Rhonda Bear knows the challenges that women who have been incarcerated face as they attempt to reintegrate into society.
A former prisoner herself, Bear was fortunate to have received support and encouragement from Eileen, a volunteer who encouraged her and nurtured her Christian faith while she was still in prison. With the support of Eileen and a local ministry designed to help women leaving incarceration, she was able to find a good job, a place to live, and reliable transportation.
“I’m an uneducated drug addict who somebody invested in me and gave me hope and helped change my life and my children,” Bear says in an interview with KJRH television in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “Now I pay it forward.”
“Paying it forward” includes serving as the director of the Women in Transition program for Stand in the Gap Ministries in Oklahoma. She teaches skills needed for successful reentry to over 1,000 female prisoners every year, and runs a transitional living facility for women in Claremore.
Working with former prisoners reminded Bear how difficult it could be for those with criminal records to obtain employment. So, with “$500 and faith,” she opened She Brews Coffee House with the intent of providing some of these women the opportunity to gain valuable work experience.
“This isn’t any ordinary coffee house,” reads the sign on the front window. The difference isn’t so much the coffee, or how it’s served, but in the change that’s occurring in the lives of those doing the serving.
With the help of She Brews Coffee House, several women have moved on to higher paying jobs or have begun pursuing degrees that will help them establish careers that will better enable them to provide for themselves and their families.
For many men and women behind bars, there is a need to have someone come alongside them, to encourage them, and to provide them with the needed training to be successful when they leave prison behind. If you are interested in becoming a mentor to someone preparing to return from a prison sentence, or if you would like to take the Good News of Jesus to those incarcerated, visit www.prisonfellowship.org/action to see what opportunities exist near you.