Last year we shared with you in our Spring Newsletter that we were launching two new programs called ‘Steps to Employment’ and ‘Faith and Money’ to help our students re-integrate back into society. In the ‘Steps to Employment’ program, which they take before they leave prison, students learn how to write resumes, develop interview skills, and discover their strengths. In the ‘Faith and Money’ program, they learn some basic money management skills on how to give and save more, as well as preventing the destructive effects of unmanageable debt.
Last December, Liana shared her story about how these programs helped her successfully re-integrate into society after she was released on parole. We’re sharing part of that story here. When Liana was sent to prison, she realized she had nothing to lose by “trying” God. This is what happened next.
As my prison journey started, Psalms 3 and 23 helped me get through the process. Then I started to pick up Bible studies. I was hooked! God had a hold on me, and I went for every study possible. I did other Bible studies, and then I was introduced to Crossroads.
Crossroads included daily meditations, and when you received your lesson back, you received a letter of encouragement. The feedback and questions from mentors challenges you to dig for a deeper understanding of God’s Word.
Philippians 4:13 assures me that I can face anything through Christ who gives me strength. In 2011, I surrendered myself completely, put God first, and let everything else follow. My life changed. I was finally healing for the first time in my life, and my masks were finally coming off. I was changing!
As my parole date approached, Crossroads brought a new program into my prison called Steps to Employment. I was starting to think about my future beyond the prison walls, and I realized I needed this course. I had been out of the workplace for a long time, and things had certainly changed.
On our first night, I met Susan* and her friends, the people who were leading my program. They are a beautiful group! We started each session in prayer and worship. They took their time with us, understanding that the group had been incarcerated 10+ years.
The topics were amazing and helped us overcome our anxiety. We discussed motivation, overcoming obstacles, discovering our strengths, how to write a resumé, prepping for interviews, and getting ready for work. We had been out of society for a long period of time. This course filled in the gaps.
I thought the program was scary, but everybody reassured me. Their patience and kindness helped to build up my confidence, at a time in my life where my self-worth was all but gone.
In our third session, we had cards with strengths written on them. We had to share whichever cards best described the qualities that we saw in each other. To my disbelief, I received several qualities that I never noticed in myself. But others in the group had! The others said I was encouraging, supportive, leadership, patient, confident, honest and so many other kind things. I was elated to think others saw this in me!
This program prepared me for my future and my success outside of prison. After serving twelve and a half years inside, I was going for parole. Eleven people came out who were not in favour of my release. This Scripture came to me:
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
(Exodus 14: 13-14)
After an intense five hour hearing, I received my parole. This made me strive for a future. I received a job within a month of my release. I was confident. I knew my strengths, and I knew I had so many people in my corner.
Every day I am a success! By putting God first, everything else will follow. I know He is not done with me yet because of the people He has put in my life. Thank you.
After a pilot phase, we’re now seeing the results of this new course. Liana’s story deeply moved us, and her faith and work ethic is inspiring. We can see the impact these programs have and plan on launching them in more prisons over the coming months.
* Name changed for privacy.