentridge Gaol.
The gates opened like the jaws of some unimaginable monster about to devour its prey. An icy sweat grabbed at my heart like the talons of some infernal creature that was about to tear me apart. Nervous cheers rose up from the others followed by proclamations such as: “Here we are; home sweet home!,” or, “The big-house!”
A symphony of haunting sounds, indigenous to the world behind those bluestone walls, began to invade my consciousness like a school of starving piranha. Cooking smells assaulted my nostrils that reminded me of kill-day in a slaughterhouse.
It seemed as though I had penetrated a dimensional rift that stood between this world and some alien world which one would only experience in a horror story.
The sound of rattling chains echoed in my ears…
Another gate squeaked open, which beckoned the van deeper inside the bowels of this vile realm of the damned!
The van lurched violently forward for a short distance. Then all fell silent. This was the big moment. We had entered the ‘Metropolitan Gaol.’ Abaddon waited to greet us!
Remanded and sentenced prisoners were together in the reception area.
The met (Metropolitan Gaol) is made up of two divisions: ‘D’ division (or the yards) and ‘F’ division (for those serving terms of three months or less). ’D’ division was composed of a series of holding yards partitioned by eighteen foot bluestone walls.
My first night in a prison cell was a haunting experience indeed. The sound of other prisoners shouting to each other from within their cell -- the sound of the prison radio that was piped to the cells via a speaker situated above the cell door -- the persistent jangle of keys as the screws (prison officers) walked along the tiers all night long.
Most of the chatter was the ‘Pentridge telephone system’ in action. The prisoner would place a blanket over his toilet bowl to use as a type of suction-like pump. When I heard that: ‘whoop whoop’ sound in my toilet, and the water suddenly disappeared with a loud gurgle, I knew that someone was making a phone call.
That darn radio would drive me absolutely silly each night until it was turned off at eleven O’clock. There was no way of turning it off, or lowering the volume because the speaker was located behind a ventilator grill. Oh how I wanted to rip that speaker out of the wall!
Through my cell window I could hear the sounds of freedom … the traffic outside, trains rattling along as they carried people to their homes or wherever they were going. Even the smell of freedom would come through the cell window. I could smell freedom! The sounds of people coming home from work or going to work on the late shift: freedom sounds you never think of otherwise.
I would think of things which I would never have thought of before, such as the simple act of walking to the shop, or thinking about how we would spend the next day. Things like just going to the fridge to get a little snack. Many a night, I have awakened to go into the kitchen to get a bite from the fridge, to only walk smack into the hard cell wall! The simple act of just deciding to stay home and watch television seemed like a priceless treasure to me at the time.
All these little things that we don’t usually think about become so very treasured within the mind of a man laying alone in a prison cell. I hated Saturday nights most of all.
Near the south wall of the prison was the Coburg Town Hall. Every Saturday night there was a local dance known as the ‘Coburg Swinger’.
Prisoners in this part of the Gaol would lie quietly on their beds listening to the sounds of the dancegoers enjoying themselves. An occasional despairing shout could be heard coming from one of the prisoners who was being torn apart by the sounds of freedom coming through his cell window.
I was wrenched from sleep by the shrill clanging of a bell somewhere deep in the bowels of the building. Oh - the sound of those bells would dominate my life for so many years to come!
The bell controlled my very existence within this hellhole: When to go to bed, when to go to sleep, when to wake up, when to eat, and every other aspect during my time in the met. Every prison uses a bell to run the life of its prisoners!
My ears were greeted with the shout of orders echoing throughout the division by the screws and the crash of cell doors flinging open.
A loud metallic clatter struck at my door and it flung open. “Out of it...where the hell do you think you are!” roared the raspy voice of a burly prison officer standing in the doorway. I quickly got out of bed and got myself dressed.
I quickly ran out onto the steel landing and down the steel staircase to join with a line of other young prisoners who stood in line in the passageway. We were counted by another screw, then the order was given to right turn and quick march. We were led into one of several yards that reminded me of cattle pens.
Many would suffer the hellish boredom of those holding yards -- a place where one would vegetate for weeks or months on end -- waiting for their case to be heard if not bailed.
Each yard widened out in a triangular shape from its beginning at an iron grill gate to end with a covered section at the end. There was a shower and toilet at the far end of the yard, which was wide open for all to see.
The reason for the intrusion of one’s personal privacy was that the screw in the tower where all the yards dovetailed into one area could watch us at all times.
Most of us in the yards did not wear prison clothes, but wore whatever clothes we were arrested in.
For exercise, we would pace up and down the length of the yard like expectant fathers in an old movie.
I remember when I first saw prisoners doing this constant pacing up and down (Known as the: ‘institutional two step.’), I wondered what on earth they were doing. Before very long, I was doing it too. I could either sit down all day … or … ‘go for a walk!’
Sometimes prisoners would walk up and down two or three abreast. Or even more!
It was not unusual to see screws on duty in the prison exercise yards of Pentridge prison, pace up and down chatting away together.
When I first entered the holding yards, I thought that this would be just until after breakfast, then we would do some work or something for the remainder of the day. Oh boy … was I wrong!
These yards, like cattle pens, were designed to hold prisoners by their designated category and classification.
Cigarettes were like gold in the yards. I saw men selling their bread roll that came with each meal, for a couple of cigarettes. I saw others selling their dessert that came with the last meal at three o’clock in the afternoon, for a couple of cigarettes. I saw other prisoners selling items of clothing for cigarettes. Cigarettes and chocolate were the currency of the prison. There was some money getting about, but that was contraband.
Any sentenced prisoner who was caught buying and selling was charged with trafficking, and suffered a loss of remission or a spell in ‘H-division’ (the prison within a prison -- more on that later.)
However, if a non-sentenced prisoner was caught trafficking, he could not be charged under prison regulations, but he would spend time cooling off his heals in one way or another.
Those long hours between four o’clock in the afternoon, and seven thirty the next morning were indeed long and lonely hours…and without a smoke it was maddening! The prison did not issue remanded prisoners with tobacco because they were still able to get them brought in. If the prisoner had no one on the outside to send him in smokes, money, or clothing, he was in real trouble.
Back in those days, a remanded prisoner was far worse off than one who was sentenced.
From seven thirty in the morning until three thirty in the afternoon, we froze, fried, or sat under a meager tin roof in the pouring rain.
I spent many a lazy hour listening to the endless rhetoric of prisoners recounting their exploits in crime and analyzing where they went wrong, and how the police had gotten onto them. There was nothing else to do in that yard but to listen to the stories that were told by prisoners regarding their criminal exploits. I was fascinated.
I was back before the magistrate following two weeks of monotonous interviews and examinations. Being that it was my first conviction, I was given the chance to amend my ways.
Four days after being released on a two-year probation, there was a knock at my door. Upon opening the door, I was greeted by my grinning partner in crime. He had also been released on a two-year probation by the juvenile court about a week before me.
And what was the topic? Yes - you guessed right. What did we do wrong that got us caught?!
We decided to do it again, but not get caught this time.
We stole a car from a railway station car park and made up a set of false license plates. What a mistake that was! Neither of us knew about the sequence of license plates which corresponded with the year that the car was registered, nor did we know of the prefixes of interstate plates, which corresponded with the state in which that car was registered.
We made the plates from a breakfast cereal box and cut the numbers from white paper, then glued the numbers to the cardboard that we had painted and put them on the car.
For some unknown reason, the police did not detect us as we drove around town all day in this stolen car.
I dropped my partner-in-crime off at home, then began to head to a quiet place near home to dump the car. As I was driving home it began to rain. A police car passed going the other way. I checked the rear-view mirror … their break lights came on and the police car turned around to come after me.
Apparently, the license plates were beginning to fall to pieces in the rain, and the passing police noticed it. Then they noticed the odd prefix of the license plate. I was dead!
Back in the police cells, and back in court again!
I was sentenced to three weeks imprisonment. The magistrate told me that I needed a ‘short sharp’ taste of prison to wake me up! On top of that, I was now facing the breach of a two-year probation after only serving four days of it!
There I was again: six days after being released on a two-year probation -- back on the ‘Disneyland-Express,’ and back to the boys’ yard.
Three days after being in the boys’ yard, my name was among several that were called over the loudspeakers to come to the gate at the front of the yard. Those others whose names had been called, told me that we were on the list to Pentridge prison. A prison officer came and opened the iron-grilled gate to let us out of the yard. About twenty of us were led like sheep out of the holding yards and herded from the met to Pentridge prison … to “The city of bells!”
As we were being marched to the prison, I glanced over my shoulder to see the gaping jaws of those ‘pearly gates’ waiting to devour more souls.
As we continued to move away from the met and towards the prison, I could clearly see the sights of freedom ahead of me over those haunting prison walls.
Our procession of the dammed passed through a large arched iron gate that led us through the industrial section of the prison and on to our final destination. I heard the ‘clip-clop’ of wooden shuttles weaving the yarn in their looms as we passed by the prison woolen mill. The sound brought back memories of my school days when I was training to be a weaver. (The woolen mill became a place where I would labor many times in future years).
As we passed the woolen mills on our right, I looked to my left to see an open caged yard that was scantily covered with a tin shelter. I noticed some pretty ancient looking machinery therein. This was the ‘mat-yard’ where coconut mats are made for use in government buildings.
We continued on through another arched gateway that partitioned the industrial section of the prison from what is called the ‘square’. A long guard tower sat perched above this second arched gateway. A large bell loomed ominously like some infernal gargoyle from within the tower as if it were ready to pounce upon and devour any that may pass by. Its hellish toll tore deep into the hearts of the people who lived outside of those dark walls. It was the heartbeat of the prison! Nothing happened within the bowels of the prison until that infernal bell shrieked out its demonic commands! Each individual division of the prison had its own infernal bell that dominated the lives of those whom it held captive.
As I looked ahead, I could see the main gate, and that clock tower above it. That clock seemed to leer at us and mock us every minute of every day reminding us of time!
To the right, I saw a strange walled section of the prison that I later learned was ‘C-division’ or ‘Dodge City’ (“candle light alley”). But more on that later…
Our small legion of the dammed made a sharp left turn towards the clothing store where we waited outside until we were called to change into our prison clothing.
I took off my street clothes and was handed my prison uniform that consisted of a gray jacket, white striped shirt, blue denim-type pants, thick gray woolen socks, and a pair of heavy leather shoes. Once we were all changed into our prison clothing, we were called by name into different groups in accordance to the designated divisions we were allocated. I was to go to ‘J-division’ otherwise known as the ‘YOGS’ (Young Offenders Gaol).
We were marched across the square and down a narrow alley that ran between E-division and Dodge City to another high wall with another arched iron grilled gate. Above that gate too was an observation tower that ran the length of the wall. An armed screw in the tower pulled a lever, which allowed our escorting screw to open the large gate to let us through. We followed a path which led us to ‘A-division’ where the YOGS was a wing of A-division reserved for young offenders.
This was my first taste of prison life -- the first taste of many prison sentences to come in my life of crime.
All of the prison officers in the yogs were loud and aggressive … the classical drill sergeant type, but that was not of a significant concern to me at the time. There was indeed a code of conduct to be adhered to among the prisoners in the yogs. For instance, there was the ‘lender.’ When a prisoner first comes to Pentridge from the met, he usually has no cigarettes. He had to fill out what is called a ‘canteen slip’ where he can purchase items from his prison earnings. This was usually each Thursday in the yogs. A lender would usually lend a newcomer a couple of ounces of tobacco until canteen day, but it was different in the yogs; you had to pay back double of what you borrowed from the lender, or no lend!
Most yogs were put to work in the prison farm. It was not hard work though. As long as you got along with your work you were left alone.
There were not enough cells in the yogs to accommodate everyone so a large part of those in the yogs would be accommodated in ‘C-division’ over night. Life in the yogs for a first timer was not easy at all, and there were many of us.
I am led to believe that ‘C’-division, was part of the original ‘stockade’ that made up Pentridge prison back in the late 1700’s. I am also led to believe that Ned Kelly resided in one of its ‘suites’.
How could I possibly begin to describe ‘C-division, or candle-light ally?’ Whoever thought up the name ‘Dodge City‘ certainly had a brilliant sense of humor. Only a prisoner could come up with such a name!
I was 17, and this was my first prison sentence. It was the year 1965 and I was about to enter into the twilight zone of prison life!
‘C-division’ was not the place where I was to serve out my three-week sentence for car theft, but it was where I was to sleep, owing to the overcrowded conditions in the Young Offenders gaol. We were marched to a set of arched wooden gates where our escorting screw gave them a kick. There was a rattle and the gates flung open. An uncontrollable urge overtook me to either shudder in horror or to laugh my head off as I beheld the vision before my eyes!
I beheld two rows of two-tiered buildings where cell doors opened directly onto an exercise yard. The upper tier had a wooden safety rail that led to a wooden staircase at either end of the building. Someone behind me said: “Welcome to Dodge City.”
I later learned that the term ‘candlelight alley’ originated some years ago when prisoners were issued a candle to take to their cell each night because there was no electricity.
The cells were about nine feet long and five feet wide, with no bed or toilet. A striped horse hair mattress lay rolled up on the wooden floor, with five woolen blankets neatly folded on top of the mattress with an old pillow on top. No sheets were issued with the bedding.
Our toilet consisted of a wooden type of commode stool that held a steel bucket. A three-liter plastic bottle held the water supply for the night. If you had a bowel problem, well...what a night you were in for!
A set of earphones hung from a plug in the wall, which was our radio that was piped through from the radio cell in ‘B-division.’ A single 60-watt light bulb illuminated the little cell until it was switched off from the outside at 9:30 pm.
The bell would ring each morning, and the doors would be opened. Each prisoner would collect his toilet bucket and make his way to a large open sewer situated at the end of the yard where he would empty its contents into the sewer. Oh - those poor fellows who lived in the cells either side of that sewer!
It was quite common on a wet morning to see a prisoner slip on the wooden steps while carrying his bucket to the sewer. The poor man’s feet would slide out from under him and his arms would fling into the air cascading the contents of his bucket all over the place! I would hate to be nearby when this happened.
Dodge City was not only a sleepover for the young offenders; it was also a division that accommodated a large number of homosexuals.
Each afternoon, we were brought up to Dodge City from the yogs to fill our water bottle and ready ourselves for lockup at five O’clock.
The Salvation Army placed the Gideon’s bible in each cell of the general prison population.
Most bibles were the old King James Version. Prisoners often used the rice paper to roll their tobacco in.
I was not ignorant of the bible, because I did attend a Methodist Sunday school in England on rare occasions. Plus, I received top honors in Bible Education while in secondary school. My Sunday school teacher was also my teacher at the public school I attended. I was trapped!
So with nothing else to do, I opened the bible and began to browse through its rice paper pages. Certain parts of the bible began to get my attention, and I wanted to investigate the parts that had caught my attention.
I decided to seek the guidance of the chaplain of one of the large denominations whom I believed would help me along the way. What a mistake that was!
I met with the chaplain in his large luxurious office, and began to ask him questions that had arisen in my mind, which had arisen during my bible reading. He appeared to be more interested in his image with the prison administration and what his public image was as some kind of savior to the prisoners. His attitude towards me was that I was incapable of perceiving the teachings of the bible, and that it was only reserved for the clergy to know such things. He looked at me as if I was some sort of a bug that needed to be stepped on.
I returned to my cell and threw the bible in the trash thinking no more about it!
The prisoner loses all perception of the outside world and sees the world within the four prison walls as the real world. The other side of the wall becomes an illusion -- a non-reality -- a fantasy world.
Each time that I was released from prison, I was cast into a world that was totally alien to me. A world that I could not relate to in any form.
My physical body was no longer in prison, but prison was in me! The man was out of the prison, but the prison was still in the man. This is something that only an ex-prisoner could understand.
At home, I would wake up early each morning thinking to myself that I would snooze until the first bell (the wakeup bell), then I would get out of bed. It would be late afternoon by the time that I realized that I was not in a cell but in my own room at home.
Not only that, I found it very uncomfortable to be in a room that did not have bars on the window, or to open a door and step out into the street. I was so accustomed to having a prison officer open just about every door for me.
Oh, and another thing … this may sound really odd to someone who has not spent some time in prison away from the opposite gender … all women’s voices would sound the same. It would take at least a week or two to begin to discern the different voices.
I was expected to come out of prison and straight into a job to earn a living for myself. Remember - mentally, I was still a prisoner. My mode of thinking was that of a prisoner. My reactions to situations were that of a prisoner. I was not able to perform in the workforce as a regular member of society. I did not last long at all. I had lost the ability to properly function in the outside world.
Each time I had completed a sentence, the prison staff would often refer to my release as ‘my annual leave.’
Holding down a job was something I could not do because I was so accustomed to the slow pace of work in prison workshops.
I suppose I could ramble on through another fifty pages concerning my life in and out of prison over the years, but if I did, I would be losing sight of the purpose of this article. I am not writing a testimony to my shame, but to the glory of God who freed me from my shame, and gave me a whole new life.
Prison is an existence where one has the firsthand opportunity to experience the nature of the heart without the falsehoods that hide its’ deceiving nature.
I was serving time in the punishment section of Pentridge prison known as ‘H’ division. H-division, also known as “hell division” – “the slot” – “the go-slow” – “the punch factory” - or - “the labor yards.”
H-division is more or less a prison within a prison that was set aside for those who breach prison regulations. I was placed in ‘H’ division for escaping from a prison farm: one of three such escapes.
I lay there in cell 23 after suffering the humiliation of the usual strip search that we were subjected to each afternoon before being put in our cell ‘till the following day. I could hear the chirping of the birds outside of my window, and the sound of traffic on the road that ran alongside the prison wall. My mind was in preparation for the long hours ahead in the cell … three thirty in the afternoon until six thirty the next morning.
Someone spoke to me, yet I was the only one in the cell.
A voice spoke again …
This was not a voice in the regular sense. The voice seemed to come from inside of me, yet also around me. I was bordering on blind panic!
The voice spoke my name, but the odd thing was somewhere deep in me, I knew that voice.
I wanted to leap off my bed and pound on the cell door demanding to be taken to the prison psychiatric division. I became convinced that I had gone stir crazy and finally blown a fuse. I quickly envisioned the next ten or so years of my life spent in and out of mental hospitals!
“Terry, you know who I am” … came the voice again as I began to feel the uncontrollable urge to start pounding on the cell door.
“No, you are not going mad. I am here,” said the voice again. The voice continued: “You know who I am -- don’t you Terry?”
In utter astonishment I answered: “You’re Jesus!” I could not stop the words from coming out of my mouth!
“I am He,” came the response.
Feeling a little easier now . . . but still seriously questioning my sanity … I listened as the gentle, but powerful voice spoke again:
“Look at your life. It is up to you to change its direction. You can either continue in the way you are going, which will end in death, or you may follow me. I have a job for you…the choice is yours!”
“I will follow you,” came my response, still holding serious doubts regarding my sanity.
Jesus told me that I was stained with sin and He needed to come and live in me.
He told me that He couldn’t live in a dirty house. It had to be cleansed from the stain of sin in my heart and life!
At that time, I had no comprehension of the message of the gospel, or the need to confess my sin to Jesus and to invite Him into my heart to make me a new creation in Him.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)
Even though I attended a Methodist Sunday school as a child, I was only taught how to memorize bible verses. Those bible verses came rushing back into my mind during the coming days.
I realized the fact that I had to repent from my sin, both original and personal … that I had to be made clean through the blood of Jesus that was shed for me on the Cross … that I had to be born again!
Jesus Himself helped me through the ‘sinner’s prayer’ so that I could be made a new creation in Him! I invited Jesus Christ the Lord to come and live in my heart, and to become the Lord and Savior of my life.
Even though I still held reservations about my sanity, Jesus impressed upon me that He would prove that this is really happening by making me like Daniel in the lion's den during my stay in ‘H’ division.
However, Jesus did say that in times to come, I would try as hard as I could to get away from Him. I strongly protested at this by telling Him that I would never do that.
Jesus also made known to me on that day in cell 23 that I would be confronted with a wall of criticism and unbelief regarding my testimony.
Jesus impressed upon me that in days to come, I would experience the cold religious hand of rejection because of my testimony -- from none else but the professing church itself!
This confused me because I believed that those in the church (the religious institutional system) would welcome what I had to share.
This was proven to be so true a short time later when I tried to tell the prison chaplain about what had happened to me. I was indeed confronted by a wall of outright unbelief!
One morning, as I was breaking rocks in my little ‘labor yard’ … a big burley prison officer came in yelling and making a big noise.
He had full intentions of beating me with the baton that he held in his hand. These random beatings of prisoners were commonplace in ‘H’ division at the time.
He raised his baton, and began his downward lunge. As he was in the process, I saw a large hand manifest -- taking hold of the prison officers’ baton arm.
The prison officers’ face turned a sickly pale color. He ran out of the yard like a frightened mouse! He never came near me again.
Late one afternoon, not long after lockup, prison officers began to systematically go from cell to cell beating the occupant with their batons. I became very afraid. Again … a voice spoke to me. I knew it to be the voice of a personage who belonged to God.
“Fear not; the Lord is with you!” exclaimed the voice of ‘someone’ near the cell door.
The occupant of each cell before mine was beaten. They came to the cell next door and beat up the occupant --they passed me by and continued on to the cell next to me!
Bibles were not available in this part of the prison. The only bible (as it was called) was a copy of the rules and regulations of ‘H’ division, which every prisoner had to know by heart. However, there was a small bookshelf in the corridor that contained a few books. We had to reach out and grab one if we were quick enough.
On more than one occasion I grabbed a copy or two of some Full Gospel Businessman’s Fellowship International literature that helped me a lot in those long hours in cell 23.
John 15:26 says: "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.”
The following three months was spent in ‘H’ division, but during that time I had the Lord Jesus Christ with me. I got to know Jesus more and more each day. I knew that the Holy Spirit was with me because He would tell me things of Jesus and not of Himself!
No further acts of violence were committed against me by the prison officers. In fact, I was treated in a manner that was quite odd indeed!
The first day that I was released from ‘H’ division and into the general prison population, I made a beeline for the library to get my hands on a bible. The Word of God confirmed all that I was shown to me by the Holy Spirit in cell 23.
It later came to my attention that a prisoner in an American prison came to know Jesus in the same way that I did. He wrote a book about it. Me write a book? Never!
I was placed in ‘E-division’ which was a division made up of dormitories instead of single cells. That was fine with me because the dormitories had television, and besides, I could share my experience of Jesus with other prisoners!
I was put to work in the woolen mill again -- where else? I was able to share my experience of Jesus Christ to many both at work and in the dormitory, and many gave their life to Jesus.
That’s Part 1 of my story. Part 2 follows ...
I was released from Pentridge Prison in June of 1973. I made a beeline home to my wife and a son who was born while I was in prison. I caught my wife by surprise because I was released a few days earlier than was expected.
However, the life that I thought we were going to live as believers in Christ Jesus was not to be. A lot of pain was yet to come.
My wife was a member of a major church denomination, and attended church every Sunday with her family. I was considered as somewhat of a heathen at the time. I sat my wife down on the couch and began to share my testimony with her of Christ Jesus in the hope that she would receive Jesus into her heart and life as I did. I immediately discerned that she was not understanding what I was sharing with her.
She simply told me that I was suffering from some sort of a delusion owing to my long period of solitude. It soon became apparent to me that my wife could not deal with this ‘new Terry’ -- the new spiritual creation God had made me. She became convinced that I was suffering from some type of a psychotic break, and I needed to receive some sort of professional counseling.
I began to show her from the Bible what God expected of Christian believers in comparison to what her church doctrine taught. This was a thing that she refused to accept. Eventually, at the urging of her family, the marriage fell apart and we separated. That was in October of 1973.
I then recalled an incident that happened in Pentridge while alone in my cell just before my release, as I lay in my cell thinking of the life ahead with my wife and son. I felt the Spirit of the Lord say to me that this marriage would end four months after my release because this woman was not the one chosen by God for me. I had married this woman for all the wrong motives. Hence I was released in June… separated in October!
At this point, I really began to believe that I was suffering from a type of psychotic episode, and that indeed what I experienced in cell 23 was a dangerous delusion. Satan’s lying spirits worked overtime to try to deceive me. As my marriage was falling apart, I tried to seek out Christian counsel, or to find believers such as myself. All I could find were those who claimed to be Christian, but the Spirit of the Lord was not in them as I saw it. I found no help or support anywhere, so I threw in the towel and gave up.
My wife divorced me in 1976, and I never saw her or my son again, who is now in his 30’s. I was branded as a dangerous religious nutcase.
It was not too long before I found myself back on the old merry-go-round of in and out of prison, not caring if I was alive or dead … free or in prison. My reality was within the four walls of a prison, and the outside was a world of illusion.
In 1982 I met a woman by the name of Joanne, whom I had known for some years during a return trip to Melbourne, Australia. She was a friend of my family. Joanne, like myself, had experienced a failed marriage that lasted no more than eighteen months. The last thing on either of our minds was marriage. However, things clicked between us and we were married that same year.
It was during October of 1986, following Joanne’s onslaught of questions about the Bible, that I repented from my sin and backsliding. Joanne had no idea about my going astray, or of even being a Christian. Not until I shared my testimony with her did she come to know Jesus as her Lord and Savior.
Those early years were simple years. Joanne and I enjoyed the pure uncomplicated outpouring of God’s unconditional love in our lives. Things were simple in our day-to-day walk with Jesus.
We became friends with a young professional church going couple (whom we shall call: ‘Mr. & Mrs. Church’), believing that it would be nice to have Christian neighbors. We lived in the house opposite of this couple in our quiet Darwin suburb. We attended the same church that was no more than three or four kilometers away. We did not own a car, so we traveled by either bus or bicycle. Child seats were fitted to our bikes so we could carry our two youngest boys with us.
It soon became clear to us that Mr. & Mrs. Church did not want to offer us a ride to church each Sunday, so we decided to bike it with our children. Of course, the ride to church was an uphill trip in thirty plus (Celsius) degree heat, but the ride home was much better!
Joanne eagerly looked forward to meeting other Christian women in whom she could share her newfound faith. She began to attend the women’s mid-week bible studies, and would come home discouraged instead of encouraged. When I asked her what was wrong, she would tearfully tell me that the women at the study would ignore, or rebuke her for not finding a scripture verse fast enough. Not one of the women took into account that Joanne was totally unfamiliar with the Bible!
We began to notice that people in the church would never accept our invitation to come over for lunch or coffee. Or could we not help but notice that many in the church would regularly visit Mr. & Mrs. Church, but yet not even give us the slightest greeting. This troubled us greatly. It was clear that we were being discriminated against because I was unemployed at the time.
Around this time, our son Patrick was diagnosed with a delayed mental developmental condition, along with a degree of autism. These ‘church people’ told Joanne and I that Patrick’s condition was the result of hidden sin in our lives… or that he was full of demons. Such an attitude clearly comes from the dark ages. The ‘church people’ were blind to the obvious reality that Patrick was one of those babies who had an adverse reaction to the child immunization program (MMR).
Through fervent prayer, God dealt with our son’s condition and began to open up his mind and ears. He soon began to speak and converse with those around him. Over the years, God continued in delivering him from the murky depths of his condition. In fact he is now working at a full time job!
There seems to be this misconstrued belief among a lot of Christians that if a person does not work they should not eat. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10). This scripture deals with something other than what was being leveled at us. It is referring to the custom when one is invited to stay as a guest in someone’s home. It was customary for the guest to do some work around the house of the host in payment for their food and keep. In no way has this to do with anyone who is unemployed; but for some obscure reason, this erroneous belief is locked into the minds of many church people.
We have heard it all: "Poverty is a curse" and all that goes with it. We could write volumes on this subject, but this is not the time or the place.
The Hades Incident
On the night in question, I was having my usual time with the Lord in prayer when a very unusual thing happened. Hearing cries for help, I stopped praying and ran outside to see who was in trouble. There could have been a car accident, and people hurt, I thought to myself. All was quiet. There was nobody about. I went back inside to continue with my time with the Lord.
Again… I heard people crying out for help, so again, I went outside. There was nothing.
Again I heard the cries for help! This time I said: "Yes Lord, here I am. I am ready."
Immediately, a veil was lifted from my eyes and I beheld a vast pit that was full of people. I could not count the number of tormented people who were looking up at me. I stood there in absolute shock!
The people within this vast pit were aware that I could see them in their torment. Their cries for help seemed to be an endless chorus of pain!
"What is going on here?!" I exclaimed to myself and to God.
The Lord impressed Luke 16:19-31 upon my heart when Jesus spoke of Lazarus and the rich man. He made it clear to me that what He referred to in Luke 16:19-31 was an actual event and not a parable, otherwise the Word of God would have declared it to be a parable!
The great ocean of tormented people before me where those in Hades. Those who were waiting to be cast into the lake of fire on the Day of the Lord! (See Revelation 20:11-15). This part of Hades was shown to me because the people in this pit whom I was looking at were those who in life believed that they were right with God and they believed to hold the truth. They believed that they had their own way to God and did not want to be told anything different! They had chosen not to believe the simple message of the Cross, but elected to follow popular humanistic concepts that offered them compromise and not the need to repent from their sin!
I continued to gaze into the pit of tormented souls. My eyes transfixed upon these souls experiencing the foretaste of hell. I wanted to reach into this pit and pull them out, but the Holy Spirit moved upon me and told me that there is nothing that can be done for these people because they had chosen to reject God’s only provision for their salvation in Jesus Christ the Lord during their earth lifetime. Their cries were great, and I was deeply disturbed by what I saw. Even today in 2005, as I write this, I am still affected by what I saw in that pit. It drives me to go on sounding the warning to those in the church not to take the work that Jesus did for our salvation on the Cross for granted. And not to treat the message of the Cross as foolishness, as many religious people do through their idolatry!
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).
The Lord allowed me to behold the pit of Hades to tell people of what I witnessed. Those within the pit are condemned to hell! Those still living in the flesh still have the hope of repentance in Jesus Christ, and getting it right with God through the Cross of Jesus.
If we enter the grave without Jesus, only Judgment awaits us, and we await that Judgment in the pit of Hades! This is why I was allowed to see and hear what I saw and heard . . . to warn those who are deceived into thinking that they have their own way to God!
A Touch Of Lazarus
Very few people die and come back to life. My dad, John Wilson, was one of those few ...
It was October 1987 when I returned to Melbourne, Australia from Darwin with my wife and boys. It was unusually warm for the spring of that year. It was like the sub-tropical weather warmed to greet us as we came down from the hot and sultry tropical Northern Territory.
My family had not seen us for about three years, and they were in for a big surprise when they came face to face with the ‘New Vessels’ whom Christ Jesus had created!
My father had been suffering with emphysema for a number of years, owing to his work in concrete dust and his years working in steel foundries. His persistent smoking of cigarettes from a young age couldn't have helped it much either. His doctors didn't give him many months to live.
I knew in my heart that God wanted me to share the gospel with him and to tell him that he needed Jesus in his life, so I took the step and told both my parents that they needed to be born again to enter into the Kingdom of God.
Within the first ten minutes after sharing the gospel with them, I was told to get out because the Good News made them feel threatened for some reason. They may have even felt I was "on something," or that I was involved in some "scam or another", and was trying to pull them into it as well.
I went before the Lord about this problem and the Holy Spirit brought to mind that I should persist until the Lord told me to stop. For 12 months, I went to the house of my father to share the gospel with him, and each time he did not want to hear. Each day, he would put up with me sharing the Word, then send me on my way.
At the end of the twelfth month I went before the Lord and cried out to Him that I was obedient to Him, yet I was at my wit’s end! There seemed to be no receptiveness on my dad's part to hearing the Truth that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for his sins by shedding His innocent blood on the Cross. My heart was so grieved ...
At six-thirty the following morning I received a frantic phone-call from my mother -- my father had collapsed on the floor and was turning gray. She was so frantic that I had to organize the ambulance for her.
The house we lived at the time was on the same street as the local hospital. After organizing the ambulance, my wife and I ran up to the hospital. The ambulance arrived at the same time we did. I saw my mother get out of the ambulance, followed by my father on a gurney. As I looked at him, I saw the gray pallor of his face, and I knew what that meant. Pain so gripped my heart.
We entered the small cubical where my father had been placed. He was hooked up to an ECG machine, along with oxygen.
As my mother, wife and myself stood over him, his heart stopped and the ECG signaled no heart beat.
At that time I saw a ‘black shadow’ enshroud him. It seemed to come from the side of him and cover him.
I was the only one to see this.
He was dead.
Immediately, my mother cried out to me: "You are a believer, you can pray!"
So for the benefit of my mother, I laid hands upon my father’s body to thank the Lord for his life. What else could I do? He had resisted the gospel truth while he was alive. It was now time for Him to answer to God.
Suddenly ... the Holy Spirit impressed upon me to begin to praise the name of Jesus right there and then in that cubicle with doctors and nurses running everywhere! Joanne, my precious wife, joined me in praising the Lord.
People around probably though that we were a bunch of nutcases. In the natural sense we were, but if you know what pleases God and creates an atmosphere for Him to work miracles down here ... well ... that's of another dimension.
As we began our praises . . . that shadow lifted from my father’s body and life returned to his body. Then I remembered the verse in Psalm 23: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…
Doctors ran in and out of the cubicle in frenzy bringing other doctors with them. They were truly bewildered over what had just happened.
My father opened his eyes and looked at me and I smiled at him, asking: "Are you ready to give your heart to Jesus now?"
He said, "Yes!"
I later found out that after we had left, the doctors gathered about him and told him that he had died. My father looked at them and told them that he had seen Jesus!
Not long after my father was discharged from the hospital, he became a real powerhouse for Jesus. Anyone who came through the door was told about Jesus. My other three brothers stayed well away. In fact they accused Joanne and I of brainwashing him rather than to accept the plain truth.
He was "brainwashed" alright. Brainwashed with the shed blood of Jesus!
Ten moths later, I was spending time with God, and he laid it upon my heart that He was going to take my father home. I asked, "How long, Lord?" And he told me, "Two weeks."
In the second week of that two-week period, he developed chest infections that caused him to be hospitalized. He knew that his time was up, and I told him what the Lord had spoken to my heart.
During those last days, we were able to prepare him for what was about to come, and a great peace was upon him. He was allowed to come home to spend his last days and we all took turns being with him. He passed away on my watch.
I write this testimony on the behalf of my father because it was his desire that his story would be shared with those who would hear and I promised him that I would keep his testimony alive. You're a witness to his last will and spiritual testament.
Call To Ministry
Late in 1988, Joanne and I were invited by a fellow believer to share testimony with a group in her home. In the group was a deaf and dumb girl. Her sign-language interpreter came along with her.
I began to share my testimony with the group of how I came to know Jesus, and also began to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. After about an hour, I extended the invitation to those who would like to give their life to Jesus. The deaf and dumb girl gave her life to Jesus, along with her sign-language interpreter. Other people in the room also gave their lives to Jesus. Then I had the strong urge to again make an altar call.
Then I heard more voices behind me say they wanted Jesus in their life. I looked behind me to see about twenty people whom I had no idea were there listening to the message of the gospel … but God knew that they were there. All who were in the house that night came to Jesus!
Invitations were coming from everywhere for me to share my testimony and preach the gospel in the homes of believers all over Melbourne. All who came to listen came to know Jesus. God did tremendous things!
In 1992 I was asked to pastor a fellowship of disabled people in an Assembly of God church in Sydney as the regular pastor took a break. I remember that first Sunday. As I stood in the front of the auditorium, I felt the Holy Spirit moving upon me. It was a small congregation of people with varying types of disabilities, who were there seeking the healing touch of the Lord.
As I opened my mouth to speak, I began to say that they have to understand that God may not want to give them that ‘healing touch’ as they are waiting for at this time. I reminded them of Isaiah 55 when God tells us that His thoughts are not our thoughts and that His ways are not our ways … that He is above them.
I felt so led of the Spirit to tell them that God had allowed them to remain the way that they are so that He can use them in accordance with His good will -- so that they will go to other disabled people with the Good News of Jesus Christ, because they would be accepted more readily than able-bodied people would be accepted.
That fellowship grew in number and in the love of the Lord. People in wheelchairs were going out into the highways and the byways declaring the gospel of salvation to other disabled folk.
When the pastor returned to his congregation, he was quite surprised at the increase. I was trusted with a single talent, and God brought the increase!
Today I work in the ministry of a teacher. I am used of the Lord to teach His Word to all who will hear. To look under rocks and expose those who come in the name of our Lord and Savior to deceive the people and feast upon them! Also to teach those who seek to walk in obedience to the Lord God.
We are finding lately that our home has become a ‘spiritual first aid station’ ministering to the saints who are wounded in the spirit. Binding their wounds through prayer, and seeing them return to the battle in the vineyard.
From here … only God knows what lies in store for us next!
If anyone wants, they can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Staff Note: We are so thankful for God putting it on Terry's heart to allow us to publish this testimony. I don't know about YOU, but we think Terry could EASILY write a book. He is very gifted with writing. All he needs is a publisher to publish it...
Also - If you are interested in seeing a couple of photographs of Pentridge Prison, and read of some of its history, you can click on the below link: (P.S. -- Terry ... we'll understand if YOU don't care to!)
Dear Reader - are you at peace with God? If not, you can be. Do you know what awaits you when you die? You can have the assurance from the Holy Spirit that heaven will be your home, if you would like to be certain. Either Jesus Christ died for yours sins, or He didn't (and He did!). Are you prepared to stand before God on the Judgment Day and tell Him that you didn't need the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross to cover your sins? We plead with you ... please don't make such a tragic mistake.
To be at peace with God; to make certain heaven will be your home for eternity; to make certain that you are in right-standing with God right now ... please click here to help you understand the importance of being reconciled to God. What you do about being reconciled to God will determine where you will spend eternity, dear one. Your decision to be reconciled to God is the most important decision you'll ever make in this life.
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