In October of last year, we had a Missions Sunday in church. We learned about the many local areas that we could become involved in. When it began, I thought that it would be interesting, but I didn't really think there was much I could do. But I wanted to have an open heart, and so when Van, who was sharing about each area, encouraged everyone to say, "Yes I can", I said it along with everyone else. But I didn't really believe it. I wasn't feeling sorry for myself, I just didn't see how I could practically be a part of any of these really great ministries. And then he came to the One-on-One Visitation Program for the Tennessee Prison for Women. There are women in prison that never have a visitor. They are lonely, and they long to know that somebody cares about them. In that moment my heart cried out, "Yes I can!" I didn't know how, but I knew that if God put it on my heart so strongly, then He would definitely provide the way for me to go.
I understand about loneliness. I am alone in my house all day. There have been times that I have felt trapped, because I have no way to leave unless someone comes and takes me out. I wanted so very much to help alleviate those feelings in another woman's life. So I wheeled my way to the back and signed my name on the volunteer list. I attended an orientation meeting to learn everything I would need to know about going into the prison. I was given the name of a girl that applied for a visitor from this ministry. Her name is Lorie. We went as a group for our first visit. As we were waiting, the first inmate came in. She began crying because she had been in for 2 years and never had a visitor. I really had to make myself keep it together, because I didn't want to be crying when Lorie came in. When she did, she had the biggest smile on her face, and she gave me a big hug. I wondered if she would be intimidated by my wheelchair, but she wasn't. We just hit it off right away. She was very honest about her life and I shared some about mine. Her parents don't write to her, and she had been in for 19 months without a visitor. Our time together was so sweet, and so much better than I expected.
I had to wait for about a month to be put on her official list of visitors. When I received the letter on Christmas Eve, I was so happy. I felt I had been given a gift. My husband, Marc, and I worked out a great way for me to get there. One of his favorite record stores is about 10 minutes away from the prison, so he drops me off and comes back a couple hours later to pick me up. I've been going once a month since January.
I think it can be very easy to just look past a prison when we see one, and think that there are probably scary people in there that deserve to be there. It is easy to just look past it and not consider that there are real people with hearts and feelings just as real as our own. I had no idea how much the Lord had in store for me when I signed my name on that paper. Going to visit Lorie has completely changed my perspective. Every time we pull into the prison and see all that barbed wire I realize that I am not trapped. I can go anywhere I want to. I just have to get a ride. That's more fun anyway, because I get to spend time with one of my friends. God has shown me the great depth of His love and how beautiful it is when He fills my heart to overflowing with it so that I can pour that love all over Lorie. It is a precious thing to tell her that I love her and to see her just soak it up.
In one of Lorie's letters she wrote, "I believe that God is teaching us both to see our lives with possibilities instead of disappointments. It's amazing that God can teach us the same thing together with it looking differently! Because God's grace is made perfect in our weakness."
I am forever changed because I said, "Yes I can." I want to keep saying that, because I know that with God, all things are possible.