How Prison Fellowship Academy Helped One Man Find His True Father
"I was in bad shape when I came to prison," Cody says. "I didn't have any confidence. I was just absolutely broken. Embarrassed. Ashamed."
Growing up, Cody longed for a father. He learned to push his boundaries early in life—his single mother worked long hours and was not often at home.
"I pretty much raised myself," he admits. "Other kids—they had their family cheering for them at high school football games. I just didn't have that."
Cody's search for a father-figure led him into a life of drugs, alcohol, and eventually crime.
FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE
"From a very young age, I had a promiscuous lifestyle," Cody says. "It wasn't long before I began experimenting with drugs, alcohol, [and] women."
Looking back on his life, Cody regrets the choices he made that led him to prison. "I couldn't see my life getting any worse [when I got to prison]," Cody says. "I really didn't have any hope for the future." He began questioning his life choices, wondering, Is this as good as it will ever get?
"I was sick of it," he says.
Meanwhile, prisoners and volunteers began sharing stories of success with Cory—stories of other prisoners who had gone on to do great things with their lives.
"Well, what's different about me?" Cody asked himself. "The Word of God says I am fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. … What He can do for one, He can do for all."
Encouraged, Cody cried out to God for help, and God answered.
A DIFFICULT DECISION
Cody was encouraged to apply for the Prison Fellowship Academy® at the Carol Vance Unit in Texas. "This is a place that you can go where you can be enriched with biblical studies, you can grow with your relationship with the Lord, you can fellowship," he was told.
Located in select prisons across the country, the Prison Fellowship Academy takes men and women through a holistic life transformation spanning weeks or months, where they are guided by Prison Fellowship® staff and volunteers to lead lives of purpose and productivity inside and outside of prison.
The decision to attend was a difficult one—it would require Cody to spend an extra 18 months in prison to complete the program. But the pull on his heart was so strong that he was willing to spend more time behind bars to become a better person.
A FATHER TO THE FATHERLESS
When he arrived at Carol Vance, Cody struggled.
"I finally got over here, and I remember thinking to myself, 'Okay, I don't want to do this. I don't want to do that.'" Cody admits. "But the tugging of the Holy Spirit in my life was telling me, 'Cody, I didn't send you over here to just sit down and to get comfortable. To not be inspired or to inspire others. I'm working in you and through you.'"
Attending the Prison Fellowship Academy has better prepared Cody for life after prison. The Academy specifically targets criminal thinking and behavior, life skills, addictions, victim impact, and prosocial culture change. Those who complete the program and are preparing for release have the opportunity to connect to post-release resources and support in metropolitan areas.
"The reality is, if nothing changes, nothing changes—and that was the direction I was going in my life," Cody says. Instead, with the help of Prison Fellowship staff and volunteers, Cody was able to confront the issues that had led to his previous wild life—the anger and feelings of abandonment and rejection.
"All masks came off, and now I've got a closer relationship with the Lord. I trust in the plan and the purpose He has for my life, and I'm able to put that faith into action today. … It was worth [the extra 18 months]. It's an [indescribable] feeling to see the transformation and knowing what God has done in my life, and He's allowing me to go home and be a part of my family."
"I'm going home! Thank you, Father!"
Cody receives the news that he is to be released.
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