I knew I had to move past my own struggles…

After going through a particularly painful time in my life, I knew it was time to refocus.  I needed to get my mind off my own struggles and invest in others and began asking God where He could use me.  About that time I learned about the ministry of Changed Choices.  Though I had no prior experience with prisons or incarceration, I have always had a heart for women so Changed Choices seemed like the perfect ministry in which to serve.  My first role was to become a card writer.  Each month, I was given a list of 12-15 names and addresses of Changed Choices clients.  As I prayed about how to bless and encourage the women, God reminded me we’re so much more alike than different.  We need to be loved and cared for.  We have fears, doubts, disappointments, and losses.  I didn’t need to know their individual stories…just offer them the encouragement, prayers and love of Good that I needed too.

Later, I was asked to be a “pen pal” which involved a one on one investment into the life of a client.  How excited I was to receive the name of my new pen pal: Bonita!  We began corresponding over eight years ago.  She was always positive and upbeat, eagerly reading her Bible and other inspirational books.  As a reader myself, we shared good books and discoveries of Bible truths that kept us both encouraged.  We learned we were both single women with three children.  We became first time grandmothers within months of each other.  She never forgot to ask about prayer requests I shared with her.  Her faith, wisdom and resilience inspired me!  We mentored each other!

Bonita’s release from prison was scheduled for January 2021.  I was excited over the opportunity to meet her one day.  This past July, I received my card writers list.  I saw Bonita’s and noticed she had a new address listed because she received early release due to COVID.  I could hardly contain my joy and quickly shot off a letter giving her my phone number and encouraging her to call me.  One day, I noticed an unfamiliar number pop up on my phone and let it go to voicemail.  A few days later, I almost deleted the message but decided to take a quick listen.  “Hi Jean, this is Bonita.”  My eyes filled with tears!  After eight years, I was overjoyed to hear her voice!  (Her strong southern accent, so similar to my own, made me smile!)

We talked a couple of times and made plans to visit.  The Saturday morning we were to meet, I could hardly wait to see her face to face!  We talked nonstop and prayed before parting.  In eight years, two discouraged women have made a lot of progress!  We are both free from our own prisons, we’ve encouraged each other and formed a lasting friendship.

As I drove home I thought, my excitement at finally seeing Bonita face to face is a little foretaste of the excitement we will feel when we finally see Jesus face to face!  Bonita and I have experienced what God had in mind when He gave Ruth Snyder the vision for the healing work of Changed Choices!  Bonita and I are so grateful!

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