In spending many hours in prison for the past couple months, I have noticed many noteworthy qualities in the inmates. The two that stand out to me the most, however, are creativity and gratefulness. I continue to be amazed at how resourceful the ladies in prison are, making bouquets out of colored toilet paper and using eye liner for “facial hair” in a skit! :) They use every ounce of what they do have to make something new and creative, usually as a gift or a prop in a play. Since scissors aren’t allowed on the compound, I’ve learned to cut tape with my teeth and cut paper by the old fashion “fold, lick, and tear”.
We had the amazing privilege to witness a Thanksgiving play that the drama club in the dorm put together. It was based on the story of Hannah, as told in 1 Samuel. Not only was it brilliantly-written and well-performed, but it was also incredibly funny and witty. It’s those moments where you would die to have a video camera in prison. The ladies are now preparing for a Christmas musical which I suspect would put Broadway to shame. :)
Wednesday night, Ruthie and Sophia and I had an opportunity to Christmas carol to the girls in the dorm. Each of us will be going home for Christmas, so the last day of November was the best time we could arrange. We split up and sang one by one to each of the ladies as they sat or laid on their bunks. The three of us had song sheets and hymnals and made our way around the dorm singing to the ladies individually and telling them we loved them and “Merry Christmas”. Many of the ladies I sang to told me afterwards that that was the best Christmas gift they ever received. Hardly anyone went without crying tears of joy and feeling incredibly loved. I told them I would do that every night if I could. SO SPECIAL.
I can’t tell you how much it means to the inmates when someone spends quality time with them or purposely engages in a conversation with them. One on one time in prison is rare. They are used to blending in and being a part of the population rather than a unique and special individual. When I first came I tried to meet as many ladies in the dorm as possible in the first week. I would just walk around and stop at people’s bunks and chat. Many of them would consistently say something like, “I can’t believe you came and talked to me.” It’s hard for someone like me to quite understand the power of that statement. I can pretty much get quality time with someone whenever I want, but these people would die for such attention. Another thing I love about stopping by the “front porch” of their bunks is that they will often show me the latest pictures sent to them by their families. The inmates’ children are their pride and joy, and their faces just *light up* when they talk about their little ones. I think one of the hardest things women in prison face is the continuous guilt and regret that their children are growing up fast, and they aren’t home to see it. Having young volunteers who are sold out for God, really encourages them to have hope for their children. It’s like they’re seeing a new way of life that most of them didn’t even know existed. One lady said through tears as we were singing Christmas carols, “Where do you people even come from?” Another one insists that we’re angels, sent from God on a secret mission. :) And still an officer calls me a leprechaun because he just can’t understand why a 19-year-old would spend her time in prison serving inmates two or three times her age. This verse sums up my response to these remarks: “And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
I head home for Christmas a week from today. I’m excited to be back, but I know I will miss each one in the dorm immensely. It has truly been a blessing to pour into the lives of the ladies in the JOY dorm and I look forward to continuing my work here as God allows!