The Case of Sheila

Sheila was raised in an atheistic home.  If she spoke the word “God,” she would be smacked so hard and beaten by her father.  I’ll never forget the first time I met Sheila while conducting my OCPM Bible Studies in the County Jail.  She was awaiting sentencing for her drug addiction which led to grand theft auto.  She sat at the back of the class with her arms and legs crossed, her hair untamed and a smug look on her face that read “prove yourself to me!”  At first, she never engaged me either with a word or a smile.  In time, I would learn she only attended my class so as to be able to spend time away from her pod.  I watch the inmates’ body language carefully and over months, I began to see a change in Sheila’s demeanor – her arms began to unlock and unfold themselves, she uncrossed her feet, her facial expression was softening and she began to ask questions.  

When the judge sentenced her, she asked if I would write her and send her copies of my bible studies. Here’s a quote from one of her letters from prison:

“I hope you know what a blessing you have been in my life.  Your words are so inspirational.  The studies you send me are helpful to so many women here.  I loved the story of St. Mary of Egypt.  It really made me think of my sin in a whole new light.  I felt a connection to her story considering I was forgiven much also.  It made me think of Jesus’ mother Mary differently also.  I am so thankful for her obedience to God.  I can’t imagine how the story would have gone if she had said “no” to the angel who asked her to carry God’s child.  I want to be a woman of virtue.  Thank you for pointing me in the direction of how to be one…. Thank you for all of your support and amazing advice.  Since the choices I made put me in jail, and jail is where I met you years ago, I’m ok with the events that brought me there.  I’ve never had someone like you in my life and I’m just happy God had a plan in our divine appointments.  I can’t wait to see what glory He will bring out of my sorted past.  My future is in His hands and I love it.  Praise God!  I love you.”

It was Christmas time and she had already paid a heavy price for her drug addiction – she lost her two older children.  The courts took them away from her and they were adopted out.  Sheila was deeply pained over this.  She did have one child at home through her second marriage.  Meth is one mighty god that tenaciously holds onto its victims until they’ve lost everything.  I teamed up with another Chaplain and we played Santa Claus to her three children.  She now has her two adopted children back in her life.

Sheila is 36 years old and has spent 21 of those years in and out of prison.  She is another miracle of God’s.  September 24, 2017, Sheila was baptized into the Holy Orthodox Church.  She took the name of Anna, Mary’s mother. She is now attending College and is a 4.0 student, heading towards a degree in Drug and Alcohol Counselling.  She is an honors student and has been asked to join the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society.  She has been used by God in our parish to help some of the teens who have become victims of drug and alcohol and she is an inspiration to them all.  Recently, I had Sheila join me in speaking at another Orthodox Church about OCPM.  She inspired a dentist in attendance to say to me, “I would like to help this young lady.  I am a dentist and am offering to fix her teeth at no charge.  Have her call me.”  Meth destroys one’s teeth so this was a huge gift this Orthodox man was willing to give her.  On our way home, I turned to Sheila who sat in the back seat behind my husband and told her what this Doctor had to say.  She gasped; clutched her mouth and said: “OMG, I cannot believe what you said.  Just this week Joy I prayed and asked God to make it possible for me to have my teeth fixed.”  Upon my return home, I wrote an email to this doctor and told him: “I want you to know Dr. O. that you have played a key role in one of God’s miracle.”  To God be all glory!


-Written by Joy Corey, a prison ministry volunteer


“How Does That Work?”

Serving many, many years in a prison that was said to hold the “worst of the worst” men in the world taught me to never underestimate what God can do in someone’s life. Can you fathom someone who has literally done “every evil imaginable under the sun” asking me how they could stop cussing? Well, this didn’t just happen one time, but it happens over and over again.

For most of them, it began with their baptism into the Holy Orthodox Church. Their lives were transformed in those holy waters of baptism. Then came a desire to clean up every part of their lives, including their language. “Father, when I go out to rec I always end up cussing with the other men. I want to stop, but how can I?” How would you answer someone who wants to quit cussing when everyone around them is cussing up a storm?

When the first person asked me that question, I responded with: “Before you go out to recreation, simply make the sign of the Cross over your lips and ask Jesus to be the Lord of your mouth and every word that comes out of it.” The next time I made my rounds by his cell, he greeted me with: “Father, how does that work? Not a single cuss word came out of my mouth!” I smiled and told him that God answered his heartfelt prayer. It was not a one-time forever fix; he should do it every time he got ready to go out to rec.

Over the years, more and more men asked me the same question and I gave the same answer. Some of these men were already Orthodox and others were simply looking into the Orthodox Faith. The result for those who did it was always the same and their response to me was always to same: “How does that work?”

I continue to share this spiritual tool that we have available to us with people all across our country. Anyone who wants help with their cussing, gossip, or even harsh talk toward others receives the same response from me. If you are having any issues with what comes out of your mouth around certain people, try this: Before you meet up with them make the sign of the Cross over your lips and ask Jesus to be the Lord of your mouth and every word that comes of it. Give it a try and let us know how it went. Remember it is not a one-time fix; so continue to do it regularly. In fact, it might be a great way to start each day.

We would like to publish 10,000 pamphlets with this teaching expanded to send into men and women in prisons across the country. If you would like to help cover the costs for this publication and many more of the books, Icons, and pamphlets OCPM sends each month, please prayerfully consider a donation to this ministry.

God bless you and may He be Lord over our mouths each day!!

P.S. If you are struggling with thoughts in your mind, you might try the same type of thing. Make the sign of the Cross over your forehead and ask Jesus to be the Lord over your mind and the thoughts in it. I use this often in my own spiritual warfare and it truly does work.

-Fr. Stephen Powley