The large white coach lumbered along between the maze of large foreboding chain fences and rolls of razor wire. Two Virginia girls sat silently in the front of the bus, craning their necks to see what was around the corner. Finally this day had arrived.
Deb looked over at me “ Are you scared?”
I had been. My dad has been in prison ministry once a month since ‘96 at our local county jail, and thru his influence, this had been on my heart for a long time. Fast forward past the fact that Deb’s fiancé’s brother is Vice President with WeCare and had us quite inspired when we sent in our applications, to the day we received our confirmation letter in the mail, and suddenly we were staying in a different area, going to a different prison than Deb and I had thought. At that point I became scared.
Ashamedly the spirit of fear hung around too long until my cousin (who occasionally goes with my dad to the jail) told me that he’s sensed God’s presence mightily behind bars. That was the affirmation I needed. Thanks to all of you who prayed for us this past week!
So, claiming 2 Tim 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind; We exited the bus.
Getting checked in was no problem, and as we were escorted through the gate, the ladies in white looked at us with curiosity-who were these strangers in their colorful attire?
(Can I just say that I loved the ladies in our team? Deb and I were the only newbies-the other ladies have been coming for years. Also our team leader has a weekly bible study at the facility. The experience of the others helped with my confidence level. Their lives are true inspirations.)
We set up camp in the pavilion in the center of the yard, and the week began. (We were a little disappointed we couldn’t spend much time in the dorms because of the flu- this Pic is from one of the men’s prisons)
For one week in January for the past 40 years, volunteers with WeCare have participated in ReNew Hope. This year 350 volunteers spent the week in 25 different prisons, connecting with inmates, sharing God’s love with the broken.
All day, everyday we listened to stories, looked at pictures and talked about families back home, (Deborah even had lots of help planning her wedding) We prayed over parole applications, listened to stories of deep pain, and rejoiced over answered prayer (one inmate came on Monday as soon as we’d arrived to show us a Christmas card from her father-answer to her prayer from ReNew Hope ‘17- forgiveness and restoration with her dad.)
I learned so much about “state families.” The ladies will give each other titles of “mom” or “Aunt” or “sister” surrounding themselves with a support group.
And I was shown how to roll a cigarette-I will not be trying this at home 🙈
We survived Chow. Let’s just say I don’t think I gained any weight this week.
The ladies have a microwave in the dorm where they can buy things from the canteen, and cook up a feast, using their limited supplies. Our one friend even told us about the pies she’s making for Super Bowl
First you take Oreo cookies and remove the centers, then crush them and add sugar, and since you’re in the free world and can have butter, I’d melt some and add it. That’s your crust.
Then take the centers, add Peanut Butter and some creamer (we only get powered) and whip it all together til the centers are totally mixed in.
Finally, melt Hershey bars. We lay them on top of the coffee pot until they melt, because you can burn them in the microwave, add this as final layer.
Chill (I’d use a refrigerator, but all we have is a ice bowl)
And there you have it:
Suzy’s Icebox Peanut Butter Pie.
And the highlight of each day- the evening service. After Chow, the worship team and speaker came and set up for the service. The ladies LOVED the families who led us in song-emotions were really high, and then a variety of Speakers expounded on the Word. Such good reminders of our Heavenly Father’s provisions for a life of Hope and most importantly an eternity with him!
As the clock struck 8:00 on the final service, and we said our last good-byes, I looked over at my darling, compassionate, little sister, and my heart totally understood the tears in her big brown eyes.
This week of listening to these ladies heart cry, experiencing a part of their daily life, understanding the uncertainty of their day to day, spending intense time with Our Heavenly Father and realizing again the blessings we so often take for granted- may be one of the most outstanding things I’ve ever done.
So that completes #27 of the #30for30 project. Thanks again WeCare for everything-including their Facebook where I found all the pics for this post.
.. Hebrews 13:3a Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison…
P.S I will never hear this song the same-I wish you could’ve heard the cheering
If you’ve been walking the same old road for miles and miles
If you’ve been hearing the same old voice tell the same old lies
If you’re trying to feel the same old holes inside
There’s a better life
There’s a better life
If you’ve got pain
He’s a pain taker
If you feel lost
He’s a way maker
If you need freedom or saving
He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you’ve got chains
He’s a chain breaker