What does freedom feel like?
I'll tell you this... I watched it on Tuesday!
I didn't know her from Adam. Had never met her. Had never heard of her. Didn't know what she'd done. Didn't know how much time she'd been in for. Didn't know her temperment, her size, or her color. I just happened to be sitting in a meeting when I heard them mention her. I found out two things: she needed a ride and she was HIV positive.
The prison had a bus ticket to send her from Wetumpka to Huntsville (a 3 1/2 hour trip... but at least 5 or more on a bus). She was to meet with her court-appointed probation officer (possibly having to spend the night if everything couldn't get done) and then she'd need a ride from Huntsville back to Birmingham (2 hours away). The problem is, she didn't have a ride for the second leg of the trip, the prison doesn't pay for that.
My initial reaction was that I know several very kind-hearted Christian friends in Huntsville. Surely I could get her a ride. (Nice of me, wasn't it, to so easily volunteer someone else?) And then,... I thought....
"Well, I will take her!"
We were having this conversation on Friday. The girl that was talking about Kimberly had only met her the day before on Thursday. To jump through all the hoops, get all of the paperwork done, and get the "okay" from the prison was a lot to get done in the very short amount of time that we had. Though we did what we could on Friday and called so many people (that we weren't able to get in touch with), we accomplished nothing. Everything would have to miraculous worked out on Monday if this were going to happen. Plus, we needed to get in touch with someone from the prison... so that they could get in touch with Kimberly and ask if she wanted to ride with some strange woman that she'd never met before (that would be me!)... or, had she rather leave the plans as they were and ride the bus to Huntsville?
Monday ran us into one problem right after another. By as late as 2:30 it didn't look like we could get it to happen. Before the day was done though.... it all fell into place. It was a go! All okays were okayed! Kimberly said yes to me. And I had my first God-appointed newly released inmate transportation assignment!
I was so excited!
I couldn't sleep.
As I was lying in bed Monday night I kept thinking about how excited this girl had to be! How anxious! How thrilled! How scared! How emotional! Surely she lie in her own bunk at that very same moment with her own heart pounding!
I spent most of the night praying for her. Prissy (my oldest daughter) had decided to go with us. As I was talking to her about my excitement she told me, "Mom, I'm afraid that you're going to freak her out." Okay... calm down! I told her, "I promise I'll act calmer tomorrow!"
We packed (overnight bags, just in case) and left the house by 7 a.m. to get to the prison by 8. We prayed for her on the way. A sweet lady from Aid-to-Inmate Mothers sent us with a suitcase full of clothes and things for Kimberly. I was so impressed! And it wasn't until we picked Kimberly up that we realized how greatly they were needed and appreciated!
We walked quite a ways past razored wired fences before walking up the stairs to the entrance. We were buzzed through two barred gateways and went up to the officer sitting behind his enclosed control room. "We are here to pick up Kimberly ___."
He asked if we had brought clothes for her to change into?
No. Actually we didn't! We had some in my truck, but I thought that she would be given some to wear to leave the prison. I was so thankful that Carol had sent the suitcase!
Prissy and I walked back to our vehicle to dig through the case. It was sad. Somber. We wondered (though the choice had already been made by someone before us) what she might like? There was a sweatsuit to choose from, or jeans and a button-down shirt. Nice enough. We chose the latter. And literally prayed about that too! We prayed for God to please make it fit. We didn't want her to be ashamed or embarrassed.
Going back in, giving the officer the clothes, we were told to sit and we waited. We waited a while... grinning from anticipation. Praying that we wouldn't scare her, intimidate her, make her feel uncomfortable. We prayed for automatic liking and comfortableness! We prayed for the conversation. For what we'd do. For how we'd act. For where we'd go. For what we'd eat. We wanted ALL of it to be Divinely Anointed! And it was!!! From beginning to end!!! There is no way to put words together to tell of the wonder!!!
We saw her shyly walk through her own gated-area escorted by a woman officer that had taken the clothes and locked herself in the restroom with her while she changed. She never even raised her eyes to look at us. Coming out of the restroom (now dressed in colors and not whites!) we gladly noted that her clothes perfectly fit! She signed the papers that she had to sign. Was given $10 and a paper bag that held her belongings and turned to meet us.
We made the introductions as she walked out to her freedom! There was an instant liking and bonding between us. Though she said that she had worried about who this person would be that would be picking her up, she couldn't thank us enough for coming. She had been terrified of riding the bus and dreading the extra hours it would take her.
The first thing she wanted to do was stop at the closest gas station. Another inmate when asked what she might would like to do first had guessed this. The inmate had told me it probably wouldn't really be for a specific reason... but more because of the freedom to get to do so... and just because she'd not been able to for so long.
Kimberly wanted cigarettes. Too my horror I bought her some. How could I argue? How could I not? I did. I don't regret it.
Next stop, McDonalds... for an egg mcmuffin... she'd not had one in years.
But her biggest craving, her greatest want, the thing that she'd dreamed of most was Taco Bell! She wanted that for lunch, and was saving the moment until we met her sister.. who was meeting us from Tennessee in Huntsville.
There was never a moment of silence between us. You would have thought that we had known each other forever. Prissy mostly sat in the back in awe and just listened, interjecting at just the right moments to share some of her own hopes and story and testimony. Saying exactly what needed to be said! Seriously, we all knew that the whole thing was Divinely Driven!
She was open about where she had come from, what she had done, how long she'd been in. She was in for drugs and for robbing a man. She said that this is the first time she'd been "clean" in 30 years. That drugs held her in bondage that long. It was her second time incarcerated. This time, she said, she wants to do it right. This time she wants to stay changed... stay clean. This time she doesn't want to go back. We prayed together several times. Our prayer is that she won't!
We got into Huntsville at 12:30. Met her sweet sister. And went to Taco Bell to enjoy the lunch Kim had been craving. It was such fun watching her eat it. You don't think often of the small things that we should be thankful for until there are snatched from us and not so readily accessible.
Afterward we went to the probation office and were there for a pretty long while. It ended up that we would need to stay the night, her arrangements in Birmingham still wasn't 'arranged.' We went to a hotel where Kim's son (that she hadn't seen in 3 years) met us. It was a beautiful moment! A Kodak one! The embrace between them a priceless one! A Hallmark moment if only it had been captured! We left them alone not wanting to steal even one second from between them. We knew that the time with him (for now anyway) was limited. We'd meet back with them in the morning.
The next day was just as incredible. If only I could have capsuled the conversations we had. If only I could tell all she told us. If only I could share what God gave us to say. If only I relay the lessons she'd learned. But like most God-moments, they're often too spiritual to stuff into words. This whole adventure was one of those moments!
We left our house on Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. and didn't pull back into our drive until 7 p.m. on Wednesday. A 36 hour trip that brought us back: Awestruck. Changed. Forever moved. Wanting to be different. Wanting to do more. More enlightened. More compassionate. More aware. More tender-hearted.
Crazily (at her request... and as was in her plans) we dropped her off at a Homeless Shelter in Birmingham. Not the home that she plans to live in, but as a temporary place until the arrangements were made. She should only be there a couple or a few days. Prissy and I debated about whether we could leave her there or not? But upon our arrival there we were impressed with the place that she'd be staying. You could feel a tender-spirit upon entering. Prayers and scriptures were plastered all over the walls. Children from somewhere in the back were laughing. It felt safe. Secure. Caring. God-owned.
As Prissy told Kim when we left, I don't think that this is the last time we will see you. I don't either. A bond had been made. Numbers and addresses exchanged. The home she'll be living at is a rehab center that will help her transition from being in prison and back to the outside world again... this time without drugs and the things that are so horrible and life-changing. She won't be able to have outside contact for a while.... but one day she will. And we'll be here when she does! But sweeter than that, she has a great family at home that loves her and is waiting for her... that wants her well and home with them! With God's grace in only a matter of time, she'll be there soon! Helping someone else whose shoes she once walked in!
I wrote on Prissy Facebook wall when we got back: What a wonder we've shared in the last two days!!! We have been so richly blessed!!! Who could have imagined??? And I am blessed even more to have gotten to share it with you! (I'm so glad you came!!!!) Words will never describe my feelings and that whole experience! What a priceless treasure our new friend is! It couldn't have gone any better... any sweeter... been any richer!!! I love that God let us be a part!!!
She commented back: You're so right! No words will ever be able to describe what God did the past two days! I loved seeing Him work through all of us! The whole trip was an experience Ill never forget ever.. I have a feeling that won't be our last time, just saying :)
"The whole trip was an experience Ill never forget ever.. I have a feeling that won't be our last time, just saying" Me either!!! And me too!!! I KNOW it won't be the last time!!! I think we were 'made' (knitted by our Father in our mother's womb) for this! :)))) Awesome! And wildly incredible!!
Thank YOU, Lord, for letting us be such a part of Your blessing!!!! We're blessed beyond measure! We love You so much!!!