"Letters from Inside" is a new blog series featuring female prisoners incarcerated at Minnesota Correctional Facility–Shakopee, where Prison Fellowship® runs one of its Academies. Over the coming months, you will hear perspectives from women who are not only serving time for crimes but are now trying to live their lives for Jesus behind bars.
This is the first installment in the series.
WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A LEADER IN PRISON
by Emily of Shakopee
I have been incarcerated for four years. I have learned that God doesn't see me as a [number], but He sees me as Emily. I am a child of the one true King, highly favored and dearly loved!
The challenge I face being a leader in prison is that everyone is watching me—how I act, what I say, how I react in certain situations. [When I] make mistakes … I humble myself and say, "Yah, I screwed up."
THE GIFT OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION
When asked about leadership, I would say, one of the gifts I am so glad God gave me is conflict resolution. It might be the gift I use most during a regular day in prison. As a leader it is necessary to get my hands dirty to keep the peace. I am not afraid to jump into conflict, like I was before I gave my life to Jesus Christ. One of the most important things as a leader is, I can't take sides, even if it is a close friend or sister [in the Academy]. I always have to support what is right because I want unity in the community.
PEACE, UNITY, LOVE
Throughout the four years I have been incarcerated, I have had to deal with many situations of conflict. For example, I had a sister [in the Academy] (who is also a close friend) come to me for advice. My sister had a conflict with another co-worker. I could have sided with my sister (like people usually do in prison), but I thought, Nah, I'd rather follow Matthew 18.
"If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If … they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church…"
I decided to challenge her, since this is an area she needed to grow in. So I followed the steps of Matthew 18. We prayed together, and I encouraged her and supported her to tell our co-worker how she felt. And when things didn’t go as we had hoped, I told her she needed to let it go. She did her part.
I made it clear to my co-worker that I didn't pick sides, even if I am close to my friend, and that I want all of us to get along with one another. I just want peace, unity, and love. Not hatred; that's what the devil wants.
In the end, God had the victory in the situation! My sister and co-worker were able to work things out! All the glory to God!
Not all conflict situations get resolved and I'm okay with that. I am only human. I can't save everyone, only God can. Those are the times I step back and tell myself, That's all you could do, Emily.