Sunday, December 09, 2007

life inside and out

Most of my extra energy and focus has been on prison stuff lately. I'm doing an Angel Tree volunteer project, purchasing and delivering gifts to inmates' kids. That was an interesting experience! I was flatly refused by one family, and knowing the female inmate involved, I was sort of prepared for that, but it still took me around an hour to feel better. The other two families I picked because they are in our town. One I got ahold of right away, and it was great fun to shop for Dora the Explorer toys! I don't have much reason to do that anymore. Then the other took about five calls, and when I did finally reach her, she was crying hysterically over the phone. She'd just received some bad news, what I don't know. So it was off to look for Elmo toys, trucks and Spiderman for her boys. Somehow I'm very anxious to meet this young mother.

Then it's been writing. I'm writing another inmate, friend of an incarcerated friend, and it's always an interesting journey that way. You worry some, but then, I have it on good authority from the one that the other is a good egg and deserves some mail. So I trust my friend. But the letter that came was happy and bright, and very thankful for mine. I guess some of the cliches about prisoners are true, but luckily I've found them more often not to be.

And then the prison on Saturday morning. We had a farewell on Saturday, and how nice it was to see this young woman in orange on the way in and then in her street clothes on the way out. And inside we had to meet in a very busy classroom/office space where guards were coming in and out the whole session. Despite all of that one woman made a sort of breakthrough and admitted her struggle with rage. We don't ask these women what their crimes are, but this woman, who looks like a lunch lady, beat another woman so badly her face was wrecked. I was a bit shocked but not afraid. I shared as we talked about helping each other and sharing each other's burdens as the Scriptures command, that my burden-bearing is in the prison and out, with inmates and their families. My partner turned to me and remarked, "Even after your son is out, you'll still be here". The answer is yes. I will. If I don't do what the Holy Spirit moves me to do, to me that is wrongdoing.

And my dear friend being shipped back to England is the recipient of all the letters and calls that can be crammed into these last days here in America. What a joy that friendship has been to me, and hopefully will continue to be. That is what I feel like-most of the ones I correspond and talk to inside with are just friends. I can't think of them as inmates any more.


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