An Academy student shares in her own words how Prison Fellowship®'s cornerstone program has made a difference in her life.
In 2018, Amy was sentenced to 41 months at Shakopee for second-degree unintentional manslaughter. She arrived scared out of her mind and heartbroken over the loss of life that had led to her imprisonment. Amy was angry—with herself, with the world, and especially with God. At Shakopee, she was given the chance to enroll in the Prison Fellowship Academy®. Located in select prisons across the country, the Academy takes men and women through a holistic life transformation, where they are guided by Prison Fellowship staff and volunteers to lead lives of purpose and productivity inside and outside of prison.
The following is an excerpt taken from Amy's Academy graduation speech from this past spring. It has been edited for clarity and length.
WHEN THE HEALING BEGINS
By Amy of Shakopee
Isn't this a question we've all asked God when something bad happens, when we don't understand it? You can't see any good in it. You start asking God, "Why?" You find your situation too difficult to understand, so you question God's intentions. If He has a purpose for my life, surely, He didn't plan all these terrible things to happen to me.
How could You leave me when I needed You the most? When I've done so many good things in my life for You?
I had pushed away everyone, ruined every relationship in my life, and even tried taking my own life. I knew coming to this program that I had to get real with God. I wasn't sure how that was going to happen. I had been running from Him for a while. I wasn't even sure how to talk to Him anymore.
Then one day, here in my room, I dropped to my knees and surrendered everything to Him. I couldn’t do it alone anymore. My way clearly wasn't working. And I believe that, in that moment, my healing began. I had to lay everything at His feet for my bitterness and my pain to heal.
A LIFE-CHANGING PROGRAM
This program is hard, but it is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It has truly changed my life. I have learned how to deal with my emotions and reframe them, and to not let them control me. I have learned how to have healthy relationships. And lastly, I have learned to forgive and not to carry bitterness and anger, and to keep God as my center.
To future Academy participants: Put your all into this program, and you will get that and more back. It's life-changing. Having the love and support of the Academy community truly made my time here bearable and helped me grow. The Academy, with God by my side, has turned my crying into joy, my mourning into gladness. It has given me peace.
I know, without a doubt, I am where God wants me to be. He is sifting and molding me into what He knows I can become in Him. I can never make the day of the accident vanish as if it didn't exist. It happened. But I can be restored. Luke 15:23 says, "But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost but now is found."
THE PURPOSE OF LIFE
I used to believe the purpose of life is to find happiness. I don't believe that anymore. I used to struggle to find happiness in things and people. I used to work hard to attain it. But it was all meaningless.
Now I have joy. I have everything I ever wanted or dreamed of having—a love that is so precious, [that] I can find no words to describe it. I have the love of my everlasting God. John 16:33 says, "I have told you all of this so that you may have peace in me here on earth. You will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."
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