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The Case of James

A parish priest had a dilemma when he learned that a sex offender, who was interested in Orthodoxy, was being released to the neighboring state which he bordered. No church in either state wanted him. The godly priest, took a chance. He presented a document to his parish which required that this sex offender sign. It stipulated that at no time was he to be with a child alone in the church and that he would, at all times, be accompanied by an adult. This was not being unkind. This would prevent the possibility of his being falsely accused and would give peace to the parents of every child. The parish agreed. It cost them several families who left in anger. Those families missed out on being part of a MIRACLE!

Various families would pick him up and drop him off after coffee hour. Eventually he was baptized into the Orthodox Church and became a member of this priest’s community. This parish understood that the Church is a hospital where we come for healing (we all fall short of the glory of God as every one of us is a grievous sinner); that the congregants are the nursing staff, nursing the sick back to good spiritual health through their prayers and love of God and each other; and that the priest is the spiritual doctor who administers spiritual medicines, i.e. the Sacraments of Confession and Communion. We are all spiritually ill and need the prayers of the Church. Our illnesses have different names: liars, gossipers, thieves, fornicators, adulterers, bearers of lack of forgiveness, resentments and hatreds, etc.

In time, he decided to move to New Orleans. While there, he wrote a letter to the community thanking them for helping him to heal through their love for, and acceptance of, him. Then Hurricane Katrina struck with a vengeance. He lost everything. One phone call back to that priest who had baptized him brought him home to the community that chose to love him and pray for his salvation. In fact, they raised the money for his airplane ticket to return. James continued to thrive in this loving community.

At his funeral, the priest read aloud from James’ journal pursuant to his instructions. There wasn’t a dry eye in the church. He addressed those that had left the parish in anger and hatred for him, telling them that he loved and forgave them, having prayed for them every single day of his life. He instructed the priest that he wanted those men to be the pallbearers at his funeral.

The priest was faced with another dilemma! James died destitute. Who would pay for his funeral? Miracle of miracles; those men whom James had asked be made his pallbearers paid for all his funeral expenses and the parish made his Mercy Meal! This is what love looks like. This is love clothed in mercy and blanketed with forgiveness. It might interest you to know, that some of those who left the parish because of him returned when they saw into his heart through his death! The priest and the sex offender walked side-by-side through the doors of the church to teach us all about Christian love!

-Written by Joy Corey, a prison ministry volunteer

 

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The Case of Melanie

Imagine you are ten years old; your mother is a drunk who never knows of your whereabouts, nor does she care; your father isn’t in the picture and you find yourself roaming the streets of one of America’s mid-sized cities. Your friends are pimps and prostitutes and you’ve learned to make money so you can feed yourself by selling drugs. By the time you are thirteen years old, you are kidnapped by one of the cities’ notorious pedophiles and swept away to a wooded area clear across the country which is known to be the hide-away for America’s pedophiles and their victims – a place of isolation from society where their dirty, little deeds can go on undetected. Such is the background for Melanie’s life of drugs and alcohol. She ended up giving her kidnapper three children. He actually married her when she was seventeen. She is now in her mid-thirties.

Melanie’s story is extraordinary in that she and her children were able to escape from the grips of this man through the efforts of a female attorney who in the northeastern part of the country regularly scouts these woods for pedophiles and their prey. She sends a team in to remove the children to one location and their mother to another. In time they are reunited. Her children are in their early twenties now. She chose to come back to the city she lived in as a child. She wanted to see her mother. Nothing had changed. Drugs were available everywhere.

I met Melanie in the early part of 2014 when she began coming to my Bible Studies in the County Jail. Two weeks after she got released from prison and put on probation, she slipped up. She found a baggie full of meth on the sidewalk and picked it up. She lied to the officer who happened to see her pick it up and ended up back in jail. She was sent to prison and wrote the following to me from there:

“Dear Joy, Hello! Boy do I miss hearing your words of encouragement.  I am really kicking myself in the butt for thinking God was gonna let me slip by with just a little compromise.  I know better than that.  For some reason I just can’t seem to totally give up my control.  All about me …. It needs to be all about God.  Please keep me in your prayers.  I will continue to pray for God to help me once and for all let go and let God. . . . I really need you now, your prayers for sure.  A letter would help too.  I’m so disappointed in myself but I can’t dwell on it.  I have got to keep going.  You were right about a lot of things and I am sorry for not listening.  God has a plan for me now.  It’s time to be still and know He is God!!  I love you!” “Dear Joy, Hello! Boy do I miss hearing your words of encouragement.  I am really kicking myself in the butt for thinking God was gonna let me slip by with just a little compromise.  I know better than that.  For some reason I just can’t seem to totally give up my control.  All about me …. It needs to be all about God.  Please keep me in your prayers.  I will continue to pray for God to help me once and for all let go and let God. . . . I really need you now, your prayers for sure.  A letter would help too.  I’m so disappointed in myself but I can’t dwell on it.  I have got to keep going.  You were right about a lot of things and I am sorry for not listening.  God has a plan for me now.  It’s time to be still and know He is God!!  I love you!”

When Melanie returned from prison, I wrote a letter on her behalf and promised I would walk by her side. She was put back on probation and has not let the judge down nor me. I sat in the front row when she received her certification as a welder. This was her life’s dream. Her mother sat next to me. Her children were proud of her although they were still back east. She works on construction sites in town.

My church helped to get her furniture for her apartment and my husband and I delivered it. I have seen her atop of many a building replete with hardhat and workman’s overalls and invariably she shouts down to me, “Hi Joy” as she frantically waves. This tattooed, tough lady (and I use this word loosely), is now helping others stay out of prison and off of drugs. I love her dearly. Her entire apartment is done in a Sponge Bob theme. The majority of inmates have stunted their emotional growth through the use of drugs. They’ve never learned to work through any problem and its associated pain, only to escape it which is what the drugs and alcohol allow them to do. While God has welded the pieces of her life together, she has gained a reputation as a master welder. Glory be to God!

-Written by Joy Corey, a prison ministry volunteer