Several years back, God put it on my heart to get involved with the prison ministry. I didn't know how or why, but I knew it's where I needed to be.
I became involved through my church by visiting inmates in a nearby county jail. I am scheduled to go talk with these women about once a month on a Sunday morning. I love it.
Not long after I started doing this, my church also offered a program that involved writing to the incarcerated. Because of my loves for letters and my heart for those in bonds, I knew it was the perfect fit for me!
I was assigned a girl named Cori. I could tell from her very first letter that it was going to be good. She wrote honestly and thoroughly, and I immediately felt a connection. We continued to write letters back and forth during the entire course of her stay in prison, which ended up being for the next three years.
She is only three years older than me, so it felt easy and natural establishing a relationship with her. We talked about a lot of experiences, thoughts, emotions, fears, and struggles. It was always so refreshing to hear from her. We wrote about me coming to visit her while she was in prison, but it never worked out.
Last Spring, she was released from prison. She is under a 2-year house arrest, so when we talked about meeting again, that meant that I would go to her.
This past Saturday, I made the 3-hour trek to Grayslake, where her parents live. It was a drive, but it was so worth it. People kept questioning me about safety, and why I was choosing to drive such a far distance in a short amount of time, etc.
I knew it was right, and that's the confidence I stood by. I knew in my heart, based on our letters and our relationship, that I could trust her. And I wasn't surprised at all when I pulled up to her parents' house, and it was in a very nice neighborhood.
I used the drive to pray off and on all the way there. I really wasn't nervous to meet her-- just excited. When I arrived, Cori met me at the door, as well as a big, burly dog :) She invited me to the basement to chat for awhile. Unfortunately, I was on a time crunch, but we talked away 2 hours without it feeling like any time at all had passed!
Overall, I was amazed and overjoyed by how grounded she was. Her outlook on life, her insight about situations, her advice, and her attitude were all amazing. I was glad to hear about many support groups and people in her life to help her get through this time. And most of all, I love her honesty and forthrightness about where she is at. She told me about her desire to grow.
"My biggest fear is to wake up a year from now the same person I am today," she said, "I want to be able to look back and see growth in my life."
This hit home hard with me, as I have recently traveled through an apathetic stage in my life... it's easy to fall into a rhythm that is selfish and simple, when we are called to live radial lives of challenge, growth, and love!
If I lived closer to her, I know I would visit her more often, but we said we would definitely keep in touch via phone and letters.
That night, when I got home, I received a text message from her saying,
"It was really cool to be able to spend time with you in person today. Thanks for making the trip out, I know it wasn't a short one. It was by no mistake God placed us in each others lives. I'm grateful you're on this journey with me."
I couldn't have said it any better myself.
Love you all,