COTAAN Shares Encouragement at Thanksgiving. Minister Kathryn Johnson, Program Director visited the Lake County Correctional Facility to deliver a token of encouragement to a woman being released from jail during the Thanksgiving Holiday season. Members of Covenant Baptist Church donated funds to purchase a Giant Eagle Gift Card to assist a returning citizen, and her family,as she reenters the community. Pictured are Captain Cynthia Brooks receiving the donation from Min. Johnson.
Highlights from the American Baptist Women's Ministries' National Conference: "For I was in Prison and You Visited Me: Prison and Aftercare Ministries" - Virtual Mission Encounter, November 4th-8th, 2013. The intent of the Virtual Mission Encounter was to help one to better understand the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of incarcerated persons, those returning to communities after being incarcerated, and their families. Women from throughout the Nation were represented.
The Conference opened on Monday with a presentation offered by Rev. Julia Moses, Associate Minister, Church of The Master. Rev. Moses shared her extensive experience working as the director of a youth detention center. She also offered suggestions on how to prevent youth incarceration.
COTAAN Volunteer, Miriam Grady was the featured facilitator on Tuesday, November 4th 2013 where she presented a workshop entitled "Prison Ministry". Sister Grady shared her experiences from both sides of the bars. As a "returned citizen", Miriam offered a unique perspective of having to cope with such things as being at the mercy of male guards who are dealing with anger issues, financial limitations for toiletry items, issues of female sexuality, and too few chaplains for the number of incarcerated persons.
According to Sis. Grady, congregations looking to minister to the incarcerated can do several specific things:
- Share the Christian values of love, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration
- Create social networks for returning women to become a part of
- Encourage returning women by letting them know they are not alone.
Finally, Sister Grady shared that her personal goal is to help women returning from incarceration move from being "Victims to Volunteers to Victors".
On Wednesday, The Reverend Fela Barrueto, National Coordinator, Prison Reentry and Aftercare Ministry Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Services, facilitated the workshop entitled "Family Care and After Release".
Rev. Fela addressed the impact of incarceration and the criminal justice system on the children left behind. According to Rev. Fela, it is vitally important to maintain the parent child relationship during the period of incarceration.
The Church can help by adopting families within their own congregations. Rev. Fela shared that if each congregation would touch "2 people about to be incarcerated, 2 people returning home, and 6 people currently incarcerated" every inmate could be cared for.
- Congregations can minister to the incarcerated and their families by: Encouraging children to keep a journal they can share with their incarcerated parent
- Assist children to send cards (holiday, birthday, special occasion), drawings, etc. to their incarcerated parent
- Provide transportation to a family seeking to visit their incarcerated loved one
- Donate "Mom Baskets" for women who are pregnant and incarcerated
- Provide mentoring ministries designed to assist with the process of restoration and reconciliation
Rev. Dr. Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, Director of the Office on Crime and Justice at Mennonite Central Committee U.S. was Thursday's workshop facilitator, addressing the ministry of "Restorative Justice". Dr. Stutzman Amstutz shared the need to provide outlets for communication between victims and offenders. The intended goal is to provide opportunities of hope that can set the stage for forgiveness and redemption.
The Rev. Sandra Hasenauer, Assistant Executive Director, ABWM facilitated the group discussion following each night's presentation. Congratulations to Rev. Hasenauer and Virginia Holmstrom, Executive Director, ABWM for a successful event!
ABC/USA Chaplains minister to incarcerated women at the Mission Summit 2013
Shepastor: “Ministering to the Least of These,” A Testimony and Challenge From Rev. Monica Harmon, Chaplain.” Click Here to hear the Podcast Interview of Rev. Monica Harmon.
A few weeks ago, I had an intriguing conversation with Rev. Monica Harmon, an Associate Minister at Antioch Baptist Church, Cleveland, Ohio and a community chaplain. She shared with me her experience of visiting a women’s prison in Topeka, Kansas during the American Baptist Biennial. Particularly striking was her story involving a young woman whose mother, sister and two brothers were all incarcerated. The woman, her mother and sister were all located at the same prison. This tragedy compelled me to ask Rev. Monica about her thoughts as she reflected upon this jarring experience. Below is her response…
The Five C’s
The U.S. criminal justice system challenges us to deal with the millions who are incarcerated. We are challenged to deal with the millions of children who are affected by their parent(s) being incarcerated. We are challenged, as Dr. Michelle Alexander states in her book, The New Jim Crow,” by legalized discrimination, demonization and criminalization of black men and women. We are challenged by those who believe justice is blind and everyone gets a fair trial. We are challenged by those who say social justice is no longer an issue.
We are called in Isaiah 61:1 and Luke 4:18 to set those who are captives free. We are called to give them the good news. We are called to visit them according to Matthew 25:35-46. You and I have a responsibility to be our brothers’ keeper. You may say, “He is not my brother.” He may not be your brother, but he or she is somebody’s brother or sister. Where is your brother? Cain responded to the Lord, “Am I my brothers’ keeper?” If not you, then who? We can no longer look for others to do for us, what we must do for ourselves.
We must begin to dialogue with those behind bars. When I heard those women’s stories I was amazed as to how they make it from day to day. Many are serving life sentences. We have to become active listeners. We need to hear their stories. We need to find out who is looking after their children. The most important part of any relationship is communication. Without communication there is no relation.
We need compassion in order to reach those behind bars who society has forgotten. I admit it, I had forgotten about women in prison until I was able to put a name with a face on them. Compassion was the key that kept me that day. It was not my love for them, but God’s divine love that enabled me to listen- listen without judgment. God is our only judge.
In order for change to take place in our society we must be committed to the least of these. We must be willing to open ourselves in order to be committed to changing what has become an epidemic. Wake up American. Wake up. We have been asleep too long. It is time to wake up. Where are the Drum Majors for Justice?
Rev. Monica Harmon, Chaplain
Click Here to hear the Podcast Interview of Rev. Monica Harmon.