Tag Archive: Incarceration


so yes, i thought CCDA stood for ‘Christian Community something something’ but after last nite’s session and God speaking to me after last nite’s section and just the general worship vibes here and then this morning’s session, i have to conclude that at least one of the C’s has to stand for ‘cry’ – i have been on the edge of emotion for these last powerful 24 hours and wish all of you could have been at this last session with me cos words are going to horribly fail to convey much of what happened.

Lisa introduced the session by mentioning a book she had recently read called ‘Everybody poops’ which sums up so much and which i’ve been saying for years [your poo is the same colour as mine, whichever power-hungry attention-seeking celebrity you are] and was a great way to level the playing field.

today’s focus was young leaders and specifically emerging marginalised leaders so we had mentors and young people on stage as a panel and they shared testimonies and were asked some questions. and after last nite’s proclamation that i pretty much mostly only stand up for Jesus, i was the first one on my feet after Daniel who has cerebral palsy finished his speech… yes, speech, a guy who battles to speak coherently introduced by a beautiful spirited african american woman who began by telling us to “Stop what you’re doing and listen!” – put your pens down and your cellphones away and just concentrate and you will begin to understand what Daniel, who struggles to speak in a way we can clearly understand, is going to share with us.

and it was so completely powerful, and i definitely needed the introduction that called me to listen and validated his voice as someone speaking for the physically challenged [i am so over PC’ness and can never remember which term or label is okay so sorry to whoever i may have offended if i did but get your head out your ass and can we just see people already – enough with the labels! and the constant microscopic dismembering of them. rant over.] but i stopped and listen and heard [a lot, not all, but a lot] of what he had to share and to hear Daniel talk about his ministry and his mission and his gifting and how he takes opportunities – flip it just blew me away [i later wrote in my notes ‘i want to be a person who really listens to people’ – i think i am a fairly decent listener of people but i don’t know that i would have ever recognised that Daniel even had a valid voice – largely cos of my fear of what if i don’t understand, what if this becomes awkward or embarrassing? you know what? so what? work through the awkward and embarrassing together]

so yes, i stood up and applauded loudly and was deeply moved by him, and the lady that so lovingly introduced him and helped validate or give foundation or invitation to his voice… 

and then they followed it up with this young woman [well young to mid thirties maybe] whose name i missed who started by saying a picture often speaks 1000 words and showed five pictures of herself looking pretty hectic which i only realised later were her five conviction police line-up pictures. She had gone to jail five times for stealing and had done a bunch of drugs “I spent 20 years with a needle in my arm” and was just a complete mess, until someone took a chance on her and made her head of Restorative Justice in some organisation and when she said she had no clue how to do it, her mentor responded with ‘learn. google it. read. figure it out.’

she is now the director of Restorative Justice and two semesters away from getting her degree and about to be married in January – a whole bunch of stuff she thought she would never be able to do because of who she was and what she’d done and the addictions she had been involved with and in.

she shared how at one point she used to live on the second floor of a building opposite a church and on Sundays she would sit on the balcony with a beer and look at all the pretty people going off to church and she wanted to cross the street and go with them: “I didn’t know how to cross that street. I just wanted to get across that street!”

she reminded us that “you’re dealing with a lot of young people who don’t really believe in themselves” [echoing the Unconditional Love we were reminded about last nite]

she told us that when she met her fiance who was brought up in a Christian home and had a faith background he didn’t want to know about her past in terms of letting it define who she was but was more interested in who she was now and who she was going to be.

She finished off by telling us that if we see someone in the street we should extend the hand and offer to try to lift them up. It might be hard for them. It might be hard for you. But just do it. Cos that’s what we’re about, right? Being our brother’s keeper? 

i finished the session by writing this in my notes: I want to stop being afraid of people I can love/help because I might “do it wrong” or not be able to understand them or know how to help.

man, this account doesn’t even start to capture today at all. just imagine a really emotional and really profound experience of viewing lives that had been touched and changed by other people who took the time [and often it wasn’t easy and often the stories don’t end like these ones] and energy to build into their lives – to love them and believe in them and offer them an opportunity to live and thrive and have another chance at being a world transforming person.

every person has value. do we see it? 

[To see the start of this series of talk summaries and moments, click here]

so this morning Halle Berry [well not quite, Michelle someone, but she looked a bunch like Halle… no, I’m not saying that the speaker looked like Halle which if you say it out loud is a  lot more humourful but moving on] gave a standing ovation worthy [not from me cos great amazing speech and all but i tend to keep my standing for Jesus unless something really does something different to me] talk on the topic of incarceration and it really was incredibly good and gave a lot of insight and [shocking] information on the topic but for most of the talk i was sitting there thinking internally ‘okay i get it – we have a big bad bag of smelly poo here – i really get it – but please don’t leave me with a big bad smelly bag of poo – tell me something i can do about it’ – and towards the end she did a little bit but then there was a panel afterwards [with her on it] that dug a little bit deeper and got a little bit more practical and story-full on the what we can do aspect [although she called for a movement, so pretty much something huge is needed cos the issue is so flippen smelly-bag-of-poo big and bad!] but ja quite a heavy topic. i didn’t take a lot of notes cos it was needing to be munched as a whole rather than appreciated as sound bytes, but did get a few thoughts:

# Charity is not enough. We have to work for justice!

# We have to take on the system.

# There needs to be [and I’ve thought this for years] a shift from a punitive approach when it comes to incarceration to a more compassionate and restorative approach! 

The system is the way it is… but it’s not the way it has to be… Such a powerful statement which a group or tribe or nation need to take on for it to gain much momentum [o a congregation, denomination, fraternal or city-wide collection of church congregations i guess]

# I liked this one – we have to care for the victim… AND the perpetrator AND the community… 

Michelle told a story of speaking in a church and saying “We’re all sinners” and everyone cheered… and then a little later she said “We’re all criminals” and there was silence… [but think about it – speeding, pirating, tax stuff etc etc – a large majority of us have committed criminal acts] so there seems to be this huge aspect of shame linked to being a criminal or even having that in the past…

What hit me was what someone commented to her: “How come we are so eager to admit we violate God’s laws, but shamed when it comes to mans.” Oof, right between the eyes!

Yeah. A lot of work to be done here. And going to take a concerted effort from a unified group of people and groups. So good to hear from some people on the panel who are working with prisoners, and former prisoners in various ways. Some inspiring people.

[For most powerful samplings of this evening click here]

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