I woke up one morning to find a policeman at the end of our bed, armed and holding a baton. The next 24 hours was a blur as they questioned our then 22-year-old son, David*, about a girl he was seeing. Turns out she was 14.
We were a typical suburban family raising two kids and the only connection we had with the wrong side of the law were speeding fines. Prison only affected those who were uneducated, came from violent families with a long history of crime and probably deserved to be locked away. That was my thoughtless, ill-informed and dispassionate view. I did not think of them as human beings who made a mistake and who were sons, daughters, mothers, fathers of someone else. I did not spare a thought that whole families were shattered. I did not think of them at all. Until our son confessed and was charged.
My world crumbled, David’s sister could not continue with her studies and his dad kept us together.
We visited our son in prison every week. We talked, we nodded to familiar faces who were also regular visitors. The guards and prisoners who remembered our faces, smiled and said G’Day. I began to see sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, joy and pain, laughter, togetherness, in that visitors room sharing precious time, huddled close or walking laps around the small yard, hand in hand. Lining up to get hot chips and Coke. I wasn’t the only one who suffered, the only one in pain in that room! I was still angry and lost but I began to feel an overwhelming compassion and the desire to serve my fellow travelers in the room.
Prison Fellowship gave me a safe place to pray with volunteers, pastors and other compassionate people and bit by bit, I am able to tell my story with less shame and guilt.
I have been able to share my story with other mothers, with sons or daughters in prison through Prison Fellowship’s Family Support. Every time I comfort and encourage a mother, I feel a layer of shame and pain peel away from me so when they thank me, I say, “No, thank-you!”.
I prayed and berated God at the same time, but somehow, He found ways to speak to my heart; He had plans for us. I knew the skills I had were His gifts to me and I knew that I was to use it to serve. He led me back to studies and I now work with prisoners and their families whenever I have the opportunity. I pray that He will also grace our son with the gifts he has, to serve Him.
*Names have been changed
Romans 12: 6-8
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.