From a Victim’s View to Forgiveness

Thank you for coming tonight.

I’m not much of a public speaker, but I have put a lot of time and prayer into what I wanted to say to you about this ministry.

So we all probably know that the bible is pretty clear on serving others and also includes several pointed references about how Christians are expected to treat people.  You may have also come to realize that    God adequately equips all Christians to carry on His essential work here on earth.  Somehow, we still come up with excuses and reasons why we just can’t do certain things.   I think we all have a tendency to just not think about some things or simply limit our exposure to situations we find uncomfortable – maybe situations where there may be some bias.  Humans are prone to ignoring negative traits in those we like, but focusing on the faults of those we don’t.  We even seek facts to confirm our existing pre-conception and ignore those facts that suggest otherwise.

When you consider ministering to former prisoners, stigma often arises.  Fear appears to be a major factor.   You may be concerned for your own safety or worried that it will be dangerous.  As it turns out, there are many crimes resulting in prison sentences that are completely non-violent. If you were to learn and understand the stories of even those people convicted of a violent crime, you may come to understand that many of the specific circumstances surrounding those crimes are unlikely to occur ever again.  Most of you haven’t had a violent act happen to you directly, but you still might find yourself with the bias that all ex-offenders are violent and are ready to lash out at anyone.   You don’t know each person’s story.

When I was 22 years old, I was attacked by a young man in my apartment complex as I attempted to scrape ice off of my windshield.  I had started the car and left it running.  My purse was on the passenger seat.  I was hit in the head from behind with a tire iron or lead pipe and once I passed out, he drug me around the car.  I came awake when he tried to lift me into the car and started screaming for help.  He frantically started hitting me with the pipe.  As I attempted to block my head, he fractured my elbow and my chin.  My roommate came out on her way to work and interrupted the attack, he turned and walked away while she took me to the ER.  The doctors said the two lacerations to my scalp could easily have been fatal.  One was about an inch and a half, the second laceration was about 2 ½ inches long, was all the way to my skull and required layers of internal stitches as well as external stitches.  I got a big cast for my elbow.  The police said this was likely a gang initiation and that he did not just want my car, my purse or access to my apartment, he wanted to take me.

This guy was never found, at least not in conjunction with my incident.  I wonder if he ever got into his gang.   One life lesson was that although this was a huge deal for me, apparently it was barely a blip on the radar of the Aurora Police Dept.  I guess all that I’m trying to say is that if I can cut through stigma after that, then you can, too!  Some people who do horrible things to others may never even be held accountable for their actions.  They can still be out there standing in the stairwell for 2 weeks and greeting you back when you say good morning to them.  They may lash out again, they may not.  God has His plans.  As Christians, we don’t need to live in fear.

But for those who have been held accountable and were arrested….  We refer to a jail term as “paying a debt to society” but do we ever actually view the debt as paid in full?  Or is the crime held over the person’s head forever?  Shouldn’t everyone get another chance?  Wouldn’t you want one if it were you?

It could be YOU.  What if the worst thing you have ever done was not something that you could keep a secret?  What if it was out there on your forehead every time you tried to get a job, tried to rent an apartment and even when developing relationships with new people?  Oh, you have a felony?

Almost everyone has something that they have done (most often in your teens and twenties) that they aren’t proud of.  Imagine if the circumstances for even one of those things was a little bit different, you could have found yourself on the wrong side of the law.

Maybe it was the “cool crowd” or the bad boy love interest that you were following along for your own personal reasons.  You REALLY wanted him to date you! What about that drug that everyone was taking at that one party – you didn’t want to be the only one not doing it, so you tried it once.  What if that one time is all it took for you to find yourself entrenched in an addiction?  Put yourself in those shoes:  It could be YOU that had to serve a prison sentence.

I think we can agree it is definitely not our place to decide someone is or is not serious about a relationship with God.  It is our place, however, as Christians, to be a lot less judgmental and hypocritical and a lot more like Jesus.  Nobody is beyond Christ’s love and power to redeem.  No matter what you tell yourself, these sins are no different than yours and mine, there is no thermometer for measuring sin – one type is no better and no worse than the other.   Look at that thief being crucified with Jesus – he had committed a crime and this was his punishment, but as soon as he acknowledged Jesus, Jesus said he would see him in Heaven that day.  How much more clearer can this be?

I know firsthand what it’s like to be judged and to feel inferior to others.  I would love it if nobody else had to feel that way – EVER.  I never knew my biological father.  He left my mom when she got pregnant with me.  I grew up in a small farming community.  My mom and I lived with her mother and stepfather.  It was not easy growing up with that family dynamic back in the day.  Now it’s much more common to have non-traditional families, but back then it was not “normal”.  Many times school work included assignments that required you to list mom AND dad; get information from dad; make a father’s day present in class, etc.  My grandpa was as great a father as one could hope for, but those people who looked down on me wouldn’t recognize that.

My mom, especially, but really our whole family found ourselves on the receiving end of the church people’s judgments and shunning.  Not all of them, but way too many to count.  My mom grew bitter and did not want to have anything to do with any of them, with God, with church, not even a little bit.  She did not prevent me from going, and probably around age 5, before I could really understand these judgments, I started attending every bible school offered by any church in town.   I even began attending a small country church by myself (and serving in the children’s ministry).  But that one had a grand total of 3 regular children each week.  The true Christians who embraced me each year at Bible School and those that made me feel welcome in their church and nursery alone at the age of 8, are who kept me going back and who are responsible for my faith today.  Instead of judging, let’s be like those embracing church people…..

Start really thinking about what it means to be a returning citizen.  Most people have no idea how any of this looks from the perspective of a real person, they have never really thought it through and never really had to.  Please take a moment to think how it feels as a person living in prison for say 20 years and then getting released.  Life as you know it has now completely changed.  In prison, your freedoms are severely limited.  The vast majority of daily decisions are made for you, you have not had to hold a regular job and worked with other free people, maybe you have never even had to be responsible for paying rent or other bills on your own.  The relationships with others in prison can be very tentative and some not authentic.  Maybe your family has distanced themselves from you or you have nobody to help you.  Suddenly, you are out on the streets with nothing to your name and no idea how to build a new life outside.  Maybe that one person showing love and support and acceptance is necessary for the ex-offender to become a productive member of society and pleasing to God, while you, as His hands and feet, will just be trusting God to take care of you while you are doing His work.

Learn some spiritual lessons – how to forgive, how to restore and also how to understand deep down inside the awful nature and consequences of sin.  In doing so, you will see the unique role of Christ in creating new creatures and a far better understanding of us all being brothers and sisters in Christ.

Constance’s Story

Hi everyone my name is Constance Little Wolf. I am a recovering addict and a child of Christ. But before Christ I was lost, broken, and walking in darkness. I come from a small town in Nebraska and I come from a dysfunctional family. My mother and father are alcoholics as well as my grandparents and numerous family members. I grew up thinking that this was a normal way of life.

It eventually led me to my own life of addiction. The anger and addiction ended up with me going to prison. My mom would, on occasion, send me to church; this is where I learned about Jesus. So when I was at my darkest moment I cried out to god. (I remember I was so high and drunk and I was driving down the highway I started crying and I just remember thinking I’m so tired of this and crying out “God help me”.)

And he saved me. He saved me by sending me to prison. It took me awhile to realize and accept that that’s what he did. He was saving me from me. I was so grateful. I was finally sober. While I was in prison, I attended church but not on a regular basis. But my belief was growing. I finally made it to a halfway house. But before I got there, I prayed for god to help me with my addiction and that I didn’t want to start using or drinking again. By this time I had been sober, eleven months, the longest time in my life. So when I arrived at the halfway house, I was scared but they wouldn’t let me go anywhere but to church. That was a blessing I think and once again god had answered my prayer.
The church I attended was awesome. I really felt like the sermon was meant for me. I clearly remember the alter call that the pastor gave, I stood up and went down to the alter call. The pastor looked right at me and told me to surrender and that Jesus loves and forgives me no matter what. I started crying and surrendered that day. From that day forward all I wanted to do was to walk the path, in the light and depend on him for everything. I continued to go to church on a regular basis. That by itself was awesome.

God continued to work in my life, especially when I found this program. I prayed that God. I prayed that he find me a place that I need. I knew that he was blessing me when I called chaplain Debbie and she wanted to do a interview. After the interview she told me that I could move in was so happy I also knew that this was the place for me.

Jeremiah 29:11
FOR I KNOW WHAT I HAVE PLANNED FOR YOU SAYS THE LORD. I HAVE PLANS TO PROSPER YOU,

NOT TO HARM YOU, I HAVE PLANS TO GIVE YOU A FUTURE FILLED WITH HOPE.

That scripture means a lot to me, since I’ve been living at the Inside-Out I’ve come a lot closer to god. Ive entrusted my will and my life to him. Ive come to accept what he has in store for me. He is my rock and my salvation. I remember a time when it wasn’t always that way. But having faith and seeing first hand all of the good things God has brought me, I’m a believer and I’m so very grateful that he’s done the things that hes done so far.

Exodus 14:13
FEAR NOT: STAND FIRM AND SEE THE SALVATION OF THE LORD, WHICH HE WILL WORK FOR YOU TODAY.

That scripture reminds me that as long as I stand firm the Lord will work it out. That anything and everything is possible through him. I remain strong in that belief. Being in the Inside-Out program ive met a lot of people that have some sort of impact on my life and Dr. Kevin is one of them, has shared his awesome testimony about what god has done in his life and has taught us that god can do amazing things in our lives if we only make that choice to surrender our will and lives to him. I look forward to him coming and sharing his knowledge with us. Not only Dr. Kevin but anne, deb, and callie have made an impact on my life with all the knowledge that they share when they come to visit us.

Chaplain Debbie and the Inside-Out program have been the biggest blessing ever and I would just like to thank them for giving me the opportunity and chance to be a part of this wonderful program. Ive been sober now for 2 years and 10 months. Im currently in college, im majoring in human services and I also have a relationship with two of my boys. But none of this would have been possible without God whom I give all the glory and thanks.

Psalms 44:7-8
YOU ARE THE ONE WHO GIVES US VICTORY OVER OUR ENEMIES; YOU DISGRACE THOSE WHO HATE US. O’GOD WE GIVE GLORY TO YOU ALL DAY AND CONSTANTLY PRAISE YOUR NAME. AMEN

THANK YOU

-Constance

Lucia’s Story

On October 22, 2012 I came to Community Re-Entry Place Inside\Out after being homeless for 4 months. I was struggling with an addiction to alcohol and involved in a domestic violence relationship. I had clearly established a goal to turn my life around while removing myself from negative situations. At Community Re-Entry Place Inside\Out I grew strong and faced my problems head on, it was not easy. I took the obstacles as challenges that led me to where I am at today. I currently have my own apartment, have a

stable job, go to college, and working on developing a social life (which is the hardest obstacle in my life). If I was asked to choose from a handful of programs leading to transformation and in order to receive so much help, I would not think twice to choose the Community Re-Entry Place Inside\Out Program. Life has many situations to throw your way, but the way you handle yourself is what defines your success.

-Lucia Rodriguez

Tracy’s Story

Hi, my name is Tracy and I have been a resident of CRPIO since I was released from prison Oct. 17th, 2012, and want to share a few thing’s before I embark onto the next level of my recovery and reentry into the community.

It’s time to move forward and please, don’t confuse that with moving on! God has blessed my life in such an abundance it truly makes me want to weep when I sit back and look at all the work He has performed in over the past 18 months or so.

Chap. Deb was brought into my life while I was attending the year long Transformational Ministries class in D.O.C. She wouldn’t let me sit in the back of the room where I was so comfortable and “unnoticed”. No, she brought me in closer and began her ministry in my life. As a tool for God, Chap. Deb has taught me quite a few things that maybe I already knew or didn’t know? But most importantly, she taught me that there are people who truly care and want to help. Words I’ve heard so often through the years of my addiction, but never gave myself the chance to find out if it was true or not? And here it is, coming from the mouth of an ex-felon. For years now I took nobody for what they said. But I do take people for their actions, and I know I want what she has. Not the ministry. A love for God I never thought was possible for me to have and a testimony to back it up!

For years my train of thought was as follows: You are useless! A waste to everyone around you and nobody wants you around. Trash. Trash to be used, thrown out and kicked aside. A broken down crack smoking prostitute with nothing to offer anyone but a roll in the hay in order to continue to stay high.

That was then, this is now: You are a true child of God. God shines favor on you like nobody’s business. Why? Because He has a plan for you, Tracy. A plan with a hope and a future. He surrounds me by others who not only believe, but listen and obey. I know in my heart, that there is nothing I will ever need and not have. Not necessarily want, but need. There was no way I could have ever foreseen any of this. Wow!

I have been working for The Maxfund Animal Adoption Center since Nov. 17th and until approx. a month ago, I had only met the owner of Maxfund a few short times around the Christmas holidays. I have been hearing all these stories of how she will fire a person on the spot, no qualms about it. As a matter of fact, Our first encounter she did tell me: “Tracy, you do realize that if I find out that you have refused to take in any sick or stray animal that comes into these doors, that I will terminate your employment here.” Well, the devil went hard to work on me, the felon. Doubt and fear set in. Tried running me for months. And the closer it came to Nancy (the owner) moving back to Denver, the devil tried setting up a playground. Long story short. I have been given a $2.50 raise. Have been promoted to the supervisor position over the k-9 adoption center, and when Nancy started giving me all these keys, money and responsibilities, I had to ask…Nancy, what do you know about me? Her response…” All I need to know!” You are a good Christian woman, I see it in your actions and in the way you speak. I trust you. Leave it at that. Wow! All I could say was thank you and while I was leaving the office, I was singing praises to God in my heart.

God is restoring me with my family. I have some of the best mentors, sponsors and down to earth/reality support any one person could ever need. We are not all called to teach a class, preach a sermon, or donate a house. But we are all called to Love God first, then one another secondly. I have felt that since the beginning, and I know that to be true or I wouldn’t still be here.

Each one of you has been used. Used by God in all areas He has deemed necessary in order to be able to work in me. I have a purpose. I honestly don’t know what it is yet, but by the grace of God, I have a purpose! That is one of the most awesome feeling’s I have ever had. Thank you all for listening and obeying the voice of God. It’s not only my life you have helped, but the lives of others I will come into contact with and share the love of God. How does that make you feel? Pretty awesome, huh?

-Tracy

Dawn’s Story

My name is Dawn Walter and i came into community re-entry Place inside/out in November of 2011. I planed to stay a short time just to get back on my feet and move on, I left in February of 2012 and relapsed that same day and got my 3rd DUI and went to jail for a short time when I got out I didn’t know what to do, Ive spent the last 15 years in transitional houses, rehabs, jails and hospitals due to my addiction and I felt that I had burned all of my bridges including with my own family during this time Chaplin Debbie keep in contact with me staying by my side no matter what I did & showing me no condemnation,yet teaching me truth and accountability thru love. Shortly after that I continued drinking and didn’t comply with the courts by getting on house arrest at that point I gave up and felt stuck in my addiction hopeless and almost drank my self to death I ended up in the hospital due to my health

problems and got arrested and went to jail for 120 days. During my time in jail I felt very ashamed and didn’t know what I was going to do but I knew that i didn’t want to go back to my addiction I contacted Chaplain Debbie and was given another chance. I have now been sober 1 year and I now put God and my recovery first. my counseling and mentoring with Chaplin Debbie has helped me allow god to heal and restore my life. Today I’m the house manager being able to hold my peers accountable while at the same time being able to hold myself accountable. I’m truly grateful to have Community Re-entry Place inside/out ministry to walk me through the process of God healing my life of addictions,restoring my life to better health and a relationship with my savior,Jesus Christ.

-Dawn

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