For four years, Pamela Strey had been trapped in an abusive relationship. Her partner was controlling and refused to let her have a life outside of their home. To care for her family, she relied on a very slim weekly allowance her partner allowed her.
"That particular week was $60," Pamela recalls. "That had to feed a family of four, and my youngest was still in diapers."
Having depleted her funds for the week, Pamela was faced with a difficult decision—she could ask her partner for more money, or she could find some extra cash on her own.
Pamela chose to act on an impulse that would change her life forever: "I made a split decision to steal a purse."
A COSTLY DECISION
Pamela robbed a woman in a parking lot. When she was caught, Pamela's petty theft became something more serious after the police searched her car. A Leatherman multi-tool was found in her glovebox.
"Even though it wasn't actually used in the crime, it was considered on my person," Pamela explains. "That's considered armed [robbery]."
Pamela's decision would cost her. She was sentenced to 5-20 years in prison and forced to leave her children behind.
Without her children, Pamela became depressed. "I wanted to literally die," she says.
Once inside, she made another costly decision that ended with her being severely beaten by another prisoner. The next thing she knew, she was in a hospital bed and in need of some serious recovery.
But something happened during her recovery—Pamela regained interest in life. She took up running. She also started looking for programs and things to do. One day, a fellow prisoner signed Pamela up for a class with Prison Fellowship®.
"I almost wanted to choke her," Pamela remembers. "I didn't have any faith or religion."
But for all her grumblings, she found herself attending … and becoming interested.
When Pamela completed the program, her life had completely changed. She had faith in a God who loved her, and she had a passion for helping others. She became a mentor for the other women attending the Prison Fellowship classes.
GETTING BACK ON HER FEET
Prison Fellowship has continued to stand with Pamela since her release. Through Prison Fellowship, Pamela found a church and mentors who helped guide her through reentry.
"They welcome me like a family," Pamela says of her church.
Today, Pamela shares her testimony with others—especially other parolees. Pamela's progress has impressed her parole officers, who partner with her now as well. With their approval, she helps women like herself find the resources they need to get back on their feet.
When she looks back on her life, Pamela wishes she knew God years ago. She lived over 35 years of her life without knowing Jesus Christ, but today she says that her faith is her life.
"I believe God saved my life by putting me in prison," Pamela says. She used to be angry at God for her incarceration, but now, "I trust that good is going to come out of this. Good has come out of this. And my faith is growing so much stronger."
Pamela plans to share the hope and love she has found in Christ with others. "Everybody—everybody—makes mistakes," she says. "And everybody can be forgiven."