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