Prison isn't the worst situation Sheila has faced in her life.
Growing up in the Philippines, moving to America when she was 14, growing accustomed to a life dominated by men—those were much harder, she says.
"[Prison] hasn't been hard for me, as sad as that sounds … It actually saved me,” Sheila explains. If it hadn't been for this experience, I wouldn't really know anything about God."
OUTSIDE REACHING IN
Raised in a Catholic home, Sheila knew a little about God before she went to prison. She went to church but was never personally engaged.
"It was kind of boring for me growing up and going to church. It wasn't something that grabbed my attention."
Things changed when she wound up in county jail in 2004.
Her sister found new hope in God and asked her pastor to go talk to Sheila. One conversation changed everything Sheila thought she knew about God and religion.
"Coming to prison I learned more about God. As cliché as that sounds, it's how I learned about Him. And it's how I'm saved today."
BRINGING HOPE INSIDE
Prison Fellowship® volunteers sent Sheila a card reminding her of the hope she has when she trusts God to deliver her. Encouraging notes, Hope Events, and volunteers sharing their time with people behind bars make a big difference to women like Sheila.
"It’s the little things that touch our hearts when it comes to the letters and this [Hope Event]; it's just amazing," she says. "There are people in here who aren't saved and so sometimes you have to kind of get their attention."
She knows it sounds cliché, but it's the truth—going to prison helped Sheila find God. Someone reaching out to her when she was behind bars changed her world. Without Jesus, Sheila's world would be a much darker place.
"It is a constant struggle in here. You deal with different people, different personalities," she shares. "There's a lot of things that, if I didn't have Jesus in my life, I would have already given up by now."
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Hope Events spur on believers and give Prison Fellowship an opportunity to spread the Gospel behind bars. Last Easter, Prison Fellowship volunteers wrote letters of encouragement to those attending Hope Events—a simple act of kindness that blessed people like Sheila.
"That gives me hope," Sheila says about the note she read. “Not only because I seek freedom, but it gives me hope [that] He does have a better plan for my life as long as I surrender to Him. As long as I try to be obedient, I mean, I'm only human and I'm going to fall. But at the end of the day I know He does have greater plans for me, and I just have to trust Him."