From the Heart of our Minister - June 2017

Some of you have heard about my friend Christy.  We have been penpals for more than 30 years.  We have shared much laughter and many tears in those letters and grew to love each other as sisters.  Christy is serving a sentence of life plus 25 which was handed down when she was 17.  I started writing to her a few years later.  She is now in her 40’s and has spent more than half her life in prison.  Last year I was able to go see her at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women.  It was a brutal schedule for me – I was making the trip there and back in one day.

God smiled on the entire day, but there is one moment that stays with me more than most.  Joining us during the visit was a woman named Ivey.  She had been Christy’s cell mate when my husband was first diagnosed with cancer.  Ivey sent cards and letters to us, offering her prayers and support.  She was released from prison three years ago, but we have stayed in touch.

You are only permitted to take two items into the prison during a visit.  One is your picture ID, which is held by the guards until you leave, and the other is change for the vending machines.  Ivey arrived clutching a Ziploc bag stuffed with change.  I must admit here, if I met up with Ivey on a dark street, I would have made it a point to keep my distance.  To my shame, she seemed to fit what my idea of a woman prisoner looks like.

When we decided to get something to eat from the machines, I intended to empty my bag of change and pay for everyone.  Ivey had other plans.  “Whatever you want, Miss Kate, I’m going to treat you”.  No, no…I couldn’t let her do that.  After all….I was in a better position to pay than she is,   I have a better life than she does.  I am….better????  Shame on me again.

The lesson is – sometimes you are the servant and sometimes you need to be served.  Ivey was so proud that she was buying a meal for me.  We feasted on a banquet of junk food and every mouthful was delightful.  Ivey’s face shone with pleasure.  As for me…along with those potato chips, I was eating a good portion of humble pie.

P.S., After more than 32 years in prison, Christy will be walking out the door of that prison on Monday, June 5. Her release has been many years in the making with enough ups and downs to give you a whiplash!  Imagine being isolated for all these years and then suddenly being free in this world…..this world! She will truly be an alien in an alien land. I would be so grateful if you could say a prayer or two for her.

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