It was an interesting day at prison. I came as I usually do on Thursday morning to facilitate the faith-sharing group I helped to start last August. It’s been one full year since the day I decided to take the leap of faith. I saw the need for this group and there was a lot of interest in the idea. Many of the women who started with me back then are still with me. Others have since left prison and are living life outside again.
We often don’t keep in touch with the women who leave, but sometimes our group still thinks about them when we think back to a funny story or memory. Like many communities, we have new members rotate in as older members rotate out. Each time there is a change in our group, we adjust.
Today, we had four new women join the group. We also had three regulars there for a total of seven incarcerated women and two volunteers. Seven doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you are sharing feelings and trying to build deep relationships, it’s plenty.
In the past, when newer women have joined the group, they’re often very sad. They usually have a hard time accepting their new reality. Many can’t believe they got caught and are being punished for a bad choice or decision they made. They are often struggling to accept that their life will never be the same and trying to cope with a new life that doesn’t include their children or spouses.
Today, as one of the new women was introducing herself, she broke down. She’s only been in prison for two weeks and is really missing her son. I took the opportunity to ask the women who have been in prison longer to offer some advice or words of support.
- “Forget you are in prison,” one said. “Just find things to do, work to keep you busy, and good people to spend time with so the time goes by fast.”
- “Become mute and deaf,” another said. “It’s better if you don’t get caught up in what people say and you don’t talk about other people either. Everyone has enough drama without having to take on other people’s stuff.”
- “Pray,” said another. “God won’t abandon you. I didn’t always believe that but now I’m sure of it. Ask God to give you the patience and strength you need to face each day. He will give you that strength if you ask in faith.”
And there you have it. Prisoners doing prison ministry better than I ever could. Did I tell you I love my girls and am so proud of them?
As I think about leaving in a few months, I am keenly aware of how I have grown to love and appreciate these women over the last year. Many of them will be coming out of jail soon and I feel they are so ready for whatever comes next. So am I. Our time together has been a time of growth, friendship, love, and trust. God has always been at the center of all of it. Praise God for the gift of friends.
Paz y Bien from Cochabamba!