That was the first words out of Serena's mouth when she walked in. "I can never go home," she said.
The chaplain looked at her stunned. She didn't know what to say. Didn't know what to make of it. Didn't know what she meant. Didn't know how to reply. Didn't know what to do. She didn't even know the girl. She'd never seen her before. So she repeated the statement back to Serena in the form of a question, "You can never go home?"
Serena repeated herself and said, "No. I can't. I can never go home. I'll only come back again if I do. I'll never stay out if I continue to go back....."
It was Serena's FOURTH time in prison.
She's not one of my girls, all of mine are longtimers, but the chaplain was telling us about her, telling us what she had said. It finally dawned on Serena that all of her family, all of her friends, all those she knew, all those at "home" are wrapped up in a criminal way of living. She'll never be able to get out of prison and stay out as long as she stays around them. She'll end up right back here (in prison) every time if she does. So, what can she do? Where will she go? What are the answers? What now? Because there is no hope for her at home. There is no safety. No way out. No way to beat this thing. No way to freedom. Only a guarantee to find herself back.
Woe. Where do you go if you can't go home? Where do you go if your own family won't help you? Where do you go if you can't rely on a friend? Where do you go when you have no place to go when you get out? Where do you go when you don't know anybody that isn't as messed up or more messed up than you are? Where do you go when you need to go somewhere to be safe but you don't know of a safe place to go?
The chaplain asked her, "Can you not think of anybody you know that you can go to?"
Serena was silent as she sat thinking. Shaking her head, because "no" she couldn't. She thought for a long time and finally remembered something. She snatched her head up and quickly said, "I have an aunt that lives in Texas. Maybe she'll take me? Maybe I could go there?"
Sadly now, the question is will this aunt be willing to let her come? A repeated offender isn't usually highly favored nor easy to deal with. And let's face it, not just everyone is willing to do whatever they can to help. I hope that Serena's aunt will. Because Serena needs it and knows she needs it, because Serena doesn't want to come back in and live the whole rest of her life spending it going in and out back and forth to prison.
I'm curious. How many of us (how many of Christians) would be willing to let Serena come to our home? Or, to our church and be around our children? How many would hire her? Help her? Mentor her? Encourage her? Sacrifice for her? Invest in her? Is she worth it to us?
Interestingly, something that I learned from Dr. L. on this past Tuesday (that I didn't know before then) is that in addition to going into all of these prisons, he is also planning for me to go and talk to churches all over Alabama. He knows that in order to help all these inmates when they get released from prison (to help keep them from re-offending and ending up in prison again) that there will take a whole army of God's people to enlist to help them. It was too big. Too hard to fathom. I hadn't a clue on Tuesday what Dr. L. was saying. And then, I didn't have a clue on Wednesday what God was doing and how He was working even more in me (Click here: In.... waaay over my head to read more). I didn't get it. Didn't see it. Didn't realize it. What Dr. L. was telling me didn't register, didn't make it in, UNTIL, all sorts of things started adding up. Dr. L. emailed to me late yesterday afternoon after my overwhelmation by the whole weight of the thought of the journey that awaits those girls once on the outside and that's when the magnitude of it hit me and a light bulb finally went off in my head. Here's how it happened:
First he emailed me earlier Thursday to cancel (again! the 3rd cancellation this week!) our meeting with Voc Rehab on Friday due to the weather (it's been SNOWING all day!). Included in his letter he wrote, "I hope you're doing well." To address that part of his note I quickly replied back, "How am I doing? Yesterday I was completely overwhelmed. I left my Wednesday girls heavily depressed for them. I tried not showing it while there. But, yuck, even in the best of circumstances they have a LONG way to go... and a HARD road to travel! Getting out of prison is just one hurdle. There's a horrid battle that awaits them on this side of the fence. Of course, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" No. But still............... Other than that, doing great. What in the world do I have to complain about?"
It was his response to that note that got me. That started filling more puzzle pieces in. That gave me a greater look at the picture. Showed me the wonder of what God was/is doing! Here is the sum total of what he wrote back just like he wrote it. He said, "You're getting His message. YOU are what happens outside...... I know you realize He has plans for our life. He uses others to help us get there."
Wow! I got it! I got why the burden was so heavy! I got why I was so sad for these girls! I got why I saw a glimpse of the horror of their journey... not just their existence in prison, but for them when they break through those bars. I got why I realized that the obstacles on the other side of the fence are giant walls that are impossible to climb (not Him-possible, but impossible for us). I got why I realized how much help that they'd need. I got why God is making me care so much. I got why He's given me His love. I got why He won't let me forget them once they make their parole or their sentence comes to an end. I got it! It's ALL about "RE-ENTRY" (which, duh, is exactly what this whole program is about!!!! why didn't I see it before????). It's about preparing them, and then helping them, being there for them, mentoring them, guiding them, helping to keep boundaries for them, helping them to find jobs and homes and church families, helping them by constantly feeding and serving them the Word UNTIL they grow strong and can stand on their own two feet and then turn to help another themselves! It'll take a whole community! My goodness, the picture of my having no idea in all of this world of what Dr. L. has been saying is beginning to all come together. I don't know why I couldn't understand what he was saying. So, in my failure to understand his words, God just showed me the picture Himself and let me feel a glimmer of how He feels! He gave me His heart! And a determined want-to.
Okay, so you can see I've had my mouth opened in awe all for the last couple of days. Having no idea the massiveness of what God is doing, I am obviously beginning to see the massive need of what He wants done
Last Tuesday at the Criminal Justice Building while meeting w/ Dr. L. and 'Somebody-Something' and 'Somebody-Something-Else' (sorry, this is all too new to me, I don't remember their titles and names right now), 'Somebody-Something' was talking 90-to-nothing with me about things waaaaaaaay over my head! Things I didn't understand in a language I've never learned. One term that kept catching my attention that he referred to a thousand times was CPR. I immediately liked the term because of the picture it painted. But I hadn't a clue what it meant. Last night while studying some material that I was given I found the term, and thus, discovered its meaning: CPR Network... Community Partnerships for Reentry and Recovery.
Makes sense. Loved it! Makes perfect sense. I am beginning to learn and realize that it is going to take a whole army (a whole community) of workers to partner together to help those that are needing it.
The terms: Reentry... Reentry... Reentry.... especially when coupled with Recovery... is beginning to have a whole new level of appreciation from me. Because what person either "entering" or "re-entering" the path of the Christian walk doesn't need fellow-sojourners encouraging and helping and aiding and inspiring them (giving them a little CPR) along their walk on this road?
CPR. A term that is used to resuscitate or to manually keep the blood flowing so as not to damage the heart or the brain until the body is able to be shocked or helped in order to help it again to function on its own. CPR. I like that. I like that a lot!
Serena said, "I can never go home." Would you be one, if asked, that would be willing to find a new home for her? Would you give a little CPR to a heart and a soul that needs?
Again a scripture that I keep repeating in a lot of my blogs lately (Ps 69:69:33), "The LORD hears the needy and does not despise His captive people." And often in His aid to go help those He loves in bondage, He often sends His people out to help in His deliverance of them (Exo 3:7-10), "The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of My people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them.. and to bring up into a good and spacious land...... the cry... has reached Me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, GO! I am sending you... to bring My people... out.""