I left work on a Thursday in April and my words out the door were, “I will see you when I get back from prison!” Not the words you would ever expect to hear me say and to be smiling and joyful while saying it just did not match up with the weight of the words. For those that heard the words but did not know the story behind it, there was a really awesome event about to happen and I was going to be a part of it. Yes I was headed to prison!
On April 11th, Awana Lifeline had their first Returning Hearts Celebration in the state of Illinois and I was blessed to be a part of it. Not only was it the first in Illinois it was the first women's facility to have a Returning Hearts Celebration. So before I explain what Returning Hearts is I want to explain a little of what Awana Lifeline does and why. Awana is a Christian children’s ministry and they are very concerned about the hearts and lives of children. Statistically speaking if a child has a parent that is incarcerated, odds are that child will spend time in jail as well. Lifeline’s mission is to try and break this cycle of seeing entire families in prison.
There is a bible study that the incarcerated moms take called Hannah’s Gift. The male inmates take a bible study called Malachi Dads. The Bible studies really dig deep into relationships and teach them how to be a godly parent and how to build a relationship with their children. The Returning Hearts Celebration takes place after they graduate from the program. Awana Lifeline runs a full blown fun fair for the children of the incarcerated parents and it is held within the prison walls. The parents get to spend the day with their children and the most important part of the whole event is the parent has time to spend talking with their children and asking for forgiveness. It is a day of reconciliation between inmate parents and their children. These children harbor many hurts and pains and they need to begin the process of talking through them with their parent. The healing cannot begin until the parent had apologized to the child and asked for forgiveness. Our hope and vision is to teach these children to turn from the path that may be destine to be on (headed toward a life of crime and prison like their family members) and to instead live godly lives. We are breaking the cycle of children following their parents into the jail system. It was such an honor to be part of this program and to see lives impacted and changed forever. If you would like more information please visit http://awanalifeline.org/ I think I will be headed back to prison again soon!
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