One Picture, 1000 Words: Nome Day Two

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Part of the team: Brenda, Katy, Mary, Me, Deanna, and Jana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So they don’t let us take pictures inside prison… so you get this one picture and 1,000 words. And seriously, it’s probably not enough. You’re only safe because everything I experienced today is still too raw to write.

Anvil Mountain Correctional Center (AMCC) is one of 12 prisons or correctional facilities in Alaska. It houses about 100 men and six women. Many are awaiting sentencing, so this facility is more like a county jail in Texas than an actual prison. Those who have been sentenced and are serving time here are serving short sentences (typically less than 18 months).

We worked with a small group of four women and ten men… but not at the same time. We were not approved for a “chaplaincy” visit, so we went it to teach basketweaving to them. Deanna, one of our team members from Indianapolis, has been weaving for 26 years. When she pulled out the sample basket, I have to confess. I doubted. It was for naught! At the end of the day, each person had made a basket… but they had experienced so much more! They were so proud of their handiwork. They each expressed, “I’m going to give it to my mom,” or “My daughter is going to love this,” or “I can’t even believe I could do this.” It was really pretty incredible. And can you believe they let us bring in scissors, shears, and screwdrivers? #neverintexas

We began the day with the women: Maggie, Marian, Kandie, and Diana. Each a divine appointment. God handpicked Maggie for me, and I knew the instant she came in the door. I would’ve guessed 15 or 16, but she had turned 18 in early December. She was sporting one of the nastiest black eyes I’ve ever seen and her arms were solid bruises. She been there three days. My heart broke instantly, and I was certain God had called me to do just one thing: Make sure Maggie knows I love her. After quick introductions between the two of us, I asked about her black eye. She said, “I made a very bad choice. I never ever thought I would be here. I’m not a bad girl.” I instantly issued her of just that: Bad choices don’t equal bad girls. And I told her immediately and frequently, Go loves you. God sees you. God loves you. God sees you. Over the course of the next several hours, I got to know Maggie very well. She poured her heart out to me, and she shared numerous stories… including a story about stomping in anger on a handmade basket of her mother’s… and knowing that the basket she was making would be given to her mother in replacement. God is in the business of restoration! When it came time to leave, we had the sweetest opportunity for me to pray over her. She squeezed my hands so tightly, as if holding on for life… exactly. I will not forget her face or her words or the five-month-old baby girl she has back at home.

And then the men came: James, Elgan, Dana, Ernie, Alexie, Abel, Edmund, Jerry, Jared, and Kelvin. Don’t hold me to the last three names, but I think I’m close. And once again, God directed me. James. He’s yours.

James is 31. This is his third time behind the fences. He has 5 children at home, all under the age of 7. He had his first drink of alcohol at age 11. It’s all he knows. He confessed his alcohol fuels his anger, and his family has suffered because of both. He didn’t try to hide who he was or what he’d done. His shame-filled eyes told the story. His words filled in the gaps. I always go back to drinking, he said. I don’t know any other life. As we worked on making his basket, James repeatedly said to me, “Thank you for being here. Thank you for caring.” The tenderness of his words told me one thing. He hasn’t ever known that God loves him. When it came time for the guys to leave, I asked James if I could pray for him. With tear-filled eyes, he humbly nodded his head. Lord God, please make Your love real to him and use Your love to set him free.

God reminded me today that we must see the faces… black eyes and all… because when we do, we allow them to get a glimpse of God and His love for them. And while I might can bring a smile to Maggie’s and James’s face for a few hours, God can deliver them and remove their shame.

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34:4-5. Father, my prayer is simple. May Maggie and James seek You. Amen.

The women’s conference begins on Friday, and I ask for your prayers! I came to Nome to witness God’s mighty power! We have a BIG God. I’m not going to box Him in or discount His power with little things like cultural differences. I am expectant! I want it to be evident to all… under the greatest of odds, God did a miracle! We encountered the Living God, and our lives … everyone of us!… have been changed forever. That’s what I’m here for, and I ask you to join me in praying for just that!

Know Him & Make Him Known!
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{ Ok. Two updates. It. Is. Cold. Here. Forget what I said yesterday. It. Is. Cold. However, I am happy to report that I am completely snug in my coat and boots… even when the van doesn’t start because the engine is frozen, and we have to wait for help. And, no northern lights yet. }

 

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