Those were the numbers we heard being called out…the numbers of days sober. The back of one of their shirts said, “There is hope after dope.”
Most of the women were facing jail time. Most of them had children they had either abandoned or had been taken away from them. Most of them thought that they were out of chances. Instead, they were offered a choice. They could voluntarily enter into a new kind of rehabilitation program or go to jail. They chose the 2-year program.
They must stay sober and meet a variety of other requirements to stay in the program. If they do these things, they are afforded opportunities for schooling and jobs and independent living.
Every Thursday the women come together in a judge’s courtroom and share what’s been happening. It was very much like a small group church meeting – but more real and raw and powerful.
The first question for this group was, “How are you feeling?” The answers came, “so grateful”, “happy”, “loved”, “protected”, “thankful”, “that I have choices”, “part of something bigger”. One woman admitted she was really struggling and was given the floor to openly discuss her issues.
After she shared, one by one the others in the group showed her incredible tenderness, mercy, and love. “You can do this! You don’t need dope to cope. We’ll be strong for you when you can’t be. We’ll help you walk through.”
This struggling woman said something I”ll ever forget, “Whatever I do next in my life, it’s got to be worth surviving what I’ve gone through.” She has a dream for something more…
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18
Then a young woman walked in wearing a prison uniform and shekels. The judge greeted her with a look that melted my heart. It reminded me of the look the father must have given his prodigal son when he returned. He told her how marvelous she looked now three months sober. He remembered he had been afraid for her life the night she went into custody because she was so skinny and pale.
The judge spoke to her with grace and respect. Although she stood there in shekels, he treated her in a way that retained her dignity. I’m guessing that most of the women had not been treated with much respect in their lives.
Many women spoke truth to the young lady in the shekels. It’s was humbling to watch the love being poured over her. They said, “We will believe in you until you can believe in you.”
Sometimes, we need others to believe in our dreams when
we aren’t strong enough to believe for ourselves.
All of these women have dreams. Dreams of hope. Dreams of dignity. Dreams of a better life with their children. And they need to believe in each other to make it.
Although this is not a Christ-based program – Jesus was bursting out all over that small courtroom. I felt honored to be there – to be invited to witness this incredible example of grace, mercy, and redemption.
As we were making our way out, I heard one woman say, “I’m just so grateful. God continues to shower me with love, although I don’t know why. I don’t even care why anymore. I just take it.”
This was part of a program in the Ohio court system. Read more here…
Our connection was through Doma – see more of this story here…