I picked up my oldest son, Tim, tonight after his drama practice.
We were discussing his day and he was catching me up on his life.
He told me “Guess what? I have a field trip tomorrow to the regional jail, the one that used to be Dad’s jail.” This is for his Government class.
At first I was a little taken aback; surprised; but we pretty quickly got to laughing about it. He said that he has been there enough for visitation that he could lead the tour. And he said he was going to ask any inmates they got to meet if they knew his dad (though that would be highly unlikely because of turnover). I told him the chaplain would remember his dad, if he got to meet him. We laughed about how the stairs were faster than the elevator, we joked about which “visiting rooms” were the best (meaning, the less chewed gum and marked up walls), and we reminisced about making that short trip to visit his father always concluding with ice cream at McDonald’s. We had some good visits in that jail; we had some very hard visits in that jail.
After the laughter died down a bit, he said “You know? I wish dad could have stayed at that jail instead of being transferred to the prison in Jarratt.” This is where his father is currently incarcerated. It’s a full-on prison, with guard dogs and guards that really don’t care, they just want to get you in to visit and back out. It’s obvious that they hate their jobs. And it’s a farther drive. And seems to take a greater toll on my crew.
So now I’m sitting here thinking. I’m listening to Bethany play with the dog, Tim clean the kitchen, and Mark playing a video game. Keli is at work. And I’m reminded once again how blessed I am that my children are doing well, mentally and spiritually. That they have a loving community and church that has made a difference. And God has allowed us to come together closer as a very tight-knit family instead of being torn apart like so many other families with incarcerated parents.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy on my crew. I see it in their eyes as they read letters from their father. I see it in their eyes as they watch other children interact with their father. It hurts them. It makes them sad. But they are tough. And they know who their real Father is–our Father in heaven who loves them more than any earthly father could. And they know they have me and each other.
But I am reminded of all of the children who are not as fortunate as mine. This experience has opened up a world of ministry that is so needed, that I didn’t even know existed. Many children of incarcerated parents end up following in their parents footsteps into crime and imprisonment, because their lives and homes are so destroyed by the crime and the absence of a father (or mother). They need early intervention in the form of loving mentorship and connection–the kind of ministry that can only come from the heart of a church family. What can your church do?
My girl and I are being given the opportunity to minister at a two day “camp” for children of incarcerated parents. Keli will be teaching hula and I will be running a support group for mothers/grandmothers/fathers/caregivers of these children. Please pray with us and for us as we minister this weekend. I’m so proud of my girl for doing this. She wants to be an example–a godly example–for these children. And I want those in the support group to gain both practical help as well as spiritual help for what they are facing. Please pray that God will use us. That both hard and tender hearts will be ministered to.
My friends, it’s still a hard, hard road we’ve been given as a family–my kids and I. The holidays and birthdays are starting to roll around again. Always a challenging time. We are strong, because of your faithful love and prayers for us. But we still hurt–my crew still hurts and never will understand why their father did what he did. It’s unfathomable. It’s unexplainable. It’s deplorable. There are still days of tears and frustration from my crew. Days of remembering. Days of wishing things had never changed. Had never been destroyed.
But we push forward, because we have this community behind us. We push forward because we have each other. And we push forward because our God is faithful.