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World News

'God had me there for a reason': Canadian pastor jailed for breaking covid rules preached to inmates while in prison

by Kelly Valencia

A pastor who spent 18 days in prison for breaking coronavirus restrictions for places of worship has said his time in prison allowed him to minister to fellow inmates whose hearts were "hardened by atheism". 

Pastor Tim Stephens was incarcerated in June after he held an in-person church service that surpassed the cap on attendance imposed by covid rules in the area.

The leader of the Fairview Baptist Church was then told he needed to remain in custody until 12th July but, as restrictions in Canada were lifting, he decided to sign a bail agreement given that the new restrictions would not affect church meetings and was then released on 1st July. 

Speaking with conservative media outlet, Rebel News, Pastor Stephens said his time in prison was like being "put into a small cage" as his cell was "very bare bones" and because of Covid he would only come out of it for half an hour each day. 

"It's very rudimentary, it's very, very difficult to try to get comfortable because you don't have a lot of necessities, you don't even have a pillow. You just have a few blankets and very, very thin hard mattress," Pastor Stephens said. 

"You're in there with another inmate. And your experience really depends on who is in your cell with you, whether they are someone who's actually going to communicate with you, or whether they're mean. A lot of the guys are going through withdrawal symptoms coming off of drugs and such. It's a very, very dehumanizing experience."

However, he took the opportunity to preach to his inmates. While there, he said he had the opportunity to speak with a few people who were interested to know more about God and gained the respect of his cell mates.

"I knew that God had me there for a reason," Pastor Stephens said. "I was really able to minister to these men, who didn't have a good awareness of the Christian faith, really tried to help guys, so many struggling with addictions. I had one individual that was in there who smoked his first joint when he was four years old and has grown in a life of addictions and crime. And so to be able to try to minister to him and try to help him to make changes in his life to the glory of God…"

Pastor Stephens went on to say he had "no ill will" against the Canadian authorities but disagrees with how they acted. 

"I think they're operating unjustly and ultimately, the reason why I'm not angry towards them, is because they stand accountable to God.

"It's the same thing in 1 Peter 2 in the Scriptures. [It] reminds us that we are called to suffer. And we're called to follow Jesus' example. When Jesus suffered, he did not revile in return, he did not hate in return, but rather he prayed for their forgiveness. And he entrusted himself to God, to Him who judges justly. Vengeance is God's, not mine. God will judge." 

Pastor Stephens' court hearing is scheduled for 26th July. 

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