She slips to her neighbor’s home in the early daylight hours. Nancy (not her real name) wants to secretly get the summer weeding done for her elderly neighbor before the blazing Florida sun grows intolerable.
Nancy’s neighborhood is filled with the elderly who sometimes need help with basic chores such as weeding and vacuuming. She’s willing to help. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that she wasn’t able to move about so freely because prison was her home for more than 15 years.
Her neighborly acts reflect the kindness that Nancy herself was shown by a trio of Stonecroft Bible Study (SBS) Guides during her incarceration. Maria Goodsell and Pat King, assisted by Irma Gorzynski, lead the weekly SBS sessions at Hernando Correctional Institution. Nancy considers the studies her “lifeline” and the Stonecroft volunteers her “angels.”
Now in its sixth year, the Hernando SBS brings God’s Word to women who society outside the walls has cast away. But here, they learn of God’s love and Jesus’ peace through the faithfulness, joy, and gentleness of their Guides.
It was through a couples’ SBS on Mark that Maria felt pulled to do prison ministry. “God revealed to me that I should go to jails and places where people can’t get out to hear God’s Word. But I can take it to them. I saw a way to show them how loving and kind Jesus was to all and what it’s like to follow Him.”
Pat loves her time with the detainees as they interact through Bible study. She finds the experience rewarding because the women are so friendly and always glad to see them, she says. And, between her personal group and the prison, she gets to revisit some of the studies several times. “I learn something new each time we go through the studies,” Pat says. “You can always learn, or relearn, from the Bible.”
Marie is in awe by the lives she’s seen God change through the SBS. She points out that Hernando detainees take a series of classes and that the Bible studies are optional for the prisoners. “They are choosing to come to the SBS. They change lives, there’s no question,” Maria says.
Certainly, Nancy’s life was changed. Through the SBS, her love for Jesus that she had as a child and teenager was reignited. Nancy had taken a lot of correspondence Bible and theology courses in the earlier years of prison life. But the relationship she built with her Guides was what kept Nancy coming back so that once she started attending the SBS sessions, she never stopped. She completed every study they offered.
The Guides answered her questions. If they didn’t have answers right then, they would research them and bring an answer back the next week. This interaction, coupled with the love the Guides so abundantly gave, made a difference in Nancy’s life.
A couple of years ago, Nancy presented her angels with a comical drawing on the back of a large, white envelope. Each woman was represented as a heavenly being on clouds. When Nancy was released, she celebrated at a restaurant with her chaplain and, of course, her angels and their families.
The impact of her angels stays with Nancy today. She kept all her studies and redoes them using a journal to record her answers and thoughts. As she inputs the truths, she wants to continue bearing the spiritual fruit she develops connecting with God and His Word.