Razor wire, metal detectors, pat downs & locked doors at every turn…my first experience in prison. I was there to tell ‘my story’. I was there to show them hope.
Asked by a good friend to share my life story with a group of 13-18 year old young women incarcerated for all sorts of crimes. These were young women who were victims of abuse, who struggled with addictions & who often felt lost and searching for purpose. So, what do young 13-18 year old ‘girls’ have in common with a 40-something single mom of 3 young ‘boys’? Everything.
I didn’t know what to expect. I spoke to 2 groups and their reactions were the same. As I was being introduced, some were looking around, some slouched in chairs with arms defiantly crossed over their chests and some simply politely sitting, probably thinking of 100 other things they wished they were doing. But it all changed as I shared…
With each part of the story, their interest and our connection grew. I could see it in their facial expressions, in their posture in their chairs and in the tears some of them shed. Real emotions, raw hurt & sincere reactions emerged. Doors were opening & God was speaking. I was being used to show His power to overcome.
When I finished speaking, we offered question & answer time. Knowing teens, I really didn’t expect much feedback, but I was so wrong! They began opening up, sharing, questioning & searching. It became obvious that they were living in a prison, not simply one of 4 walls, but a prison of their pasts. I remember that prison. They wanted out and me standing there in front of them gave them proof it could happen.
Some talked of speaking someday like I was, some questioned about faith. Some sat quietly thinking, some broke down in tears & others wanted to simply talk…and be heard. The responses exceeded any expectations that I could have imagined. Connections were made & hope was seen. I prayed that their hearts will stay open & they will remember.
I’ve been asked to return as new groups of young women move in. Unfortunately, there will always be more. My prayer is that they will one day truly get out.
“If you don’t turn your adversity into ministry, then your pain remains your pain. But if you allow God to translate your adversity into ministry, then your pain becomes someone else’s gain.”–Mark Batterson, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day