Renewing Lives bibles studies help people gain wisdom from the Word of God.
Parenting & Proverbs October 2017
“This is what I came here to work on…this is why I signed up for this class…” shared one young woman through tears.
We continually seek to bring thought provoking, faith based rehabilitative material to the women at the California Institute for Women and this particular class, The Parent Project and a study in the Book of Proverbs is off to a wonderful start!
This class, consisting of approximately 45-50 women is helping the mothers, aunts, and grandmothers understand proven methods that will help them as they parent. Whether the parenting is implemented solely from letters sent home…telephone calls…visits with family at the institution…or from eventual parole back to the family environment, the women are excited to learn that they can make significant changes in their own actions/reactions which may, in turn, lead to changes in their children’s behaviors and lives.
Studying principles from the Book of Proverbs rounds out the class with practical wisdom that always seems to coincide with, and reinforce the Parenting study.
While we see women that are eager to learn and are determined in their desire to change and create a new legacy for their families, we realize that each woman continues to battle old patterns that are deep-seated and may be hard to stop. One such woman was upset and very vocal during last week’s class and this week was no different. She was challenging the authority of the volunteer leader, angry and disruptive to everyone, which led to her storming from the room about halfway through the class.
At the conclusion of the class, as the women were saying “good-bye” and leaving to go back to their units…there by the door stood the woman who had disruptively left the class…and with tears in her eyes…she apologized to the leader saying, “I’m so sorry... this is what I came here to work on…this is why I signed up for this class…” She confessed that anger had always ruled her emotions and had resulted in her being incarcerated…that she (and her family) knows that she needs to change…and she feels this class will help. How thrilling to be able to let her know we appreciated the maturity it took for her to come back and apologize, how this could be a turning point for her and just how proud she should be of her actions!!
The Lord is working in a small classroom at CIW…and while we don’t know exactly what is going on in the hearts and minds of each woman in class…we were given a little glimpse of His working in this one precious sister, and can only pray that through her and others in class it would be multiplied throughout the Institution!!
Proverbs August 2009
Hi my prayer partners! We had a wonderful time last night during study...it was the final exam for the Proverbs study...and honestly, there was no panicking, and no complaining...they all did their very best to answer the two page test questions. We also asked the women to complete an evaluation sheet and in that survey, many said that they really enjoyed the study...they learned a lot about the Lord through the lessons, and enjoyed the group participation! We have the following events coming up that I would ask for prayer for...
Saturday—Faith Based Graduation - we are bringing the 95 graduates a brunch meal that morning! Ssshhh...they don’t know about it and will be so thrilled to have items they do not get in their meals now. Then in the afternoon...we will have the formal graduation ceremony...those who are graduating will have a cap/gown and walk down the aisle...just like regular school! Last year, they had their own version of the parade walk...and it brings tears to your eyes...it’s not the traditional walking of graduates by any means! We are having some inmate speakers who will be sharing...and I’ve heard that there is one inmate in particular that has something to share with the group...so I can’t wait to update you all next week on this surprise speaker!
Tuesday 8.25—we will hand out the certificates to those in our own group...and before that, we (volunteers) will all give Paula some words to describe each girl in our study group...so that she can select a “fruit” or quality that was seen in them this semester. The certificates say, “God sees in you....” and then she’ll type in something like... “a woman who loves God’s Word”...or “a compassionate woman”....or “a prayer warrior”. Then the volunteers will take a group of certificates and introduce each woman, sharing what their certificate says. They get so excited to be recognized for their effort...some of which have never really experienced positives in their life.
Coming up on Sat, Sept 5—we have Victor Marx coming out to share with the open population...and I know that will be an exciting day of ministry...the Lord has great things in store for the women that day! Victor has a testimony that a lot of the women will relate to...and his message of the new life that Jesus offers will be sure to touch and change hearts!
Lastly—Arlen one of our overseers was sharing the us last night about how the Lord provided above and beyond for her grandsons this week and I wanted to share it with you all too! Arlen’s husband has been out of work for about 7 months...and Arlen just now was put on staff (part time) at CC RSM...so for a long while they have been struggling to make ends meet. Arlen’s grandson’s were out visiting from the Bay area and as little boys do...they wanted to go fishing! Arlen didn’t have any gear...and no funds to buy poles, etc...so when they were walking along a lake one evening...she stopped and said, “Let’s pray”. She said the boys got a little embarrassed by grandma praying right there in the middle of others who were walking about...but she prayed nonetheless... “Father, you know that these boys would love to go fishing—but we don’t have anything that they need to do it. If it be Your will...please provide a way for them to go fishing.” And she said, “Well, we’ll see what God has planned.” The very next day...a man in the fellowship of CCRSM came in to the office and said he wanted to bless some young children with a free deep sea fishing trip! Can you imagine what went through Arlen’s mind? She immediately told the man about her grandsons and they made arrangements for them to all go out the next evening for a twilight fishing trip off of Newport Beach! Now, the boys were surrounded by older, college age deck hands who taught them all about baiting the hook, they provided all of the lines, poles, bait and expert advice! Arlen’s one grandson caught the biggest fish of the evening! The took a photo of him with his catch...so he’ll remember this forever! The other grandson won the raffle...(2) discounted future fishing trips! God heard the simple prayer of a loving grandma...and wanted to make His presence known in the hearts of these two boys. Isn’t our Father wonderful...?
Special Event April 2009
Well, I promised to send word after my visit to CIW. I’m really at a loss for words to express the deep emotions that I am feeling tonight. I just really have to begin by expressing my deep gratitude to the Lord for allowing me to be a part of something that was so beautiful and out of the ordinary (for me). I never could have imagined that I would walk away feeling so deeply moved for these women. I’d like to give you a general overview of what our day looked like and what I walked away with. Please read the attached document and pray for the women at CIW! Also, pray for those who minister to them. That we will be equipped by the Holy Spirit and that God would soften hearts and move in miraculous ways.
Thank you so much.
8:30 arrive at facility and go through check in
8:40 enter Auditorium for “Retreat” preparation and set-up
During this time the CIW Faith Based Choir was practicing. Wow! Can these ladies worship. They put any “outside” worship service I have been to—to shame! I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing the whole time they sang. I cannot describe they joy and abandonment that was evident in their words. Also, each of the inmates who were entering was handed three tickets, which they were told would be used for “surprises” later in the day.
9:00 Opening Prayer
These ladies know how to pray and usher in the Holy Spirit. They spent the better part of at least 10 minutes singing and begging God to pour out His spirit on our event.
9:30 Introduction to Days Event, Faith Based Program, Graduates, etc.
During this time Paula (my leader) shared with the ladies. We had an opportunity to see who was actually in the Faith Based program, see the graduates from the last series of classes, and share several book reviews of over 30 different inspiring books that would be raffled off at the end of the day.
Everyone was so welcoming. Everyone was so excited.
10:00 CIW Faith Based Choir began the worship.
Every one of us volunteers were so overtaken with emotions. All the inmates were singing in one accord. There was such an overwhelming presence of the Lord. He truly visited that place at that moment. Words cannot express the deepness of sympathy and compassion I felt when they sang of “Jesus, my doctor, my lawyer, my true best friend!”
10:30 Calvary Chino Valley Women’s Worship
If everyone of us were crying when they sang, every one of them was crying when our worship team sang. One of our team members said they were passing around rolls of t.p. to dry their eyes. They were so grateful to have someone come in and lead them in worship. It was such a wonderful blessing. did not know all of the songs, but that did not stop them from singing along. Eyes closed and hands raised to heaven, everyone in the room was rejoicing in God’s goodness!
11:00 Sack Lunch Social Event
The inmates brought their paper bag lunches prepared to sit and have fellowship with us. They were so totally blessed to find out their yellow tickets were good for a slice of pizza! They were so grateful. I was one of the volunteers to direct the ladies to the pizza line. I believe that I shook the hand of at least 180 ladies. Every one of them was so thankful. They could not stop saying, “Thank you so much for coming.” “Thank you for being here.” “Thank you for bringing me hope.” “Thank you for bringing the “outside” in.” “Thank you for not forgetting us.” Some had smiles that were a mile wide and you could tell they wanted to hug you. Others had such a deep sadness behind their eyes, I could only wonder what hidden mysteries lay deep inside. I was so moved and touched to be there. All I could say was that I was so blessed to be among them. Thank you, Jesus.
During the sack lunch social, we volunteers moved freely about the room and spent time getting to know the inmates. Paula had arranged for them to share their names, ages, marital status, # of children and short bit of trivia about themselves or a prayer request. I was privileged to move about the room and got to speak with at least 20 inmates during this time. I learned that most of them are moms and have multiple children. Most of them are worried about their families. All of them are grateful to have someone come and take just a minute to listen to them and laugh or cry with them. They are so very precious. They look tired and weathered and lonely and sad and they look so very beautiful. I was so blessed to be able to pray for their needs. One gal shared with me that she is going through training to be a fire fighter. She said that it’s the first time in her life that she is able to work hard at something that makes a difference for her and others. She loves it so much. She wants to do it for the rest of her life. One mom shared with me that she has lost all parental rights to three of her children and her heart is broken, but she’s so happy that she has not lost the rights to her other two children and could I pray that she gets out soon, so she can see them. She hasn’t seen them for two years. Another mom shared with me that she has 6 children. Her youngest is 6 weeks old. Could I pray for her because she was only wanting to see the youngest and she realizes that she should be wanting to see all of them. Could God forgive her? Another lady said she has been having a lot of trouble out in the yard. Women won’t leave her alone. She’s feels like she’s going crazy. Could I pray and ask God to help her? Another mom shared that her daughter died and she has such a pain in her heart. She didn’t want to share more, but did receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior! I could share so many more stories. All of the women were there voluntarily. It was such an incredible time. I wish you could have been there.
12:45 Fireproof Movie
All the inmates were able to redeem their movie tickets for a bag of popcorn. This was a second moment of complete excitement! Each inmate showing such gratefulness, it’s hard to express how I felt. To me it was just “popcorn”. You know what I mean. Popcorn is no big deal. But to them it was just so much. If you haven’t seen this movie, you should rent it. It’s great. You will never enjoy it as much as we did today. The inmates were like a studio audience that was putty in the directors hands. When something happened, they would all respond, “Oh, no! That is so wrong.” “Ooooh, I can’t believe she did that.” Etc. They really rejoice when the word is being shared. We all laughed and cried and laughed and cried together. I think they were most moved by the parents in the movie. It touched them so much that Kirk Cameron’s Dad and Mom cared so much about the decision he was making. That really stood out to me.
After the movie it was really cool. Paula’s brother actually works with Kirk Cameron. Kirk wanted to come out to the prison and speak with the ladies, but wasn’t able to. So, Paula’s brother filmed him sharing a special message with the ladies. When he first began to share, it seemed like he was just talking to an audience of married couples, but when he stopped and looked into the cameras and said, “I know you are watching this from a prison...” The whole room just came to life. All the ladies said, “This is just tooooo much for us!” They were completely blown away.
3:00 Chino Valley Women’s Worship / Invitation to Christ / Prayer
At this point Paula was able to share the message of Christ and many women stood up to receive salvation. We were able to spend time in prayer with them and minister to them individually. Several times when I was leading someone in prayer I became choked up with my tears and had to silently as God to help me finish. There is such darkness in their lives and they are so hungry for God’s intervention, and yet they are like babies, needing love and guidance.
Before we raffled off all the wonderful bibles and books that were donated, Paula had several calendars that she gave away to different individuals. First example; Longest married, longest hair, oldest inmate, inmate whose birthday was that day, inmate whose anniversary was that day, and the inmate who was there the longest time (By the way, she has been there since 1987). They really enjoyed having their moment. It was a blessing to watch.
4:00 Time to Go Home
It wasn’t easy going home. I felt so grateful to be with these ladies. All of us volunteers stood by the doors, passing out the last of the goodies and saying goodbye. Everyone wanted to shake hands (I forgot to mention there is no hugging allowed) and look you in the eyes and say, “Thank you, God bless you.” Many of them ask, “Are you going to come back again?”
I said, “Yes.”
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning,
praise instead of despair. For the LORD has planted them like strong
and graceful oaks for his own glory.