"Annie, what's this I hear about you going into prison this weekend?"
Annie smiled at the question from her colleague, a fellow teacher at Central High School in South Dakota. It was true. On her weekends, Annie would visit and minister to female prisoners, listening to their stories and needs and praying for them.
"Why would you want to do that?" the other woman asked incredulously.
"Well, believe it or not, years ago, I was in prison," Annie said.
The teacher scoffed. "No, you weren't," she argued. "You do not look like somebody who was ever in prison."
"Actually, this is what we look like," Annie responded, "once we've been changed by Jesus."
DAUGHTER OF DESTINY
As she stood under the stars in the Black Hills, Annie cried out, "Jesus, please save me. I can't do it anymore. I just keep making it worse. Save me. I need You."
… Four days later, a warrant was issued for Annie's arrest. She was going to prison.
When Annie prayed that night in South Dakota, she didn't know how Jesus would save her—she just knew that He could. Annie was now mother to two little girls, with a third on the way. Not only did Annie need to be saved from her addiction and troubled life, but so did her children. Before entering prison, Annie had already placed her two daughters into the care of others; now it seemed the child she carried would be placed into child services at birth.
Being separated from her children "was very traumatic." Even so, God was still there with Annie. "Thankfully, God answered my prayers, and I was released early," she shares. "I was able to keep my baby, and I was able to get my toddler, and even my older daughter back, and start raising them on my own at home. So that was a miracle, and I was so, so happy about that."
When Annie prayed that night in South Dakota,
she didn't know how Jesus would save her—she just knew that He could.
Annie had believed that she was unloved, alone, and without value. In the past, she had relied solely on herself. But this time was different.
"I ran to a church when I got out of prison," Annie says. "In that church, a group of women wrapped their arms around me and mentored me and began to teach me how to be a godly mom."
Her new Christian sisters discipled her. She and her daughters began studying the Word of God together. And as she did, those three old lies that had once held Annie in bondage to addiction and self-destruction crumbled.
"I began to believe the truth. I began to understand that I was loved, I wasn't alone, and I did have value."
A NEW IDENTITY, A NEW PURPOSE
"God put in me a thirst for education," she says. Her criminal record threatened to hold her back, but Annie trusted that the God who had saved her had a plan for her life that was bigger than she or anyone else could imagine. Annie pursued her own education and got her degree in teaching.
She homeschooled her girls, putting her degree to good use while bonding with her daughters. When her daughters wanted to go to public school, an open position for a substitute teacher allowed Annie to continue teaching and be near her children. Even though she had a criminal record, God's favor was upon her. After a year of subbing, Annie became a full-time teacher at the high school.
God continued to show Annie just how much He loved and valued her. But He wasn't done with her yet.
ANSWERING THE CALL
One night, Annie found herself listening to man who had a powerful vision for the incarcerated women in America. The man, Mel Goebel, was starting a prison ministry just for women called Daughters of Destiny.
"He felt God was calling out women who had been in prison and were now walking victoriously with Jesus to help start and build this ministry," Annie says. "That night God pricked my heart."
It had been years since Annie had been in a prison. The thought of returning to that setting weighed on her heart. She worried that she was going backward instead of forward with her life. But she could not deny that God wanted her to serve in prison ministry.
I knew that [God] was calling me to do this, to share my story of hope with women, and I knew now ... that I was valuable, not in spite of my past but because of my past. And so, I then responded to the call to get involved in prison ministry and help build Daughters of Destiny.
'I knew now that I was valuable, not in spite of my past but because of my past.'
GOD'S BIG PLAN FOR A LITTLE MINISTRY
Annie hit the ground running with Daughters of Destiny. She volunteered with the ministry in her spare time, continuing to work at her daughters' high school. At this time, she also got her master's degree in education and curriculum. It became obvious with each passing day just how much of a hand God had on Annie's life—her education and her experiences made her an invaluable part of the Daughters of Destiny team.
For 10 years, Annie and Mel—now married—led the charge to bring the Good News to incarcerated women. Soon, Annie was running the largest women's-only prison ministry in the United States, and she needed help.
"We need to start praying that God will bring forward another couple—maybe another ministry—that would want to take on Daughters of Destiny," Annie told Mel.
That's when James J. Ackerman, the president and CEO of Prison Fellowship®, met with Annie to discuss acquiring Daughters of Destiny as part of Prison Fellowship's women's ministry. One June 30, 2017, Prison Fellowship acquired Daughters of Destiny.
Today, Annie is the director of programs and special events. Her role allows her to continue serving incarcerated women by organizing programs and events specifically designed to meet the spiritual needs of women behind bars.
"It's so wonderful that God would take that little ministry that was started with just a few women [that] grew and grew and grew," Annie says, "and then He would take it and make it even bigger and better through Prison Fellowship. I think that's such a wonderful blessing."
A FAMILY RESTORED
"Above all this, though, one of my greatest achievements in life, is being a godly mom," Annie shares.
Raising her three daughters in a warm, secure, and loving home and seeing them follow Jesus in their own lives is the fulfillment of the many prayers and dreams Annie had as a little girl. But God had even bigger plans for the restoration of Annie's life:
Thirty-eight years after I gave birth to my son, I met him for the first time. It was through a series of divine appointments that I could have never made happen that God brought him into my life, and now he is part of my life. So, my three beautiful daughters, and now my son—we're all together, and God is so good. He restores, and He transforms.
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