Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Would you believe me if I told you that with just over 30 people and just over 30 days we raised just over $5,000 for Christmas in the jail! HOLY COW! The thermometer was filled on July 31st!

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I am so humbled. I set a goal, a necessary goal to reach, but if I’m honest, I wasn’t sure we were going to reach it. I thought, “hey, if we aim for 5, maybe we will get 3 and that will be a great start”. But no, we not only hit 5000, but we passed it! With that and the couple thousand Calvary Church is chipping in, I now have almost all of the money we will need to put on an amazing Christmas celebration in the jail this year. Just like last year we’ll have journals, coloring books, colored pencils, devotional books, candy, Life Recovery Bibles, and of course a hand written note to each and every inmate. There’s also a couple of additions this year, but I’m not going to ruin the surprise because I know word will get back to the jail and it’s more fun to get presents you don’t already know about.

To those who gave financially, THANK YOU. To those who encouraged me, THANK YOU. To those who have supported me over the passed several years in getting to this point, THANK YOU. For those who have prayed, THANK YOU. I couldn’t do what I do without all of you behind me. I’m so grateful.

img_8514To the people of Calvary Church and Shelby,

My name is Michael and I’m currently housed in the Centre County Correctional Facility. I’ve been incarcerated since March of 2015. I was 18 years old then, now I’m 20 and approaching my release date. I’m currently sentenced to 23 months and 29 days. As I’ve spent time here I started my journey of recovery. My drugs of choice are heroin and bath salts.

Recently I have been introduced to the Bible, the book of God. I’ve been familiar with the 12 steps of NA and I was able to get a recovery Bible. I’m a new believer and I read my Bible and pray every day. My faith is a little rocky but as I continue my journey God seems to send signs of strength to me. I’ve spent 2 Christmas holidays in jail, the first was a hassle and I was not sure how to respond to an act of kindness from people I don’t know. Calvary Church sent Christmas bags and it was the first time I felt like I mattered. I’ve felt that I didn’t matter, that a convicted felon was forgotten even though I’m a person with a family and hopes and dreams.

I’m older now and I’ve grown and matured mentally, emotionally and physically. I’ve taught myself to appreciate the small things and remain grateful for all things. I would like to say I am grateful for Calvary Church. I’m grateful for the gifts they sent all of the inmates. I’m grateful for all the time, money, and effort that was put into making the Christmas bags possible. It means a lot to me that total strangers put together gifts for people who are often shunned and looked down upon by society. It hurts to say that but it’s the truth. I committed my crime as a minor and was charged as an adult. I made a mistake because I needed to support a habit. As a 17 year old kid I wasn’t able to worry about the consequences of my actions. I’m really grateful that God has put me through these tough times so I could grow. If it weren’t for God I would not be writing this letter of thanks and gratefulness. Thank you Calvary Church for all that you do for us inmates. I’ve already met one member (Shelby) and I’d like to meet more. 

Sincerely, Michael

*His name has been changed and spelling corrected, but otherwise this is just a copy of what I received. Since it was addressed to the whole church I thought this was the best way to get it out to the most people. Thanks to everyone who was a part of this…there are way too many people who gave that I cannot reach you all and am so very grateful.

Last week in the jail I went onto the block for lunch like normal and I sat down at a table with a woman who was 75. When I introduced myself to this tiny but beautiful white haired woman she nodded and responded with her name but quickly added that everyone calls her “granny”. I wanted to cry. I thought about my Grandparents sleeping on the cots in there that are not comfortable. I thought about how although I wouldn’t get to be with my Grandparents over the holidays I was glad it was for different reasons than this woman’s grandkids. I thought about how confusing the system is when you go in and how hard that must be to figure out at that age. I thought about how little respect inmates get, and how after living a full life as an adult being treated more like a child must feel beyond frustrating.  I watched her choose which food she would eat because she knew she couldn’t get through an apple and a sandwich in the allotted time to eat lunch.

I don’t know what she did. I don’t know why she was there. I don’t know when she will be out. But I know that she was sweet. I know that it is hard in jail. And I know that coming out is often like facing culture shock no matter how long you’ve been in. I’m so excited for the mentoring program being launched now so that people like Granny can have someone on their team to call or meet up with when they get out. If you are interested we are looking for more male and female mentors. Check out the website at buildinghope.squarespace.com and follow up with me if you have any questions or just apply today!

A few days ago I made the trek from Pennsylvania to Michigan again to celebrate the life of my Gramps after his short (just 2 week) fight with cancer. I was supposed to drive up today to visit him, but instead I went to his funeral this past weekend. Sometimes life does not go to plan, but I do believe God is still in control.

On my all day drive I had lots of time to think and process. It was a healthy car ride and one that I found rather inspiring. Let me enlighten you…

photo 1-11For starters it felt weird to purposely drive out of sunshine and into a storm. It seemed almost wrong, but I knew that the journey was worth it. It made me think about the rest of life and the challenges we sometimes would rather not face, but how much stronger, happier, more fulfilled we would be in the end if we were willing to keep taking the next step on the journey…no matter what storms we might face.

 

photo 2-11A little later I saw this and did a double take. That wasn’t just a hole in the clouds where the sun was shining through, it was one cloud shining while the rest clung to their dreariness. Kind of like humans, it was one choosing to respond differently than what is considered normal. That lone cloud couldn’t make it not be a cloudy day, but it did add a bright spot into a cloudy day. I thought about the hard things in life, my friends in jail who’s families will celebrate Christmas without them. The many refugees all around the world who are just trying to survive the day. The homeless. The sick. I can’t make all of their days good, happy, or safe. But I can be a bright spot on a cloudy day…and even that makes a difference.

 

photo 3-8And then I wondered why does God go to all the effort to add extra beauty to each beginning and ending of our days? Honestly, I don’t know that it’s extra effort. I’m sure there’s scientific reason…but I also know it doesn’t have to be so beautiful. I believe God created some things in such detail just simply to wow us. He wows me all the time.

 

A Christmas card.

A letter.

Something from the family.

It sounds so happy, but for one of my friends this year…it wasn’t.

See she got a card from her family, yes.

Have you ever gotten scribbles in a card?

Sometimes they are happy and full of love.

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Sometimes they are not.

This one was not.

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This one had the faces of her family scribbled out.

It had words written to remind her of the pain she caused them.

It told her to look at the picture without faces and every time she did to remember their hurt.

My friend is in jail.

She did cause pain to her family.

But that doesn’t make retaliation ok.

Will you pray for my friend?

She loves her family.

She has two young children and she is not sure where they will end up.

She is hopeful to finish her high school education while she’s in jail.

This Christmas wasn’t an easy one for her.

But the jail did let me give out Bible studies for presents.

So she did get one present.

I have hope that by doing the study and reading God’s word she will find His peace in spite of her circumstances.

And I hope for the rest of you, that you stop and take a moment.

Think of someone who hurt you.

Choose to forgive them.

Instead of retaliating.

Love them. Jesus loves you even though you’ve hurt Him. Let’s be the change we want to see.