Friday, October 22, 2010

Meeting the inmates.

Last night, we drove two minivans full of college girls to Marysville to the State Penitentiary for a basketball scrimmage against a team of inmates. The barb wire {cell phone pic below} was a bit intimidating, but when we met our opponents and actually talked with them after the game it was eye-opening and heart-wrenching.


The Ohio Woman’s Reformatory was surprisingly beautiful…reminded me of a college campus while we walked outside from one building  to the gym. 


When we got there, it was just as you would expect, just like you see in movies – navy blue uniforms, different colored collars marking their security threat level. When our team walked in the gym, the warm up CD was playing, officials were read, score keeps set. This was a legit scrimmage. :)

Within ten minutes the gym went from practically empty to standing room only. You could tell the inmates who filled the stands were excited to watch a game, thankful for the opportunity to see something different, and pumped to cheer for their team. I don’t have any pictures of the day other than the cell phone pic above; for obvious privacy/security reasons, cameras were not permitted. But to watch the women, many of whom you would never in a million years guess that they did something worthy of landing them there, play basketball against Eugene’s team was impressive. The inmates were focused, yet still smiling and happy to be playing, and there was some great talent on the team. {We lost the game.} They were also very respectful of our team & showed solid sportsmanship. {I think Eugene’s team could probably stand to toughen up a bit anyway, so it was good for them!} ;)

At halftime, another group of inmates put on a dancing/sign language show to Christian music. It was planned especially for the Cedarville girls. {So cool.} Finally, after the game, Eugene thanked them for being such great hosts to his team, and one of his players then gave a quick talk that included Bible verses and encouragement that no matter what we face in life God will always be there. The girls then passed out Bibles that they had highlighted verses in to the inmates, sat down and just talked with them. Oh the stories we heard!

One woman I spoke with said she got married really young, like 15, to a much older man who became abusive to her and her young children. He was teaching her five-year-old daughter to shoot a gun and in their disagreement about that, along with his abusiveness, she killed him in self-defense. She later found out, once the police searched the property, he had over forty loaded guns in their house and she had no idea. She said that although it has been such a hard experience, she’s blessed to have a supportive family backing her and caring for her two young children. She said she realizes that God put here in that prison to have the experience she had to realize that she can connect with other women like her once she leaves. She called the prison her mission field. {Amazing.} And her case just went before the Supreme Court to get revoked {from 33-to-life sentence to out in a few weeks she hopes.} So she may be free soon, and she’s already got a job lined up to work at a woman’s shelter that helped her when she was fleeing from her abusive husband. What a voice and story she has, and what faith she has found! {Seriously, God is so good, even through this broken mess of a world.}

It was such a wondrous thing to watch the college girls listen so kindly to these broken women. They held hands, prayed for and with each other, shared commonalities, laughed together, learned so much, and hugged good bye. It was amazing really.

Also, if you wouldn’t mind saying another prayer for our Aunt Jen {mentioned here and here.} She’s in the hospital again & could absolutely use a prayer for healing, strength, and encouragement. Thank you.


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