by Lisa McIntosh

We can never comprehend the power of the Holy Spirit to turn a seemingly small act of kindness into a love-filled, life-changing gift.

But that was what small a packet of homemade honey biscuits represented for Craig*, a recent inmate at the Adelaide Remand Centre (ARC).

The story behind those honey biscuits is that members of Lutheran women’s fellowships from around South Australia have been making and giving out the traditional festive treat since Christmas 1968 when 3250 bags of biscuits and sweets were distributed.

Now known as Christmas Cheer, the project has operated under various names and committees’ direction since it began, with the input of thousands of volunteer bakers and people in hospital or with other needs receiving biscuits.

Most recently, biscuits and a Christian tract were given out to people including those at aged-care homes, corrections facilities such as prisons; mental health services, disability support services and community care organisations across Adelaide.

Richard Hawke, who visits the ARC as a chaplain, says handing out the cellophane packs of biscuits to inmates across the prison was ‘such a privilege’.

‘The men, many of whom were in lockdown due to COVID restrictions, expressed their deep gratitude, especially [as] the biscuits were homemade’, says Richard, who passed on their thanks via the LLL which produces the tracts through its Lutheran Tract Mission outreach. ‘Many inmates were also able to receive a second packet on Christmas Day. That was pretty special.

‘Perhaps the highlight of the ministry was the feedback from Craig, who was arrested and came to the ARC just prior to Christmas. He had attempted suicide only hours before police caught up with him.

‘Craig says, “If I hadn’t come to prison, I would probably be dead by now. But what really touched me was receiving those biscuits. When I opened up the pack there was a leaflet inside with the words: ‘For God so loved the world he gave his only Son, that whoever should believe in him, shall not perish but have eternal life’. Straight away I felt deep emotion come all over me … I knew God was speaking to me. It was a reminder that God hadn’t forgotten about me”.

‘Craig is desperate to break his addiction to drugs and made a decision to renew his commitment to follow Jesus. All of us at the Remand Centre are very grateful for the contribution made by the Lutheran ladies … none more so than Craig.’

Lorraine Kempf, a member of St Pauls Lutheran Church Ferryden Park, who coordinates the project and has been involved with Christmas Cheer since 2011, says Craig’s story is encouraging for the 61 women’s fellowship groups who baked enough biscuits to fill 1160 packets in 2021.

‘That brings tears to my eyes’, she says. ‘We might think, “What’s a packet of biscuits?”, but to hear what it means to people makes it worthwhile. It gives you great encouragement to hear that.’

*Not his real name

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