Darrin Gaudreau believes former prisoners need a second chance. “Even a third or fourth chance sometimes to be able to make a new start,” he says. A chaplain in Peterborough, Ontario, Gaudreau has dedicated his life to helping men transition from the federal prison system into the local community.
Photograph by Ian Willms
But that isn’t easy. Prison ages its residents, families fall away, and hopelessness sets in. Yet Gaudreau steps into the brokenness. Though compassionate, he remains realistic, always mindful that some people won’t want to change.
To grow healthy and thrive, the men need patience, time, and an investment of love. As Gaudreau says, “Be a friend. Make a friend. And bring that friend into a relationship with Jesus.”
For 35 years of ministry, Gaudreau has seen value in realizing no two people are the same. “We all have our own story—we all have our own experiences,” he says. Recognizing this has helped him persist through long, winding journeys with new friends who disappoint, regress, and at times even betray him.
When circumstances become especially tough, Gaudreau reminds the men, “You’ve worked hard to get your freedom. Your life has value. You have meaning in our community regardless of what you’ve done in the past.”
With Christ, Gaudreau is never alone. Nor is he ever far from the network of friends committed to his mission. And lives—like Cecil’s—are changing for eternity. Cecil left prison crippled with guilt over the murder he’d committed 20 years earlier. For six years, Gaudreau was a brother to Cecil: He listened, he shared Jesus, he offered hope. Then, at last, Cecil “saw” Jesus, the friend of sinners. And Gaudreau delighted in one friend meeting another.