This is post 3 of 4 about Beauty for Ashes, a prison ministry based out of Kansas City. The first post tells the story of Gina Hanna, founder of Beauty for Ashes. Last week’s post tells about my experience visiting the prison program. Today’s post shares the stories of three women currently going through the Beauty for Ashes prison program. Names have been changed to protect their privacy.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…
Miriam – Addicted to God
Miriam learned about Beauty for Ashes through a paper in a trash can. She was walking by when she noticed the program’s application form in the trash and picked it up. Thankfully, she decided to fill it out and has been part of Beauty for Ashes ever since.
Miriam’s story isn’t what many people might expect. At 30, she was happily married with five kids. But her parents had divorced when she was 20, and since then, she had been questioning herself, questioning her happiness, and wondering if she was really where she should be. Drugs took her down the wrong slope and landed her in prison a total of six times.
Then she found Beauty for Ashes, and a change began. “I turned from one drug to another drug – to God,” she said.
Now, addicted to God, she says people can see the change in her. “They’ll look at my prison ID and say, ‘Is this you?’”
Redemption has changed more than Miriam’s physical appearance. She has gotten closer to her adult children and has learned to forgive herself for the pain she caused herself and her family. A long-time cosmetologist, she dreams of teaching cosmetology once she gets out of prison.
When writing about the core values of Beauty for Ashes, Miriam said, “Many of us have been taught, in one way or another, that we were no good…. Here at Beauty for Ashes, as we learn to see ourselves as God sees us, much of the pain falls away. And we learn to love. Love shown through caring people helps us want to change.”
… to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…
Jessica – Discovering the Truth
Raised as a “Bapticost,” Jessica has been familiar with God and church her whole life. Though her parents never went to church, she went with her grandparents. For her, church was a safe place, away from her father’s mood swings and the molestation from her great-grandfather.
At 16, she got married in order to get away from home. Since then, however, she has been married four other times. “Basically, each guy was a different version of my dad,” she explained.
Between age 17 and 19, Jessica was in multiple car wrecks, and at 23, she began taking prescription pills to help with the pain from the accidents. Soon, she wasn’t taking them just for the pain but because she had become addicted to them.
When she was 26, she and her husband were driving to California and ran out of pills. Desperate for a fix, they decided to rob a pharmacy to get more. She laughs a little when she remembers how they prayed before robbing the pharmacy that no one would get hurt. “Even in the worst of it, I knew God was there,” she noted.
Currently, Jessica has been in prison for 6 ½ years and has 2 more years left. She entered the Beauty for Ashes program in 2012. “Right away, I knew this was where I needed to be.” She dove into the classes and began to find healing for the emotional hurt and pain in her life.
Today, she teaches many of the Beauty for Ashes classes and leads the sign language choir. She’s not sure what she will do once she gets out of prison, but lately, she has felt an increased calling to mission work and has a particular passion for the homeless and people living in poverty. “I’m always for the underdog – it’s the type of person I’m drawn to.”
Regardless of what the future holds, Jessica is not afraid. “Once you know the truth, it’s hard to turn away from it…. I’m a change person – I welcome change.”
…They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations…
Terry – Forgetting What is Behind
“I could go on and on about the bad things in my past,” Terry said. “I was molested, raped, beaten…but the thing is, I’ve forgotten a lot of that stuff now.”
Terry was saved young, but she had a faulty view of God until 2009. That year, she learned she had cervical cancer. She was already in prison at the time and found out about Inner Change Fellowship Initiative, the pre-cursor to Beauty for Ashes. Through that program, she began to get to know God better. “Whatever I would hand him, he would take,” she said. “And my spirit got stronger and stronger.”
She returned to the doctor six months later, and the cancer was gone. The doctor was confused. When she told him it was God who had healed her, all he could say was “Must have been.”
Since 2009, Terry has seen God begin to restore all areas of her life. She has experienced reconciliation with her father, learned to forgive the man who raped her, moved past the shyness that kept her from bonding with others, and begun to forget the details of her abuse. Because of the abuse, she has struggled with homosexuality, but today, she sees that God may be able to use her to minister to others with a similar struggle.
“God pours his love on our hearts so that we can pour it out on others without prejudice,” Terry said. “God is way more powerful than any sin.”
…Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.” Isaiah 61:1-6