I can’t count the number of times I was asked before, “Why them? They are there (in prison) for a reason.”
Each time I answer, it takes me back to my conversation with my cousin, Janice, about a decade ago, when she shared with me how much she would like to give hope to the inmates of the Correctional Institute for Women (CIW). It was just this indescribable desire that she has to comfort those who are in the dark but would like to find light. She told me that the only way for her to completely explain that deep longing to help is for me to go with her in one of her visits. So I did.
I’m blessed enough to grow up exposed to charity works, both for school and at home with my family. But my first visit to the CIW was probably one of the most emotional outreaches I’ve ever been to. Spending an afternoon with women who have different reasons for being imprisoned, most of them mothers who suffer loneliness of being abandoned and disrespected by their families, I really took the time to listen to them. I can still remember vividly the skit they played as a way of introducing themselves, portraying the many different lives of the inmates. How they were outside, how they got in, how they felt in the first few days… how being unable to support their family breaks their hearts… and how being alone helped find God.
After that visit, I joined ate Janice in founding the Saving Grace Project, the prison outreach program of Joseph Feeding Mission. We support a large group of inmates in the CIW and Bilibid Prison by providing their basic necessities (soap, shampoo, toothbrush & toothpaste, sanitary pads for women, laundry soap, medicine and additional food supply). But more than the material supplies, Saving Grace provides the inmates something deeper and much more needed: H O P E.
With HOPE, they learn to forgive themselves and seek the forgiveness of others. With HOPE, they find reasons to be good to themselves and be good to others. With HOPE, these inmates find a reason to live.
Saving Grace means having unmerited favor. Favor given not because we deserve it, but simply because God loves us. All of us need this, all the time, everywhere. Maybe some more than the others, but no matter what your journey is, I’m sure you need grace. I’m sure you need to know how much God loves you. The beauty in God’s grace is that it’s available everywhere… In fact, you can be the source of someone’s grace.
You can be a soul’s saving grace, even in the smallest gesture. You can change lives.
Next year, the Saving Grace Project will be celebrating its 10th Anniversary. Ten years. It’s amazing how the “grace” we give to the CIW and Bilibid inmates never seem to run out. And it all started with one person, my cousin’s desire to give hope and light to those who are in the dark.