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Finding freedom in prison

20 April 2021

Finding freedom in prison

Kevin is now a volunteer at the same court where he was sentenced to prison. Photos KianWorthing Photography.

Words Staff writers

Born in Sydney in 1974, with an older brother and sister, Kevin Lawler and his family moved to Logan City, between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, when he was seven. He was a happy child.

Mum, Joy, attended the local Salvos. Dad, Kevin, had been raised in The Salvation Army, but left when he was a young man.

Kevin (Junior) kept his distance from the Salvos – and God. He experimented with drugs in his late teens. He had numerous jobs; even owned his own company. In his early 20s, he became engaged to a young woman who, to his surprise, also went to the Salvos on Sundays. She convinced him to go with her.

Early in their relationship, the young woman ended her life. It was the third major loss of somebody close in Kevin's life. His father had died two years earlier and a friend was shot and killed one year earlier. “I didn’t deal with the death of three people close to me,” Kevin says. “And there was heaps of trauma. The church family was fantastic to me when my partner died. They gave me great support.”


Kevin became a Christian in his late 20s. He met another woman at the Salvos and they married.

“I went into a business partnership. It went well for about five years. We were making a lot of money, but I lost the company in a hostile takeover after my business partner died in a car accident. My world fell apart. I had a breakdown. My marriage disintegrated. I left the church. I couldn’t cope. I struggled. I went back to drugs and I got involved in crime. That’s when my wife left.”

Kevin was arrested for supplying illegal firearms. He was taken to the Southport (Gold Coast) police cells. “And, here,” he says, “is where God steps in. I have absolutely no doubt about that.”

Kevin and his mum, Joy, at the Gold Coast Salvos.

At the cells, he asked to be put in touch with someone from the Salvos. “I wanted to contact Mum to let her know that I was still alive and in jail,” he says. “But I couldn’t remember Mum’s telephone number. I asked for a Salvo because I thought the Salvos would know my mother.

“Major Kay Nelson came and, yes, sure enough, she knew Mum. I was held on remand for nine months. The court case took three years to complete. During that time, I went to the Gold Coast Salvos and did the Positive Lifestyle Program (PLP) with Major Kay and Robin Martin. Those two women showed me the love of Christ.”

At the conclusion of his court hearing, Kevin was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. “As I sat in the court and the sentence was read, I was in complete peace,” he says. “I was aware of the words (of Jesus) that the truth will set you free. I was free, even though I had been sentenced to prison.”


During his prison term, Kevin says his faith grew stronger. “I could push my face up against the bars of the prison cell and see the Glasshouse Mountains through the razor wire. I was so grateful for that view. I started to count my blessings that I was safe and at peace. That’s where – in jail – I felt the joy and peace that only knowing Christ can bring.”

It’s also where he realised what a special person his mother was. “I told her not to come to see me in jail. But she did – many times. I broke Mum’s heart many times, but she still came, no matter what. Mum has been my rock. She has always been there for me. I don’t deserve her love, but she just keeps giving it.”

Towards the end of his sentence, Kevin was sent to a prison camp. He was allowed to attend a local church. He recommitted his life to Christ and was baptised in the ocean.

Now back on the Gold Coast, he attends the Gold Coast Salvos, studying and working as a volunteer at the same court where he was sentenced to prison. He has completed a Positive Lifestyle Program facilitator course (see back cover) and is working with mainly younger men passing through the court system.

“Throughout my life – even before and during prison – I kept receiving the words of Jeremiah chapter 29, verse 11: ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

“All along, God has had a plan for me. Now, I am living that plan, I have that hope, and I have a future. Thanks to God.”


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