As promised I am sending an excerpt from a letter that was recently sent to the ministry. This woman was one of the first ladies we ministered to at McCracken County Jail over twelve years ago. When we met her she kept her eyes on the ground barely lifting her shoulders even to walk. She would take a seat in the back of the room just sitting and staring. After a few visits she began to open up to one of our volunteers. Her life was riddled with tragedy, drug use and abuse. All had taken their toll on her. She was not clean or even coherent at some points. She admitted to us she had gotten involved in witchcraft, which she practiced regularly. When we encouraged her to accept Christ as her personal Savior and leave evil worship behind she expressed extreme anxiety. She simply shook her head at us and said she couldn’t. We were finally able to drag out of her what was causing this strong emotion. She told us she had experienced a horrible nightmare in which Satan had visited her and told her if she ever gave her life to Christ that he would never allow her children to survive. This fear had paralyzed this woman.
Stormi kept coming to the classes and eventually she turned her life over to Christ and began to trust Our Great God. It has been a long road for this woman but as you can see from the note below, she has begun a new life in Christ and is living in our society free from abuse, drug use and witchcraft. She is now a mother and grandmother living her dream. It is more than she could have ever hoped for.
This is a sample of the things that Our Lord has revealed to us over the years. We don’t always know just what He is doing but from time to time He reveals snippets of goodness to refresh and revive us as we march in the mission field week in and week out.
From Stormi December 2011
“Yes, Christmas was good. All my girls and grandkids are in Paducah now.”
I do hope you know how much that class has helped the people at MCCJ. It’s made a difference in many lives and even in the jail itself. While the ladies go to the class, they feel more for each other and work towards a better tomorrow.
“My life has become ALMOST everything I ever dreamed it could be. Last summer we bought a little pool for the grandkids, with toys and had a cook out. My yard was FULL of our kids and grandkids. It was the moment I realized things were almost perfect…I was as close to being like my grandmother as I think I could ever be. I had reached Nirvana.”
Tags: faith, prison
Each prison population has a designated color assigned to them. Each uniform for that prison is exactly the same color and style. Even their undergarments are all the same. Once a person is incarcerated they will wear the same outfit every day. The only personal item that is different among the population is their shoes.
As I stand in front of the prison population each week I am often struck by this sea of color. Females, as you might imagine, are not at all happy about this fashion trend. They desire to be individuals and work hard to create their own sense of style with these shapeless cotton garments that are assigned to them. It can be amusing to see what they can do to create a fashion statement with so little to work with. No matter how hard they try they are still swallowed up in the sea of sameness when they are assembled together.
Even though they hate the lack of individuality this provides it gives me great comfort and encouragement. When I look out over them and their uniformity I am reminded that the very thing they despise is what I love. Their uniform reminds me that God sees us all the same. He doesn’t look down from heaven and say “Oh there is my upper class citizen, and there are my poor pitiful poverty stricken people.” God’s people all look the same to Him, He loves us all the same!!! It is not a beauty contest. What we would consider our flaws are actually beauty marks from our creator. We are all individual to God and yet all the same. We have a wonderful loving God who has created us in His image. So, you see we all look like Him if we are truly His child. He then gives His children individual talents and traits that set us apart from others (tennis shoes). God is an amazing complex God who hasn’t neglected a single detail.
I am praying the next time you look into the mirror you will see God’s creativity smiling back at you instead of the perceived inadequacies you have convinced yourself of. Then put your shoes on and see where He leads.
My administrative assistant has a daughter preparing for college. This young lady has made it her business to see how many scholarship offers she can get. She has recently been waiting for a letter from a certain university to arrive by the old fashioned snail mail. This university doesn’t know it but they are in the running for the number one spot. She is excited and so are her parents for obvious reasons. The family made a pact that she would not open this precious piece of mail until they could all be together. The university has added some hype by sending their target an electronic temptation. They let her know the letter was on the way.
Now I know letters by the US postal service aren’t the norm anymore. We enjoy quick communication and have come to expect it, even demand it. But… consider the anticipation of this young woman as she stares at her envelope wondering what is inside. She is about to find out what God has in store for her future. She is anxious and fearful all at the same time. The best part about the letter will be that she can keep it forever. No accidental delete button to destroy this message.
For twelve years, I have been receiving different types of encouragements from the female inmates I minister to. These letters have been collected and stored neatly in a file for years and years. Each time I receive one of these prayers, drawings or poems I read it and carefully then placed it among the others. Over time I have grown so accustomed to this practice that I admit I haven’t enjoyed them as I should have.
Not long ago a voice on the answering machine at the ministry office was asking for a poem they had written for me over a year ago. The paper copy had been given to me and the owner had lost her original copy. She was asking if we could locate the copy she had given me and return it to her. The staff looked at me bewildered.
I smiled knowing exactly where that precious piece of paper was. The file was removed from its comfortable perch on the rails of the file drawer. I was amazed at how thick it had become. So bulky it needed two hands to protect the contents from scattering. Some were long and descriptive. Most filled with scripture. God was speaking to me through those forgotten notes. HE was reminding me of the mission He has called me to. The women professed their love to God and to me. I found the missing poem in a matter of minutes but I took my time browsing through the rest of the folder savoring the musty smell of the prison paper knowing how much God loves those women.
How incredibly loving of Our God to send not one but hundreds of love letters to a tired missionary. These letters were very near me every day but I was so busy with day to day tasks I didn’t bother to look at them. I am not ready to return the folder to its home just yet. I plan to post some of the notes or phrases in the next few weeks. I pray you will receive a blessing from them.
A copy of the young woman’s paper was returned by the US postal service for her to keep forever.
Spiritual warfare is real and all around us. I have learned this in a very upclose and personal way since I began ministering to female inmates. Satan has worked hard to derail this ministry and its volunteers. I often say “the visual for the mission of this ministry is going to edge of hell and grabbing hold of these women by their ankles and pulling them back from the fire!”
Mission work is hard. Getting in the trenches is tiring and mentally exhausting, it will keep you up at night, it brings tears of frustration and days when you feel completely defeated.
When I am feeling that way I turn my eyes upon Jesus and look full in his wonderful face and the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace! Those old hymns help me so much, they remind me that I am not the first nor the last to spread the good news on the front lines and that Jesus has sent me a Helper.
Today, if you are struggling with defeat let me encourage you to turn your eyes upon Jesus! Let his glory envelope you and chase away the darkness. He has plenty to go around.
Tags: faith, prison
Its interesting to me that the inmates give each other nick names after they are incarcertated. Perhaps the new name provides them with an idenity that seems good and righteous instead of “bad” or “felon” that is now associated with their God given name.
There is one, Baby Sister, as she was called, that has stolen my heart. Baby Sister, was so glad to come to church and worship God every week. She hung onto every paper or prayer. Always smiling and glad for the opportunity to be with other believers. She has been in so long now that her nickname has changed from Baby Sister to Granny. To the world she is a murderer but to me she is a precious woman of God who has been used by Him to accomplish great things for His Kingdom.
Honestly, this was not my idea! I was at home minding my own business living the dream with my husband, three kids, dog and cat. I was a church going, bible studying woman living in the bible belt until I was invited to visit the female inmates at the local prison.
I cannot explain all that happened to me on that day but God was certainly preparing me for much more than I could have ever imagined. Over 12 years later I am blown away at the way God has orchestrated things to accomplish His plan for me and for these women I am privileged to minister to each week.
I will continue to update with devotions, personal writings and musings from my experiences behind the wire.
Tags: faith, prison