"Letters from Inside" is a blog series featuring incarcerated women at Minnesota Correctional Facility–Shakopee, where Prison Fellowship® runs one of its Academies. These stories capture the perspectives of women who are not only serving time for crimes but are now trying to live their lives for Jesus behind bars.
This is the fifth installment in the series. For more "Letters from Inside," click here.
GRIEF AND FEAR INCARCERATED
by Rose of Shakopee
No one wants to lose someone they love, but it is a fear for many people including myself, Rose, living in the Minnesota Correctional Facility—Shakopee.
I am 45 months into my 60-month sentence. I thought I was on the downhill slope with only 15 months left. I thought everything would be fine; I just had to wait. But I was wrong.
IN A HEARTBEAT
It wasn't until my dad died in April that I really understood that things can literally change in a heartbeat.
When losing a loved one in prison, it really makes a difference if your family is in state or out of state and how connected you are with them. Not every prison will let you attend the service for your loved one. But some prisons will arrange for a DVD memorial … if your family provides the DVD to the chaplain.
RULE #1: NO TOUCHING!
Shakopee is a "no-touch facility," so when I grieve for my dad and "need a shoulder to cry on," I cannot physically cry on anyone's shoulder or get a hug. Prison Fellowship Academy has been a blessing to me because I have been given emotional support side by side, even if it is just us sitting together with me crying and them being silent, holding the tissue box, or letting a few tears go too.
We talk about the good things that God has done and remind each other of the miracles we saw worked in my dad's life just a few short months before he passed (Phil. 4:8). We saw him wake up from a seven-day coma when the doctors said he wouldn't. And he survived strokes, infections, and repeated surgeries in ways that can only be explained one way: GOD!
HE IS THE SAME GOD
For several months, I have been having health issues. I came into prison with HIV, and I have had some major concerns that my HIV was somehow no longer being controlled with my meds. Or perhaps I had gotten something else.
Though I know God is Jehovah Rapha, our Healer, I have not been healed. But I know that God works all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). I may not understand the purpose for this right now, but I can trust Him with my health and life. God gives life to the dead (Luke 7:11-15), breath to dry bones (Ez. 37:1-14), and hope to the hurting (John 5:1-9, 9:1-7). I am choosing to cling to the same because He can do more than I can think or imagine (Eph. 3:20).
CHOICE AND GRACE
Throughout my time in the Academy, I have had to rely on God for everything from support to finances. Ill health is not the only way to suffer. There are challenges in this life in prison that are not much different from the "outside world."
In everything, I must choose daily between the negativity that can overtake me, or trusting God to provide in the good times and the hard. Regardless of what is presented daily, I have His strength daily to tackle it (Phil. 4:13). I cannot do it on my own, and I probably wouldn’t be very nice if I did.
To go through any struggle with grace is a choice to rely on God through Christ. Without Jesus, I would have no grace.
Daily, I hope and pray for the help only God can provide. May He give you the same help and grace as you rely on Him for each moment, regardless of what comes.
In Jesus' name, and to Him be the glory,