Hardened prisoners have been reduced to tears after a Christian worker devoted to turning their lives around died outside his Upper Hutt home, prompting a homicide investigation.
Patrick Brent Lewis, 50, was allegedly assaulted in Trentham about 10.30pm on Sunday and died soon after. An 18-year-old shop assistant has been charged with assault in relation to his death.
Police spent all day yesterday examining the crime scene under a police tent behind the Trentham Fire Station.
Mr Lewis, a father of two, had run the faith-based unit at Rimutaka Prison since it was set up in 2003, working with prisoners jailed for crimes such as grievous bodily harm and armed holdups. The unit aims to rehabilitate prisoners by allowing them to explore their faith, and surround themselves with Christian support on release.
Mr Lewis's boss and friend, Prison Fellowship general manager Barry Timms, said he worked hard "because he believed it would make a difference. He saw the wreckage of lives".
We'd heard of Mr Lewis, although we never met him. Along with Mrs Inventory, we were involved in prison ministry for a couple of years a the local institution. It is an incredibly rewarding ministry, and equally, it is incredibly draining. Many of the men we were dealing with were at rock bottom; others were hardened, cynical criminals. We experienced "jailhouse converstaions", some of which were more about the tea and cake that followed the services, but others which have transformed lives, and are enduring.
There was much scepticism when the faith-based unit was first established at Rimutaka. Many critics believed that is was a "soft option". But it's worth has been proven; reoffending rates for inmates released from the unit are significantly lower than those of the general prison population, and many lives have been changed for the better.
The Dom-Post reports that Patrick Lewis came to faith after being the victim of violence at a party, and it is both sad and ironic that his death came after an assault at his home. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who mourn his death, both on the outside, and inside the wire at Rimutaka. As he goes to meet his Creator, we are reminded of these words:
"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.' Matthew 25:37-40 (The Message)