My phone rang the other night. It was my sister, Kimberly Moore. Her voice sparkled after having led another session of her study, Beauty in a Life Repurposed, at Exodus, the only organization in the state of Texas that provides a home for formerly incarcerated women and their young children. Their tagline is full of hope: Rebuilding and Restoring Families.
“Her baby is just 5 days old!” Kimberly spoke of a brave young woman who, despite her incarceration, had chosen to give her child life, and will be discipled and trained at Exodus to follow Jesus and make life-giving decisions in the free world for her sweet one and herself. According to Exodus.org, the average age of children with an incarcerated parent is 8 years old, and 22% of those children are under the age of 5. Sixty-two percent of parents will return to jail within 3 years.
Unless someone intervenes. Someone like Exodus.
Exodus is committed to reuniting women with their children and giving them hope that they can stop the crime cycle. As part of their discipleship initiative, Exodus invited my sister to lead the women through her Bible study, Beauty in a Life Repurposed. Kimberly is a jewelry designer and blogger at www.kimberlymoorerings.com.
Through her years of finding vintage pieces of jewelry and repurposing them into wearable statements for today, she began to notice metaphors. Metaphors such as a center stone that is missing from a brooch, demonstrating our need to have God at the center of our lives. Or a piece that’s broken and needs the touch of the Great Healer. Or one that has lost its sparkle, how we feel after we’ve gone through hardship or tragedy. Each chapter is based on a metaphor that represents our spiritual lives, offering questions to consider, scripture to read, and advice to follow. It’s a beautiful study, grounded in the truth that our hope is found in Jesus Christ, through whom we have forgiveness of sins and peace with God (See Romans 5).
As I welled up with emotion for the faithful steps of my sister and for the brave mothers in her study, I suddenly remembered- Kimberly isn’t the first in our family line to care for incarcerated mothers.
Eighty-four years ago, in 1932, my great aunt, Dr. Miriam Van Waters, was appointed as the superintendent of The Massachusetts Reformatory for Women in Framingham, Massachusetts. In the coming years, she would make a bold statement of value by lobbying for nursing mothers to keep their babies with them, something unheard of at that time. My grandmother, Bertie, lived at the reformatory with her family (including my mother) and was a nurse dedicated to helping the inmates care for their little ones. The wooden high chair that stands today in a corner of my dining room once stood in the reformatory, surely occupied most days by chubby darlings.
“Aunt Mayo,” as I knew her, died in 1974, and the following epitaph was written on her gravestone, “He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted.” How much my soul overflows with gratitude for the women in my family line who expressed the value of all people, even those who have been incarcerated, by offering them hope.
May the Lord open our eyes to see those around us today who need words of encouragement, words of life, words of hope.
(To read about Men of Valor, an organization that is offering hope for incarcerated men, see my blog post, You are Cordially Invited to Dinner with 52 Inmates.)