How One Woman Turned a Burden Into Action
They're all over the news: story after story of people and families impacted by crime, incarceration, and the justice system. Many of these stories break my heart because they hit close to home.
I'm a small-business owner in Silver Spring, Maryland. When I'm not busy running my cleaning company, I love to serve in the drama ministry at my church, First Baptist Church of Glenarden. I feel so blessed in life.
But I also know some people in my family have experienced the pain of incarceration and addiction. My mother struggled with drug abuse and went to jail a few times. She continued this cycle her whole life and never got help or rehabilitation. These issues have pressed on me for a while.
Not long ago, I felt God speak to me about the burden I had for people in the justice system. He told me, Kim, it's bothering you because I need you do to something about it.
I wasn't sure how somebody like me could help. I'm not a politician or a lawyer. But I prayed that God would show me what to do.
AN ANSWERED PRAYER
A week after I prayed for direction, I heard about Prison Fellowship® on the radio. They talked about Charles Colson, Prison Fellowship's founder, and his testimony as a former prisoner. I thought, Wow, I've got to look into getting involved with this ministry. God answers prayer.
Next, I called Prison Fellowship to see how I could volunteer with their justice reform work. That's how I learned about the Justice Ambassador program, which equips people to change the culture and advance policy reforms.
Before long, I was asked to meet with my local officials to advocate for criminal justice reforms. I met with a staff person at the office of Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen to discuss Pell Grants and see if the senator was on board to support them. I've been learning that Pell Grant access is so crucial for incarcerated students to get an education and become productive citizens. In December 2020, a few months after I got involved, we celebrated the news that Congress lifted the ban on Pell Grants for men and women behind bars!
I've also had a chance to be a part of an Outrageous Justice® small group. We did the study over Zoom for several weeks. The curriculum is really well done, and hearing those true stories was educational and powerful. It's challenging to think about ways to break cycles of crime and create cycles of restoration, and I was encouraged to do it within a group of believers committed to God's vision for justice.
SPEAK UP FOR JUSTICE
As a Justice Ambassador, I feel like I can really make a difference by raising my voice and putting my faith into action. You don't see the fruit of what you plant every day, but every little victory counts. It helps you keep going.
These days, especially with the pandemic, I make a lot of phone calls and emails to policymakers. Sometimes it's small things that make a difference. It all matters.
There are many meaningful ways to serve—not only through advocacy, but through reaching out to prisoners' families. At Christmas, I participated as a volunteer with Prison Fellowship Angel Tree™ for the first time. I helped deliver gifts and the Gospel to local children on behalf of their moms and dads who are behind bars. My own daughter, who is 30, lives across the country; I can just imagine how precious it would be to connect with your child, through a gift, when you are far apart.
I believe God wants to invite us into what He is doing in our world. I'm empowered to fight for the things that He cares about. If we believe people have worth, we can't just lock them up and give up on them. Their story isn't over. That's something that I feel passionate about.
Ever since I got involved with Prison Fellowship, I'm much bolder and more encouraged to stand up for what I believe in. People in prison are worth fighting for. They're worth our time and worth speaking up for.
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