A Women's Prison Ministry Miracle - A True Story
Julia Tutwiler Women's Prison
. . . 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. (Emphasis added – only verse 43)
Faith Behind Bars
Another Ordinary Saturday?
Matthew 25:31-46, the scripture quoted above, is the scripture we adopted as our mission statement for a women’s prison ministry in which I served. I have always continued to choose to serve in ministries relating to this scripture.
This is my true account of when I served in a women’s prison ministry, and how the Lord showed up mightily on another ordinary Saturday! This would turn out to be anything but another ordinary Saturday.
Those serving in this ministry during the week would show the love of Christ to those women coming out of prison. They would love on them, and not judge them, nor inquire as to why they were in prison. They would pray with them before leaving the ministry. They were given a Promise Bible, in addition to all other sorts of necessities.
This ministry served only women who were coming out of prison with nothing but the clothes on their backs. A lot of the woman had no family support once they left prison. The women, did, however, have to complete a program through Aid to Inmate Mothers, where they would learn a skill to be able to function in society once leaving prison, and prior to coming to this ministry. The dates the women would come to the ministry would be scheduled through Aid to Inmate Mothers.
The women, through this ministry, would be provided with several outfits of gently-used clothing, shoes, purses, accessories, newly purchased under garments, hygiene baskets, a Promise Bible, and they even had very nice shopping bags. The women were provided with outfits for work, church and casual outings. When the women arrived at the ministry (I was told by those serving during the week), were just in awe and so touched that “all of this was for them?” They just could not believe it, as they stated they were honestly expecting just a place where there were bags of clothing, of what no one else wanted, just dumped on the floor, which they would have to dig through. Oh no, that was not the case.
The recidivism rate was very low for those women who actually came through this ministry.
I know the Lord needs “behind the scenes persons” to serve Him, but I did feel kind of left out after listening to the wonderful stories of those persons who served in the ministry during the week, when the women came through the ministry.
This ministry was truly the Lord’s ministry, as we never, I mean never, had a shortage of donations. The best part is that the gently-used clothing that was donated, was not just clothing that someone had worn out and just wanted to throw away. The ministry was blessed beyond measure, as the ministry received the most beautiful clothing, some with tags still on them from the church family, as well as the community.
This ministry was a beautiful ministry of the Lord’s, no doubt. Never, during the whole time I served in that ministry, before we moved, about four years, did we ever get low on donations and have to ask for more. In fact, the ministry was blessed with an overflow, and so the volunteers on Saturday (when I served), could even pick and choose the best of the best for the ministry, and the rest that we did not have room for, but were still exceptional clothing, were donated to Hannah Home (for abused and battered women) in a drop box we had just outside the ministry.
I would have loved to shop there myself, as the gently-used clothing (as I stated before, some with tags still on them) was a lot better than what I actually wear. The volunteers had decorated a building on the church grounds just as if it were a boutique in New York City or something. The walls were painted with beautifully soft, relaxing colors, and the curtains were so delightful. Clothing racks, just like in the best of boutiques, were purchased from stores either moving or going out of business. There were outfits on display racks on the walls, all accessorized. There were jewelry displays. There was a separate room, just for shoes, and purses were displayed on shelves throughout the ministry. Another room was just for newly purchased under garments. There was even those little round plastic size dividers on each rack of clothing, making it easier for the women to go straight to their size.
Those serving in this ministry on Saturdays would put up the donations and get everything ready for the women coming to the ministry during the week. We would make up colorful hygiene baskets, wrapped in clear, but colored, cellophane with curling ribbons, which would contain everything one would need to get ready in the morning, i.e., toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, etc.
The wonderful director of the ministry, one day just happened to call me, as she knew I would be there on Saturday, and she knew I had always expressed to her a desire to be there when the women came through the ministry, but just could not, as I worked during the week. So, the director asked me if I would mind if a woman came to the ministry while I was there. Mind? No way, I was so excited that I could hardly stand it, as I know I would be blessed even more so by this woman coming through this ministry, and I would get to see firsthand how amazing His love is for this particular woman. As it turned out, I did not have clue what I would be a witness to on that “another ordinary Saturday."
The director told me the woman’s name was Sharman (we never knew their last names). I waited anticipating the arrival of Sharman, and then I heard a car pull up, and there she was. So, I enthusiastically opened the door with a big smile on my face and said, “Welcome to . . . Closet!"
Sharman brought her mother, sister, and 11 year old son with her. The very first words out of Sharman’s mouth were, “Do ya’ll have clothes for fat women?” I said, “We do have clothing for larger-sized women. Just follow me, “Sharmaine”. That is how I pronounced her name. She corrected me on the pronunciation of her name by saying, “No, it’s Charmin, you know, like the toilet paper.” And she laughed. “Oh, I am sorry”, I said, “That is a beautiful name.”
So, she followed me back to the rooms we had set up for the larger-sized clothing, and we had adjoined two rooms by carving out a beautiful arch in the wall to connect the rooms. We had taken down the doors to the long closets and had them lit up for easy access too, in addition to the clothing racks. We displayed the colorful hygiene baskets all over the ministry, which added punches of color here and there. There were also large beautiful mirrors and artwork.
Well, not for one second, did it even enter my mind that we may not have Sharman’s size. I saw Sharman go to the rack of dresses hanging in the closets and go to the largest size at the end of the rack. She wore a size 22 Women’s.
She had the most beautiful brown, shoulder-length, curly hair, and her eyes were just the most beautiful sparkling blue color.
I watched, so happily and clueless at that moment, as she looked through the dresses, with her back to me, and then, her arms and shoulders dropped to her side, as if in defeat!!! It was at that instance, I realized we may not have any clothing to fit her!!!
For about a second, I panicked, then I sent up a quick S.O.S. to the Lord, and prayed a really quick prayer, “Oh, sweet Lord, this is Your ministry, help me to bless this woman, please.” All the while, knowing there was no clothing that I could recall in her particular size, as I was the one who worked on Saturdays putting up the clothing. Sure, we had maybe a couple in sizes 1X, 2X, etc., but not any size 22’s!!!
Once I said, “In Jesus’ name,” all of a sudden my right arm just reached out to the right and my hand grabbed an outfit off a big round rack of suits. I did not even have time to turn my head, and I was thinking in my mind, “Why is my arm reaching out like that?” Then, my hand raised the suit right up to my face, in front of my eyes, and guess what my eyes saw, yes, size 22!!! I was stunned, and this was no ordinary run-of-mill suit, as it was such a gorgeous blue designer suit, with the tags still on it (several hundred dollars)! What, where had this outfit come from, I questioned for a moment, then I knew, the Lord had sent an angel just that quick to guide me, and He, the Lord, multiplied the size 22 clothing, as there were not any that I knew of, or even saw prior to this happening!
I quickly told Sharman, look, try this one on, it is your size! We made the women try on the clothing before leaving in the dressing rooms; to ensure they not only fit, but to ensure that another would not miss out, if it did not fit one person, and may fit another.
Sharman tried on the gorgeous outfit, and she looked so beautiful in it, with her blue eyes illuminating while wearing the blue suit. Her son commented, “Mom, you look so beautiful!” This miracle went on for a while, as everything I happened to touch, or was lead to touch, was, guess what, size 22 ---slacks, skirts, tops, whatever, amazing! Every piece of clothing fit her perfectly and all were the very best clothing anyone could have wanted to wear. He is sweet like that, you know!!! He wanted her to have the very best, and that is what she received.
There was one double-breasted kelly-green and navy blue suit, that I showed her, and she said, “No, I have never been able to wear double-breasted jackets,” which she said was due to them not fitting correctly across her chest, as she was a 44DD. I replied (as I knew the Lord had produced this very outfit for her), “Well, why don’t you just try it on, as it is specifically a size 22, your size?” So, she did, and it wound up being her favorite outfit. We found beautiful shoes and handbags to match, with accessories, etc. And even the casual outfits were of the best quality. We found a pair of white, silk-lined Capri pants just in her size, once again. I saw her self-esteem just grow and grow after trying on each outfit. She asked if she could wear one of the casual outfits home and, of course, I told her she could.
She and her family commented that this was the most wonderful ministry that they have ever heard of, and expressed how grateful they all were for this ministry. Then it was time to get her under garments, and we had two new bras in her size. For obvious reasons, we purchased all the undergarments new. Then I gave her the Promise Bible, and I prayed with Sharman and her family before they left. They all wept and wept.
And that is my story of how the Lord once again “multiplied the fish” in a sense on just another ordinary Saturday. I thank my Lord Jesus for blessing me and for blessing Sharman and her family in this miraculous manner. I could not wait to tell my fellow volunteers, who volunteered during the week of how the Lord showed up mightily on that really not so ordinary Saturday to say the least. He is still in the miracle business. "I will remember the deeds of the Lord; Yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds." Psalm 77:11-12
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matthew 20:16
© April 25, 2012 Faith Reaper (all rights reserved).