I went to jail five times on different cases. The last time, I was arrested for distribution of a controlled substance, and they sent me to prison. I was sentenced to three years.
The time that I received for the crime that I committed I believe was appropriate, for me, because God knew the condition of my heart and knew what I needed. I believe that prison for me was what saved my life. I was in a deep addiction to methamphetamines. And for 20 years I had battled with that drug.
'DON'T BE AFRAID'
When I got that sentence, I was sitting in the courtroom cell. They originally offered me 10 years. So, I started plea-bargaining with God:
God, if You give me less time, I will serve you with the rest of my life.
You know, then, in my mind I thought that I could bargain with God like that. And God did give me less time.
They transported me from southern California to central California on a bus that was like a cage. I was shackled at my feet and my waist. I remember thinking, Well, what happens if there is an accident on this bus?
We pulled up to the receiving part of the prison. They were just opening the institution, and I was among the first 75 women to be sent there. I could almost hear the electric fence cracking, and it was gleaming, and I remember the fear that came over me.
I thought, Oh, what have I done with my life? And I remember the Holy Spirit saying to me, "Don't be afraid, I am going with you."
He just took over then and gave me an assurance.
And I said, "If You are going to go to a place like that with me, what else will You do with me?"
GETTING TO KNOW JESUS
When I went to prison I really took the opportunity to get to know who He was, and who He could be in my life to help transform me from the person that I had become.
A group of Prison Fellowship® volunteers came in for a Bible study. I wanted to get to know who Jesus is, and so I took the opportunity to start attending. I spent all my time reading the Bible. It was such a wonderful, sweet time that the Lord gave me. It was time to just read His Word from the beginning to the end multiple times, and just really recognize that He was there, He was alive, and He loved me.
I thought, Oh, what have I done with my life?
And I remember the Holy Spirit saying to me,
"Don't be afraid, I am going with you."
MAKING AMENDS WITH FAMILY
My incarceration had a huge impact on my family.
I had left two teenage children on the street in a hotel with the people that I called friends at the time. My parents had to step in and take them home. My children felt lost and hopeless, and they weren't used to structure because of the lifestyle they had been subjected to.
And for my parents, who had already raised their children, to take in two grandchildren was hard. I was 400 miles away from my family, so it added an additional hardship to them. Not only were they now having to support my children with education, and clothing, and food, and housing, and all that. Now they were trying to travel 400 miles each way to allow my children to see me as well.
Making amends with family—with my parents and my children—was of the utmost importance. My dad had totally stopped speaking to me. After 20 years of drug abuse, he had been hurt so many times that he was done with me.
But my mother was a faithful prayer warrior. She never gave up. And so, she and a friend came to visit me one time while I was in prison, and she said, "I really think Della's changed." So, she convinced my dad to come back with her the next time to visit me, and they brought my kids. And so, the restoration process began there with my dad and my mom and my children in the visiting room.
After 20 years of my drug abuse, my dad had been hurt so many times.
But my mother was a faithful prayer warrior. She never gave up.
THE BEGINNING OF TRUE RESTORATION
When I was released, I went home to be with my parents, and that was the beginning of a true restoration. They could see the struggles that I was going through as I was trying to reintegrate back into the community.
Things with my children were harder. They were both adults by then, and they have both been incarcerated. They needed time to trust. But as the years went by, my son said, "Mama, you're not going to go back, are you? I am so proud of you. I don't care what you do. I just don't want you to go backward."
It took five years for them to realize I was a different person.
PRISON WAS A GIFT FROM GOD
Before I even left prison, God really impressed on me that one day I would come back and minister there. And nine years and one day later, I actually walked back in as a ministry volunteer. A couple years ago, Prison Fellowship hired me. Now I look at my time in prison as a gift to me. God loved me so much that He would save me through incarceration.
And I am not ashamed to say that I was once incarcerated. Christ saved me in prison, and I want people to know what Jesus can do. He goes to the depths of the earth for us.
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