We say to those women there is a way out, that we know the way, and we will walk with you. You do not have to do it alone.
When a woman knows her worth and value, she is able to make a huge impact on her community, and throughout the world. She becomes more than a survivor, she becomes an advocate.
After our morning devotion a couple weeks ago, Kristin let us know we would soon get the chance to go into a local jail as an organization. Many of the women sitting around the table had seen the insides of that facility during a very different, and a much darker time in their lives. Known as the Montgomery Correctional Center to most people, my co-workers affectionately call it the Pea Farm; the nickname given to it by inmates. The only purpose behind the trip would be to love the women, and share hope during holiday season.
None of us quite knew what that would look like, but the collective experience around that table would prove to be invaluable to the mission. We planned to bring donuts and coffee, but from the expert consultants (our survivor staff members) we found some details were being overlooked. The women in jail go long periods of time without enjoying basic luxuries, and we wanted to go above and beyond their expectations. Flavored creamers and name brand sodas were added to the shopping list, and everything was bought in excess.
The women in jail are arrested at times of great need and distress in their lives, and have often have very little prospects for a new life if pre-existing issues are not addressed. A comprehensive list of local resources was compiled, and included local treatment centers, re-entry employment programs, agencies to assist in counseling, and non-profits which could assist in housing. A copy was printed for each women we would meet that day.
We all met last Friday morning to make the trip out to the jail. Excitement and nerves grew. Even after all preparations we were unsure what to expect. But it became obvious that each women felt an incredible responsibility to reach back, and to carry a message of hope, and redemption. To carry the message that in spite of being inmates they are loved, valued, and worthy.
When we arrived at the jail we were met by the correctional officers, and everyone worked together to bring in the snacks and refreshments. The encounter was marked with an air of harmony and unity that should not be possible. Guards and ex-inmates usually don’t meet again under such conditions. Understanding, respect and grace were extended all while a common goal was being pursued.
The women came out of their dorms and into the cafeteria where we were set up. It was time for our opening presentation to begin. Kristin gave a brief explanation of what Rethreaded is and turned the floor over to the survivors. Each survivor spoke of hope, of a new life, of freedom. It was like time stood still. Then, we served. We poured soda and coffee, passed out donuts, opened our hearts, shared our testimonies. Lives were changed that day. Hope, truth, and joy were in those moments.
On the way home the van bustled with voices which spoke of the beginning that we had made, the relationships that were being formed and what each of us could do to continue being of service to these women. Our hope is that those women’s lives were touched in the way ours were. Our hearts being transformed by the love that we could share and that we received. And how we can find all of that from the most unexpected people, in the most unexpected places.
A trip like this can only further ignite passions to clear a path, to make a way for women who used to believe that there was no way out. We say to those women there is a way out, that we know the way, and we will walk with you. You do not have to do it alone.
We want to send a warm thank you to the staff at MCC which made this trip possible, and about their deep care and concern for the women we hope will become the next generation of survivor advocates.
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