Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rikers Island (Part 2)

So E & C and the rest of the morning session went back inside for lunch. I and the other 40 volunteers sat around a little before we were served lunch by Officers for Christ (Correction Officers ministry).

Truly I was so thrown I did not have any words. E & C really caught my heart. I needed time to process what had just happened. It went by so fast. I love conversing so in a short time I was asking pretty specific questions and getting really raw answers.

We were not allowed to take pictures. So I am attempting to show you pictures with my words in these blogs.

Lunch proved a great distraction. I talked a lil with one of the other volunteers. While eating I witnessed a 19 yr old-looking inmate pass by a door and call out to her former youth pastor who was in our group. This girl was rocking a white t and light colored pants and blue prison slip-on shoes. With permission from a guard the former youth pastor talked with the girl. From what I overheard, she used to attend the youth ministry of one of the BX churches represented there. At some point she fell away from God and now she was in Rikers. Some of the ladies prayed with her. I could see the youth pastor broke up inside. He had heard about her incarceration when she wrote a letter to the church. I just sat there and watched the whole thing unfold.

After that I went to another part of the yard and just sat on a bench. I saw the big blue sky with beautiful white clouds floating around. I saw the two full court basketball courts in front of me inside the yard. We might as well have been in the projects because only two of the four rims were actually there. And the two there had rusty/grimy backboards. To the right of the courts were two poles connected by a long wire high enough to be a volleyball net. Just one piece of string going across. I imagine a net would probably be a safety hazard.

And way back in the corner was the only piece of life in the yard, a huge vibrant green tree. When I say huge I mean like Rockefeller Center looking like tree. It was a full tree, full of life. And such a vibrant color green. It was such a huge contrast from the off white and dull off-pink colors represented on the walls of the yard.

Occasionally you would hear the sound of seagulls doing their squawking thang as they passed by from roof to roof.

After lunch the afternoon session started. A number of other "houses" came down to the yard. I believe there are 19 houses where the ladies reside in this one facility. This session also included teenagers. Some of these adolescents were young enough to be my child. That was not a cute sight at all.

This time I sat down with another volunteer and some of the ladies sat with us. In our circle we had 3 volunteers and 5 ladies. Of the 5, the youngest was 21 and the oldest was 36.

The first question came from M, a cute, short Dominican girl. She was a little chunky and was wearing a shirt from the college where she graduated. This 21 yr old CPA said, "So why are you here?" The volunteer answered, "We are here today to give you hope". M.S., a thin pale skinned 22 yr old with a tat on the right side of her neck responded, "We could use that here" in a joking manner. The volunteer went on to share a little about the love of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

M shared about having attended church on and off. How she was a good girl who got caught with the wrong crowd that one day. She was arrested when she entered a car to hang with her friend and two guys. A few blocks later the cops pulled them over and she found herself arrested.

The other ladies pressed the issue looking for more details. M came across as the college girl educated type. She didn't seem like she was doing her dirt.

This was a contrast to Z. Z was straight up. She's from South America and was doing her dirt for a while. DTs were watching her & her peoples for almost a year. They got her for numerous counts of drug possession. She knows she's going to have to do somewhere between 3 and 7 years. She was happy they let her give birth to her baby before they arrested her. Her newborn is one month old.

Z's life had not been easy. She was on and off drugs for a while. At one point she was in a coma for 62 days. In light of all the things she was sharing, I pointed out the fact she was still alive. I stopped her just enough to consider how God kept her safe, alive, and her newborn was safe and alive too.

(End of Part 2)

Read Part 3