Saturdays I spend about an hour at the city jail in a mentoring program. I volunteered to spend a year with a mentoree who is going to be out within six months--following her for about six months inside and six months outside. We help them make a plan for when they are released, talk with them and provide them with resources like transportation to a half-way house upon release, clothes, job leads and the like. The time we meet with them inside is precious. They come even though they will not receive any certificates.
This is not a part of Kairos Prison Ministry but a program funded by a federal grant. So we cannot bring up religion unless the ladies open the door. Very often they open the door.
We had one lady who really wasn't part of the program but she enjoyed the talks we have in the classroom. Although we meet as a group, we are one-on-one mentor and mentoree. At anytime that our mentorees want to speak to us alone we can separate to a corner of the room to speak in private.
My first mentoree had an awesome plan. She knew her family would be there to support her. She couldn't wait to have a talk with her son who was expecting her second grand child. She is in her early 30s and he is about seventeen! But she was planning on trying to open a restaurant after working while staying with family until she could get on her own. She'd made it known to some of the others when I was not present that she would have to celebrate her release with a cold beer and a party somewhere! I gave her a week of celebration before I called her at the number she gave me. When I received the obligatory call back, I knew that she'd been to the halfway house for just two days because their were too many rules for her to follow. She had decided to stay with some friends on the other side of town rather than family. I'm assuming family had too many rules also. Her last words in the phone call were with the attitude , so here I am having a good time and no one will hire you when you've been in jail anyway so this is it. See ya.
Just last week on my way to one of my first schools of the morning, I get this panicky call: "Ms. Kathy! I need help! I found me a nice apartment and I'm all moved in but I ain't found a job yet and the rent is due and I really don't wanna lose this apartment. Can I get in touch with Ms. ___? I need some help from Second Chance. I really don't wanna lose my apartment!"
My husband's term for it: backassward. We discuss baby steps and what order to take them and how it takes time before you get your job and then your own apartment. I told her I'd give her predicament to the leaders of our program and advised she call my church. I know they take care of rent and utilities for people in dire need but I couldn't guarantee anything from them. I was sitting out in front of my first school of the day while I gave her the phone number to the church office.
Meanwhile, I'm given a new mentoree that my sponsor claims is just made for me because she is an eighteen-year-old runaway. I was starting to think they figured she should be mine since my husband is white and since the girl is, too, then I should be able to talk to her. I really could see no other reason at first. This child was used to talking a certain way to be manipulative for survival reasons. She couldn't look me in the eye and she had these stories...
That was about hurt, shame and hiding things when you think people who know your insides might use it against you in some way. She had to know that we didn't ask what she did to get there because it didn't matter. She needed to know that what she told us stayed with us. She needed to know that we were not the ones with whom she needed to play her usual games because we didn't want anything or need to be convinced of anything. Nor were we there to look into her case or have anything to do with court or sentencing.
I sensed years of stuff hanging around her neck. I gave her a forgiveness paper. Just a regular piece of notebook paper with the large words "FORGIVENESS" written across the top. I told her that it may seem like a silly insignificant thing to do but she should make a list of people that she needed to forgive and let go. I told her that she could take as many days as she needed to complete the list. We do this activity as part of the Kairos Prison Ministry weekend and the guys make a big ceremony out of it. It really releases burdens from unforgiveness. It was the type of assignment she could keep to herself. If she wanted to share it, she could, but she didn't have to. I wanted her to review her list, pray over it and then tear it into tiny pieces and flush it down the toilet or throw it in the trash--but let it go.
(Stay tuned for Part 2--if I don't go to sleep this evening)