When a bank robber becomes a brother

It had been a full and fruitful outreach onboard the YWAM Medical Ship in one of the least-reached and most under-developed areas of Papua New Guinea. We had one day left in the country before heading back to Australia and we set out with a small group of teammates in hopes of experiencing a little of the nation’s capital city.

Harrison walked next to me carrying Levi, and Ryan trailed behind carrying Judah as we made the walk along the busy highway.

A local of Port Moresby, Harrison was a gentle-spirited young man in his mid-twenties who had joined us as a part of our medical outreaches in the poverty-stricken Western Province. I hadn’t spent much time individually with him, but I had admired the way he treated our boys, related with the other volunteers, and honored every patient that set foot on our ship and in our land-based clinics.

Harrison doing malaria prevention education alongside our clinics in a village in the Western Province.

“I robbed that hotel,” he casually told me after we had just passed by the Hilton. “I also robbed that bank, and that place, and that place…” his voice trailed off as he pointed at several buildings in the area.

I knew that Harrison had been a “rascal” (the term given in PNG for young men caught up in violence and criminal activity) before giving his life to the Lord, but I was still surprised that this kind, sweet young man who held my two-year-old was the same person who used to be a bank robber.

“What happened?” I asked him. “How did you turn your life around?”

He told me of a dream he had where Jesus came back and he was left behind. It was so intense and so realistic that he woke scared and repentant. He didn’t want to be left behind, and was literally scared into repentance.

But it didn’t end there.

Shortly after that experience he met one of our YWAM teams. It was a group of young people who we’d just trained in Australia for three months before going to PNG on their field assignment. He joined the team as their translator and was deeply impacted by the genuine way they loved one another, loved the Lord, and loved life in general as they reached out to serve his people.

He simply wanted what they had.

They began to teach him what it means to follow after God – not just believe in God – and now three years later he had applied to join our Medical Ship outreaches, desperate that his fellow countrymen receive the care and compassion and services that they so urgently need.

I looked at Harrison holding my firstborn son and marveled at how much I trusted this former bank-robber who had been transformed by grace and power of Jesus.

It wasn’t until later that I began to realize the impact of Harrison’s story – a story of the gospel in action coming full circle. Not only is Harrison’s a life given to God, but his is a life now dedicated to extending the love of God as he reaches out to serve and disciple others.

*Harrison’s name has been changed, as well as the hotel name referenced.

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