I was assigned my first Pen Pal late in May 2020. I wrote and mailed my first letter to him June 1, 2020. I did not have any preconceived expectation of ever getting a letter from him. Certainly, I hoped I would, but I had made up my mind to write to him every two weeks on a Monday until…whenever the Lord urged me to stop. To date. I have written 19 letters and have continued to correspond with him even after he left the God of Hope dorm. I only missed one bi-weekly letter writing. It was just recently during the winter storm to end all winter storms. Had other challenges on my plate during those two weeks, like most everybody else. To say my correspondence with my Pen Pal has been a blessing would understate the extraordinary blessings I have received. During this time, he has written to me 10 times. I will never forget the first letter I received from him. It was unexpected and genuinely exciting. As our conversations continued over the months, I have not only gotten to know him better but also walked with him through his moves to other units and encouraged him as he awaits confirmation of his pending parole. As of this time, his parole is scheduled for later in the fall of 2021.
What do I write about? Generally, everyday experiences during the past two weeks. I also include devotional content I have enjoyed during that time. As well as scripture, usually related to the devotional message. I try not to be ‘preachy’ but to share as I judge it will encourage him in his walk. After he left the God of Hope dorm, I was assigned another Pen Pal in the dorm. As a volunteer Pen Pal I have agreed to and accepted the commitment to write to an inmate in the dorm Therefore, my decision to keep writing to the inmate no longer in the dorm is a personnel decision and becomes an extra responsibility. I have chosen to take on but am obligated to write regularly to a Pen Pal in the dorm. Ironically, since being assigned a new dorm Pen Pal, each of them has left the dorm for one reason or another and as a result, the only one I still have contact with is the original one. Participation in this program has been a wonderful experience and a blessing.
Our church was doing a Bible Study at the Lockhart Facility when I first heard of God of Hope Ministries. Shortly afterwards I drove out to see a family member in jail at a place here in Austin. What a surreal experience to see a big brick building with an intimidating barbed wire fence knowing you’re going to visit someone you love. Driving away was hard as I was leaving my family member behind. It was this experience when God of Hope became personal. God had truly said “I want you here”. The first step was an over the phone interview by a staff member. I then received the application and other necessary papers. After completing this process there is training with the TDCJ online. (Additional on-sight training will come after the lockdown is lifted). Currently it’s my joy to be a Pen Pal with two ladies at the Lockhart unit. I write to them once every 7 to 10 days. There are guidelines on how the letter is written and what we can say. Those are very important. I’m excited when I get a reply but that doesn’t happen often for various reasons. When we are able to enter the prison, I will be attending church one Sunday a month with the ladies. I rest in the fact that God says His word will not return void. I know He is using my letters to bless them. One of my ladies wrote, “it’s so exciting to hear your name at mail call”. That brings me joy. I look forward to sitting next to my friends and worshipping the God who loves us equally no matter where we reside.
As a volunteer for The God of Hope Ministries, I do not have adequate words to explain the utter joy and love I have for the women we serve in Lockhart. My time with these women and the transformation I see each time I go in only confirm that I am right where I am supposed to be. But not only the transformation of the women, but also my own heart. I cannot explain the overwhelming love I have for these women, except that it is God’s love I am experiencing for them. It is exactly where I want to be. Each time I walk outside the doors to head home, I have this inexplicable joy that can only be attributed to God and His perfect love. For me, this is abundant life!
I started volunteering with God of Hope in 2007. At first, I thought I was doing God a favor by visiting those in prison. Now I realize by volunteering, it keeps my walk with God fresh and invigorating. I need the inmates enthusiasm as much as they need my interest in them. We need each other as part of the Body of Christ.