Tributes to former prison officer and foster dad

2012: Colin Sanderson, a former Norwich prison officer, who – with his wife – Sheila fostered 35 young children and also helped pioneer the Alpha Course in Norwich Prison – has died after a year-long illness. Mike Wiltshire pays tribute.

ColinSanderson450Much loved for his gentle humour and positive attitude, Colin, who was born in County Durham, worked for the Prison Service for 23 years and largely came to faith through the testimony of his sister-in-law, Jean.

Then, in 1982, during a visit to a Christian event at Cliff College, Derbyshire, the speaker, Richard Bennett casually asked Colin after the meeting, ‘where are you with the Lord?” – and Colin went on to make a firm commitment to Christ.

Over the years, Colin and Shelia became ‘mum and dad figures’ to many younger prisoners. They also fostered children for 14 years as well as caring for their own three young daughters.

Their prison ministry began after a remarkable personal prophecy to Colin by a Canadian minister, Keith Hazell, who spoke in Norwich in 1997. Without knowing Colin’s background in prison work, Keith spoke “with amazing accuracy” into Colin’s life – and boldly predicted: “You will not be retired but re-fired in the purposes of God . . . you will seek the offender and arrest him with the Gospel. It will not be a natural arrest but a spiritual arrest, and I will open doors and give you keys for men’s hearts . . . for you have sat with men in times of despair and suicide and I am giving you a message of hope . . . you will be a door-opener into the lives of many!”

“We were amazed at the accuracy of that prophetic encouragement,” recalls Sheila. Colin’s faith was also a big encouragement to younger prison officer colleague, the late Paul Kaye, who went on to become a leader at the former Earlham Christian Centre, now renamed Eternity Christian Centre. Both Colin and Paul were active members of the Full Gospel Business Men in Norwich.

For 22 years, until 1997, Colin and Sheila happily served at Wroxham Road Methodist Church until new directions in ministry took them to Norwich Family Life Church (NFLC).

Despite a serious year-long illness, Colin, just 79, never complained – but instead, loved to joke with friends and family. Sheila also pays tribute to “the exceptional care” from the NHS and church friends at NFLC.

In a touching tribute, Colin’s great nephew, Adam, 22, travelling in America, emailed his UK family this week to praise “my unique uncle Colin – a most incredible man, strong in faith, always laughing and loved by so many.”

Colin’s funeral service will take place at 2pm on Friday, May 18 at Norwich Family Life Church – “no black, please” says Sheila, “It will be a time to celebrate God’s love that has changed so many lives.”

Pictured above is Colin Sanderson.

Please add your tributes or memories about Colin below.

Published: 01/05/2012