As those heavy jail doors closed behind us, my first thought was, “This is real. I’m in jail.” The harder part came as we left.... “Now, how could I ever adequately put into words everything that I just saw, or how I feel about it?”
Well, this is my feeble effort:
I have worked with For The Love of Birth, Inc. and Birth Behind Bars, for over a year now. The “administrative office organizer” would be a good description of my job. The names and files have become common desk ornaments, and although I’ve always felt passionate about what we do here, the picture hadn’t been fully painted for me yet. Then, one day, Janice invited me to come along with them to jail to see if it was something I was seriously interested in becoming part of. I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve!
When we got to the jail it was pouring down rain, so we grabbed our things from the car and hurried to the front entrance! My heart was racing, not just from the running, but from the very excitement I had built up inside for weeks. We got checked in and stood by the first door patiently waiting admittance. Once the door opened and we walked through, I heard the slam behind us. Not just any slam... The kind of slam you know is nothing to be taken lightly. Too many thoughts to describe poured through my head as we walked through multiple doors. One would not open unless the last closed. We could see through the glass walls a family that was visiting with their inmate loved one. The first of many moments that became an “awakening” to me, was when I realized, we were on the same side of the glass with the inmate.
We continued down the stairs to the area where the women would line up to prepare for class. While we waited for them to be patted down and checked, the inmate that had been visiting with her family came down. The tears in her tired eyes, made me want to cry myself. Another moment of “awakening” - she is a real person too, with real feelings and a real family and a real soul.
There was another girl that seemed a bit more “outgoing and rambunctious” than the others. I immediately thought, “We may have our hands full with this one.” Little did I know that this same girl would touch my heart in ways I never thought possible.
As we gathered into the classroom, we realized this might be one of the biggest classes we’ve ever had. There were 11 girls! It was further proof that prayer really does change things.
My heart began to really ache for these girls as I saw the desperate love and yearning they had for their children. We began to show one of the videos and when the babies appeared on the TV screen, at least 6 or more girls started to cry. They cried because they missed their kids; they cried because they feared resentment from their kids; they cried because they hurt. One girl never really stopped crying. We used baby dolls to learn how to properly swaddle a baby. This particular inmate held the baby doll so gently. She passed that baby back to us as if she was passing away her very own son. They all had this sweet gentleness that seemed to overtake the hard exteriors they use as protection in their hardened world.
“For the world You love, Your will be done, let Your will be done in me.”
-Chris Tomlin (“Awakening”)
The truth is, I don’t think words could ever fully describe the awakening God gave my heart that day, but I don’t think He is done yet anyway.