Rejoice "Transforming" Ministries
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again. Rejoice! Philippians 4:4
P.O.Box 10978 Jacksonville, Florida 32247-0978
Rejoice Transforming Ministries 2011 Writing Contest Winners
Click a selection below to read the contest winner's story
For over ten years I’ve searched the world for answers only to lose myself and gain more confusion. About 2 ½ months ago I tried to commit suicide. I was miserable and I refused to eat, cut myself and tied things around my neck. I even ended up on self-harm observation four times within two weeks. Never once did I do these things for attention. I was truly and deeply hurt by a failed relationship.
I am not one to blame others for my actions nor am I the type of person to use my past as crutch. However, due to several experiences with sexual abuse, I fell into homosexuality at an extremely young age. I’ve always known Jesus, but He hasn’t always been my Father and Friend.
As I sat in the silence of my room, I heard voices of the people in my past. Those I hurt, the ones who hurt me and even those who I thought I had forgiven. I felt all hope was lost. I constantly held myself because I felt if I let go I would truly fall apart. I started to rebel against the officers, act out in ways I’ve never done and push away the people who had stuck by me through all of my past foolishness. I wanted out of prison. I’m serving a ten year mandatory sentence and I knew there was no chance of an early release so the best way out for me was through death.
As I said, I was hurting and angry at the same time. I’m talking hot! I heard my ex laughing, saw her smile and watched her interact with people as if she didn’t have a care in the world and it broke me. I prayed to God to restore my relationship but it never happened. I knew I was wrong to ask God to fix something that is an abomination to Him but I was desperate. I cried so many nights until my tears became a permanent stain on my cheeks. Finally I had enough. I decided to kill myself so I swallowed a battery in hopes that the acid would eat away at my insides. I didn’t want a peaceful death because I wanted to do to myself what others have so freely done to me all my life.
I was taken to the hospital where I stayed four days. Although I was scared because the battery had gotten stuck in my right colon, I still wanted to die. As I sat shackled to the bed, I started to think about my life and all the people who I’ve hurt, but my mind was still on my ex. I wanted her to feel guilty for leaving me, for being cold, not being there for me in my time of need and most of all I wanted her to realize that losing me would be forever. I felt my pain was inevitable so I fell asleep that night with a heavy heart.
The next day I was watching some music videos when an officer came on for a shift change. I was deeply into the T.V. because it has been over four years since I’ve seen any and I wanted to at least enjoy what I thought would be my last days. As the officer sat down, he started humming a familiar Christian song. I tried so hard to ignore him but yet my spirit pushed me to turn off the T.V. I didn’t want to cry, but I felt the tears sting my eyes and that’s when he spoke his first words. “I wasn’t going to tell you this, but you’re not going to die and God loves you,” he said. I didn’t want to allow him to see my weakness but I couldn’t withhold my tears.
He stood up and walked to the dresser and retrieved a little black Bible. We talked for a long time and He led me to John 14:1. “Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” I was amazed. I know the Bible, but I felt that verse was written especially for me.
He also led me to Acts 26:17-18 and told me to read it out loud. “I will deliver you from the Jewish people as well as from the Gentiles to whom I now send you to open their eyes in order to turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God that they may receive forgiveness of sin and inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”
God was speaking to me through this man and I was hungry for more. I told him I wanted to be saved and he reassured me that because I had already asked God into my life that I didn’t have to do it again. I’d only have to ask for forgiveness and rededicate my life to the Lord. That night I prayed and read the Bible until I fell asleep.
The next morning, I was taken to get surgery to remove the battery. I was put to sleep and the battery was removed without any problems.
As I was riding the van back to the institution, I asked the Lord to give me strength. I knew it would be hard to see my ex and face all the people who looked down on me and those I had hurt. But when I came back, I was taken to another quad. Thank God.
It’s been over 2 ½ months and I am doing good. I am studying my Word and staying away from the gay lifestyle. It hasn’t been easy and I have back-slided many times, but all in all, I am standing firm in the Bible. The Word says, “Watch as well as pray so that you do not fall into temptation for the spirit is willing but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) I now know that a relationship with a woman will never work because it isn’t of God.
I have been in close management for almost 5 years now and I thought I’d never get out but as the months pass I am progressing forward. My godmother, Debra, has given me hope with her encouraging letters and my sister M is also studying with me. The power of prayer is wonderful and I am growing more every day. I’ve received God along with the Holy Spirit and my life is, and has, changed. Praise God.
When I gave my troubled heart to Jesus, my life began to change.
“And Ruth said, ‘Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thou people shall be my people, and thy God my God; where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part the and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
So many times in my life I have said, ‘I don’t’ need anyone. I can do it all on my own.’ Yet, I was living a lonely miserable existence. I made bad decisions that not only cause me shame but also the ones that love me as well. I have read the book of Ruth over and over, simply because it was a beautiful story of love and friendship. I didn’t know God was trying to open my eyes to a great truth.
Ruth 1:16-17 expresses the need for true friendship, commitment and loyalty. Ruth shows that she knew her limitations as a mere human and that we all need someone and it doesn’t always have to be a blood relation.
A while back, I was sinking in my drug addiction and I felt no one understood the torment of something controlling your mind and body. My mother has never had to deal with something so serious. I wanted to be clean so bad. I wanted to be a mother, a daughter and a sister, but drugs became my all.
I met the grandmother of one of my daughters’ friends. It seems we both knew instantly that we were placed in each other’s path for a reason. She was an ex-addict who knew the pull of drugs. She told me when I was right and when I was wrong. She became a mother figure in the sense that I needed. She helped me turn it all over to God and even though I’m in prison now, God is still in possession of my troubled heart. He used Ms. Jackie to help me in ways that my fleshly mother never could. And nothing but death will ever take the place she has in my heart.
God also showed me not only through Ruth and Naomi, but also through Jonathan and David that He will send people into our lives that will help usher us into our destiny, and to simply be a shoulder to lean on. The Bible says in 1 Samuel 18:1, “And it came to pass, when he made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan love him as his own soul.”
Jonathan saw that the hand of God was upon David. Jonathan also believed in David’s destiny. Jonathan stood up to his own father because he saw the spirit of God upon David. In the beginning, I didn’t see the spiritual meaning in these biographies because I was reading in the flesh, but when I opened my heart to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, my spiritual eyes were also opened.
At times I may not have a ‘fleshly’ friend to stand behind me or stand up for me like Jonathan did for David, or even to stand with me through the good and the bad. God lets me know He is my friend, my confidant, my mother, my lover, my Everything. He has truly shown me that bringing my troubled hear to Him was the best thing I have ever done. He is truly my El Shaddai, My God Almighty.
When I stopped battling for love and acceptance from the world, He told me “to be in the world but not of the world.” John 17:15 This taught me that through all the hurt, pain, disappointments, shame and guilt that He loves me and there is nothing I have done or will do that He won’t forgive. He let me know this in Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”
God knew me and all the faults and failures that makes me who I am before I was even born. I prayed and asked God to send me someone. I need a friend to talk to. I prayed and told Him I was about to explode from holding so much in. I told Him in my prayers that I was tired of feeling alone. And guess what He sent me to? Matthew 11:28-30.
“Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
To everyone who feels alone and empty; for those who are searching for love and acceptance; give your troubled hear to Jesus and watch your life begin to change. Jesus is our all and all. His Word says in Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their labour.”
Remember to put your total trust in God. He will be your friend and anything else you need. I know from experience that God will give you peace no matter the situation or circumstance.
When I gave my troubled heart to Jesus, my life began to change.
I think of my life much like that of a caterpillar in a cocoon that began to be transformed the day I met my friend whose name is Jesus Christ. Much like the process of transformation of the caterpillar to a butterfly, the longer I spent studying God’s Word and surrounding myself by positive people, the more I began to see the changes happening right before my eyes. I needed this specific amount of time to be confined behind the walls of Lowell Correctional Institution to get to know Jesus and learn how, if I abide in His Word, He will abide in me.
After I rededicated my life to Jesus 22 months ago, I [realized I] had a family member that I needed to forgive and repair my relationship with. I suffered many years of sexual abuse at the hands of my brother. I decided in November 2009 to finally forgive him for the sins that he committed against me. I needed to separate his sins from him and forgive him.
The love I have for Jesus and hope for my future allowed me to not hold this grudge against him so I decided to, with God’s help, write him a letter forgiving him for all those things that he had done to me as a little girl. In response to my forgiveness letter, I received a letter from him telling me that he was sorry and that he had finally surrendered his life to the Lord. My courage and love for Jesus helped my brother to get his life right with Jesus. I give God all the glory for giving me strength to forgive. I hold on to Philippians 4:13, “ I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Ever since that letter I have had numerous correspondence from my brother and after all these years, I now have a relationship with my 15-year-old niece that I hadn’t talked to in 13 years. I thank God for this renewed relationship with my brother and his family.
Trusting and relying on God for all thins has always been difficult for me. One scripture that I continually meditate on is Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and a hope.” So when bad things happen I just know they are not God’s doing and that helps me to trust and rely upon Him just that much more; and that brings victory into my life daily.
When I was first transferred to Modality here on the Main Unit, I asked God, ‘Why?’ My relationship with Him has become stronger and more real to me every day. This program of recovery helps me deal with problems I have and allows me to dig down deep to the root.
God knew what He was doing when he brought me here. I have learned to deal with emotions and feelings now that I am 7 years and 26 days sober. I no longer make excuses for my negative behavior. I have actively learned how to change the way I deal with people and situations in my daily life. I now have the necessary tools to maintain my continuous sobriety and to continue to become a positive role model for my son and daughter. I am proud to be called their mom and I am so thankful God gave me another chance to get my life right. That is why Proverbs 23:12 is so important to me. It says, “Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” The program of Modality gave me all the instruction and knowledge to continue to want to say sober to completely transform my life to what it is today.
I thank God for giving me this opportunity of correction and wouldn’t change my prison sentence for anything. This sentence of correction has helped me continue becoming the woman of God and mother that God has called me to be. I glorify God and praise Him in all things every day. Thank you, Jesus, for my life!
When I gave my troubled heart to Jesus, my life began to change.
The night before my sentencing hearing, I fasted and I prayed. I also read the entire book of Isaiah. I thought for sure that the Lord would show me mercy and I would be released, but “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8)
When the judge pronounce, ‘Sylvia B., you are hereby sentenced to 15 years in the Florida State Penitentiary for Women,’ my knees buckled and as I was being helped back to the holding cell in shock, the question kept going through my mind, ‘Why, Lord? Why?’
When I got back to the holding cell, there was no one there. I was alone for the first time in 17 months. I wanted to scream, to cry and to rage against the injustice of it all. What I did though was drop to my knees and this is exactly what I prayed: ‘Dear Lord, I don’t really want to do this, but thank you.’ I then began to thank Him and praise Him for everything – who He is and what He means to me: mercy, love and forgiveness. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
It wasn’t until I was here at Lowell 12 days that the reality of my sentence hit me. I was sitting on the steps behind C-dorm when I finally broke down. I couldn’t imagine doing one more day, let alone the next 15 years. “In my distress, I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.” (Psalms 18:6a) When I was finished, I added, ‘Okay Lord, I’ll do it Your way, but you gotta provide for me,’ “and from His temple He heard my voice; my cry came before Him, into His ears.” (Psalm 18:6b)
One month to the day that I walked on this compound, I started working in the garment factory. I don’t live large, but by giving Jesus all of my troubles, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13)
As I write this letter to you, my sisters, I have just four months to complete my sentence. My purpose (in writing you) is that you “may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that you may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that you may know the mystery of God, namely Christ.” (Colossians 2:2)
If you are discouraged right now, depressed about your time or worried about your family at home, I want you to know that Jesus loves you. He’s waiting to hear from you. He did it for me and I know that He’ll do it for you too. “My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
When I gave my troubled heart to Jesus, my life began to change.
Jesus and His mysterious ways just gives me chills and makes my heart cry out with joy and thanksgiving.
I was the type of person that had no fear, care or worries in life. I lived my life how I wanted. I was mad at God for the death of my sister, Erica. The Bible speaks of Him being a jealous God and put no one before Him, and I believed that’s what my situation was about when He took her life.
One night, I was feeling down, so I decided to play some spiritual music. A song by Yalonda Adams was playing, “Open My Heart.” That song really hit home because I just started crying and talking aloud to God. ‘Jesus, please help me. I’m sorry. I need You. Forgive me.’ By the end of the song, I had accepted Jesus back into my life.
Well, I guess the devil wasn’t happy with me for doing that. I had bad things occurring left and right, but I still stood strong and kept my faith even when the enemy tried to take my life.
My boyfriend at the time and I had broke down close by where we lived, so he decided to walk me home and go back and wait for Triple A to come. Before crossing the street [we] looked to see [if there] were any cars coming but there weren’t because of a red light, so we started crossing. Chuck looked at me and yelled, ‘Baby, hurry up. The light changed,’ and [he] kept running. By the time I reached the middle of the road, I fell. Every time I tried to get up, I fell down like something was literally holding me to the road. The cars were still coming. I yelled for Chuck, ‘Help me.’ Chuck just stood there motionless in shock. I kept trying to get up and started say Psalms 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
The man driving the car must have seen me from a distance because he tried to step on [his] brakes a long distance away but his car wouldn’t stop; it just slid towards me. I was starting to get really sacred, so I just started saying Psalms 91, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadows of the Almighty.”
I started crying but kept saying Psalm 91 and by the time I finished saying “thou shall not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day,” the car had come to a complete stop about ten feet in front of me. I was able to get up without falling and the driver of the care got out of his car trying to apologize. All I could do was say Matthew 21:22, “And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive.” I love you Lord with all my heart. He may not be there when you want him, but he’s always there on time.
I remember when I was living with my baby’s daddy, Ronnie, and, all of the sudden, I just up and got really sick. I would go to the hospital and they would run all kinds of tests, even keep me over night to see a specialist and still would find nothing wrong. I had been in and out of different hospitals, but still the doctors never found anything wrong.
After being in and out of hospitals, I was weighing about 95-98 pounds, wearing a size 0 in clothes. It was a painful sight to see. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I couldn’t eat or sleep, and I got shortness of breath and chest pains. The doctors had given up on me and thought I was crazy, but to me it was like I was dying and no one seemed to notice.
After fighting with this thing for a year and a half, I got desperate. Through all this, I never once called on God or had faith. My mom came to me one day and said, ‘Meka, Revival starts tonight. You need to come and get prayed for, and them people act like they don’t know what’s wrong with you.’
I would just catch an attitude with her and say, ‘I ain’t got time for that. I’m not going to church!’ One day, I had finally come to the decision something has to give because I’ve tried everything. And, that’s when my mom had called and said, ‘It’s the last day of revival. You coming?’ Without a second thought in my mind I told her, ‘Yes, I was going.’
Later that evening I was getting dressed and Ronnie asked where I was going. Without even looking at him I said ‘Church.’ He then stated, ‘For what,’ but I didn’t even answer him. Then he said, ‘Who’s going to watch the kids?’ He tried everything in his power to get me not to go, so we wound up arguing. I got the kids dressed and took them with me.
That night at church, it was a speaker there by the name of Prophet Freeman. While he was speaking, I had started having really bad chest pains and shortness of breath. I tried not to be noticed by scooting down in my seat. All of the sudden, Prophet Freeman had stopped preaching and started speaking in tongues. He looked around and asked, ‘Is there anyone in here having chest pain or some sort of discomfort?’ My eyes just got watery.
My mom looked at me and said, ‘It’s bothering you again,’ and I said, ‘Yeah!’ She told me to stand up but I wouldn’t. She took it upon herself and yelled out, ‘It’s my daughter. She’s right here.’
He walked up to me and just looked at me at first. Then he asked could he pray for me and I said I didn’t care. He asked, ‘What’s wrong,’ and I said teary-eyed, ‘For over a year I’ve been in and out of the hospitals and the doctors always say there’s nothing wrong. But, I always get short of breath, chest pain and my heart is racing. He placed one hand on my back and his other hand on my chest and started speaking in tongues.
He looked at me and said, ‘The Lord says there’s a long-legged man in your life. Get rid of him and my troubles are gone.’ After saying that, he began to pray for me. Later that night, all I could think of was what he had said. I knew it was Ronnie but I guess I was trying to make myself see different because no matter how bad he treated me, kept me in jail. For some reason I couldn’t leave.
All that week we did what we usually did and that was argue and fight. By that Friday, I was ready to see what the prophet was talking about.
I waited for Ronnie to leave and packed all of our things and called Randy to come and pick us up. After leaving Ronnie, Prophet Freeman was right: my sickness was gone.
When I think that things are hard, I just look back at what God has really brought me through and just smile and say, ‘Thank you, Jesus. The devil is a lie.’ And I always say the first verse of Psalms 27, “The Lord is my Shepherd, whom I shall fear. The Lord is the strength of my life. Whom shall I be afraid?” (Verse 1)
When I gave my troubled heart to Jesus, my life began to change.
It all began when I received my 15-year sentence and all hope was lost. Nothing seemed to matter and I was scared, hurt and in an inner turmoil I’d never experienced before. I was on my way to prison.
One night, broken and in excruciating pain, I cried out loud to a God whom I wasn’t even sure existed and said, ‘I can’t do this alone. Let Thy will be done in my life, not mine.’
“We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we were expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:8b-9)
With that simple prayer, the Lord heard my plea and answered me and showed me just how real He is! From that moment on, He opened one door after another, first placing me in the faith-based program to gain knowledge of Him and receive Him in my heart. I found the void I’ve always had was no longer there and that I finally felt satisfied, lacking nothing. I’ve gained a sense of confidence and have opened up sharing my story in hopes of encouraging others.
I started to heal from a lifetime of scars that run deep. I’ve learned how to respect authority. I’m no longer a victim of circumstance, but a victor of my situation! “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” (Romans 8:37) He’s changed every aspect of my life, my thoughts, attitude, how I receive and give love, and shown me the importance of forgiveness. I’ve never felt freer or happier!
The Lord has restored my family, reuniting my mom & sister. He’s delivered me from a 16-year smoking addiction! And, most of all, He’s given me yet another chance and shown me the value of a brand new life in Christ!
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Two example situations:
Me: Hey, what’s going on?
Christy: Oh, I’m just so angry. I’m sick of this place. Get in line. Be quiet. Recall, etc. I feel like I could scream!
Me: Well, have you thought of praying for our prison?
Christy: Pray for prison? You can’t be serious.
Me: But prayer is always the answer and it states in Jeremiah that if you pray for your place of captivity they will prosper, and so will you. So it’s a win-win.
Christy: Um….Well no; I haven’t given much thought to that. I’ve been busy complaining and concentrating on what’s wrong.
Me: Well, would you like to join me in prayer then?
Christy: Sure, why not?
Hope: Hey, Allison. Can I talk to you a minute?
Allison: Sure, what’s up?
Hope: Well, I have heard that you’ve been saying some pretty unkind things about me and I was just wondering is there any truth to it?
Allison: Well, yeah. I said you’ve changed and act so uppity now and how I don’t even want to be around you now.
Hope: Really? Wow. Well, I wish you had come to me, but yes, when you accept Christ, He changes your view on life and you love Him so much you want to do better and serve Him wholeheartedly.
Allison: Tell me more about this Christ.
Hope: Well, first of all, He came to give His life for us while we were yet still sinners. Now that’s love!
Allison: Wow, I guess I see why you love Him so much. Sorry!