Yesterday was truly amazing getting to go and spend time at the prison… and get to walk back out of those doors when I was done. I was uncertain of what to expect on my way there. I cried in the car the whole 2 hour drive. It was just overwhelming to think that I was going back to a place that represents so many memories, both good and bad.
Most people who have never been inside a prison think of it as a scary place with hard women and lots of violence. That is how the media presents it after all. But what you really find is broken people who are lost and trying to find their way back to real life. Prison is like a bubble that you are sheltered from any outside influence. It is very easy to get even more lost if you don’t find a focus while you are there.
What I found were women with a focus. Women in need of love. Women in need of hope. I had the opportunity to speak with a few women about my past and they were shocked. We broke into small groups and played a trivia game. Those women know the Bible which is awesome! After we were done we started talking about something and I said “well when I was in prison…” Those women looked at me like I was crazy! “You were in prison?!? NO WAY!” And that opened the door for me to talk a little about my experience and show them that there is hope on the outside. The one thing I stressed was the relationship I formed while I was locked up with Jesus because that is what carried me out those doors and carries me today. There is no hope if you don’t have God on your side out here.
Another opportunity I had was with 2 ladies that were complimenting me on my hair. Somehow or another it opened the door for me to say “Well when I was in prison I wore a braid every day because it was easiest.” I got the same response from them “No way! Oh good… we can relax now.” They were holding back talking to me because I was different and now that they knew I could relate to them they opened up and relaxed their guard. That comment alone helped me to see why God has been calling me back to the prison. They need hope from someone “like them”. Someone who has been there. That’s when they started talking to me about their struggles there and their fears of leaving. Laura was a new Christian and is worried about having a life as a Christian. She said she was afraid she wasn’t going to have any fun anymore. Ha! Boy is she in for a surprise! Christian fun is way better than sinful fun!
The other lady I connected with was a total God thing! She came in sat in our small group and was already in tears because the volunteer that she was closest to was not there and she was upset about it. She said “I don’t want to talk to anyone else. I’m having a rough day.” I gave her a few minutes then went to her and said “You don’t have to talk to me about any of your struggles but I still want to pray over them.” We prayed together. She cried harder. And I told her that I’ve been where she is and she is allowed bad days. We got to talking and she got to smiling. That simple connection turned her attitude around and she was able to participate in the Bible trivia and enjoy herself. I sat by her through the worship service as well and strengthened that bond a little more.
The funniest thing that happened the whole day was when I went to the rest room and the guard handed me a wad of toilet paper. I had a total flashback to county where they regulated our toilet paper! I had forgot all about it but I’m sure that I’ve written blogs about it in the past because it was a HORRIBLE thing for them to do to us! It made me think about the times that we would run out of TP before the week was over and the guards would tell us “tough luck… use newspaper.” I’m pretty sure that was illegal for them to do and trust me… we did not use newspaper! But it was one of those things that made me thankful all over again.
As I walked back out those gates all I could think about was that it felt normal. It felt like I was supposed to be there. I might have a release date as September 19, 2012 but I am a lifer for prison! I can’t wait to go back and pour into them as they pour into me.