The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion — to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:1-3
Troubled by painful memories of the abortion I had when I was 16 years old, I turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the spiritual, emotional, and psychological pain. This choice began a cycle of addiction that led to my incarceration.
In 1996 I found out I was pregnant again. Believing that abortion was my only option as an addict, I walked through the doors of the Family Resource Clinic (FRC) in Denham Springs, Louisiana, believing they were an abortion clinic. Thankfully, God had another plan. I had an appointment with the Creator of the Universe that day and didn't even know it.
Within minutes, I discovered that the FRC was not an abortion clinic but rather a ministry. Through the care that I received that day, the entire course of my life was changed. The loving volunteers gently outlined that my pregnancy was a baby and not some mass of tissue. My counselor offered me hope and enabled me to choose life for my daughter. She is alive today because the FRC was a Door of Hope to my family's life!
After I chose life, the real battle began. I was still addicted to crack cocaine. While I wanted to keep my baby, I couldn't even take care of my other two children. It seemed obvious that I wasn't going to be able to stay clean for any length of time. I definitely didn't want my baby to be born addicted to drugs.
Before the pregnancy, I had truly worked to be clean. Addiction support groups, rehab, and my own willpower had never helped me before; I was desperate. That led me to the decision to turn myself in at the parish prison. I told my probation officer that I was in violation of my probation and was addicted to drugs. My hope was that by being incarcerated I would finally be able to get clean, because I couldn't walk out as I could at the rehab.
While I was in prison, I learned that my husband wanted a divorce. My heart broke because I had a strong suspicion that the baby I was carrying was not his child. We had been married for 12 years, and he was understandably at a point where he wanted to call it quits. Who could blame him after putting up with my addiction for all those years? Because I was an addict and a prisoner, he became a single parent. He was tired of hearing the same story repeatedly. The truth was my children didn't know me, my parents had given up on me, and now my husband was divorcing me. To say that I felt alone is an understatement.
It was then that I turned to the Lord. I repented and rededicated my life to Jesus. It was during that time that I read about Hannah in 1 Samuel 1. She was unable to have children and simply asked the Lord for a son. She promised God that if He would give her a son, she would give him back to the Lord. God honored her request. Hannah's faith inspired me that day.
Therefore, I said a quiet prayer to the Lord that went something like "Lord, if You did that for Hannah, You can do that for me. Lord, if You will find a way for me to be released before my baby is born, I will give this baby back to You and dedicate her to You all the days of her life."
It was in that moment of prayer that I pictured myself nursing a newborn baby, which I didn't do with my two other children. The Lord spoke deep in my heart, "You will have your baby at home." I couldn't believe it — God heard my prayers and answered them.
Being a new believer, I didn't know anything about God's timetable for answered prayers. I expected to be released immediately. I was surprised when days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. My faith was fading, and I wondered if God had forgotten about me. So, I reached out to Him again saying, "Lord, I thought You said You were going to let me have my baby at home."
One of my greatest fears was going into labor, being taken to the hospital in shackles, and coming back to prison without my baby. Because I knew there was a chance that she wasn't my husband's child, I felt that she would probably become a ward of the state. I couldn't bear the thought of my unborn child being abandoned to the foster care system. Therefore, I decided that it was time to consider an adoption plan.
I met with some lawyers who handle adoptions for incarcerated women. They asked me if there was any possibility that my baby could be biracial. I responded "no" in spite of the fact that I thought my baby was probably biracial.
One of the reasons I wanted to have an abortion is that I had been hiding the truth of my baby's conception from my husband. I didn't want him to know about my double life that involved promiscuity. I couldn't hurt him anymore. If my daughter was biracial, it would expose the lie I had been living.
After the initial decision to place my daughter in adoption, I received my "rap sheet" in the mail, which outlined my charges and my release date. I couldn't believe when I read that I was going to be released in two weeks! Joy arose in my heart as I realized that I would be home more than two months before my baby's due date! God had indeed answered my prayers months earlier.
I immediately called my husband Ricky. I told him how sorry I was for everything. I explained how God had changed my heart and gave us a miracle in my release date.
I then said, "Ricky, you've heard this all before. I know that I don't deserve another chance. If you will give me just one more chance I know that God is going to help us." My heart leaped with joy when Ricky said I was welcome to come home. By then, I had been sober for months.
The next two weeks tested my spiritual maturity. Thoughts would haunt me like: What if they made a mistake? What if it was a misprint? What if they realize I'm not supposed to get out for several more months and keep me in prison?
In the meantime, news of my early release spread through the jail. People were talking about the miracle God did in my life. It gave me the opportunity to share Jesus with my fellow inmates. I testified to anyone and everyone who would listen.
While I was in prison, God had transformed me quite clearly. I walked in that jail one way but I was leaving totally changed. I was leaving with my baby I fought so hard for, safely tucked away in my womb. I walked out of that prison and into the arms of my husband.
Two months later, we had a beautiful eight-pound baby girl. The truth of her conception was revealed as we realized that she was not my husband's biological child. She was biracial. In those moments, I was again fighting for faith. Praise God, Ricky chose to forgive me and be my daughter's father. We have a colorful family, but isn't that what God's family looks like?
Three years after my release I went back to the very ministry that God used to save my daughter's life. After all, that is where the pivotal turning point in my life began. I have been a client advocate for many years and shared my testimony publicly. In 2006, the Lord used the FRC to send me back to prison. The center began an official prison program called "Door of Hope." I began ministering God's love to the women in the very prison where I had turned myself in while pregnant. The Lord had truly brought me full circle.
Initially, I had contacted the warden to request a copy of my mug shot for a book I was writing about my testimony. I shared my testimony with him. Before I knew what God was doing, the warden and I had made a commitment to minister to the female inmates once a month.
I will never forget that first day — particularly when the deputy asked us if we wanted to say hello to the inmates. Immediately I was overwhelmed with emotion because this was the very dorm where God had given me His initial promise that I would be free when I delivered my daughter.
When the deputy opened the dorm door, some of the girls were half asleep. I introduced the director of FRC, Julie Stanley, and myself. I relayed that the last time I was in this dorm I was pregnant and strung out on crack. Immediately every eye opened wide and the entire dorm sat straight up in their beds. You could have heard a pin drop because the Lord had their attention. I shared briefly how Jesus set me free and changed my life and then introduced our new monthly ministry called "A Door of Hope" (formerly called "Free on the Inside").
Through the years, our center has had the awesome privilege to be able to minister to these incarcerated women. I'll never forget when God told me to pull them out of the fire because some have escaped death for the last time. I shared that word with the girls the next time I went to the jail. After class, a young lady walked up to me trembling with tears in her eyes and she said, "That was me. I know that I am one of the people who have escaped death for the last time." She relayed how she had been strangled to death but survived! It was an honor to share with her that God loves her and has a purpose for why He saved her life.
The rewards of prison ministry are innumerable. Obviously, we have the opportunity to witness to hurting women who have been wounded deeply. Our program discusses abstinence, childhood sexual abuse, post abortion syndrome, domestic violence, growing up in a dysfunctional home, etc. No topic is off limits. Our main goal is to teach them the Word of God and pray with them. We also help them to establish goals to follow through with upon their release. We cry or laugh with them, depending on what the Holy Spirit has on His agenda that day. A Door of Hope also offers materials on adoption, abstinence, abuse, and post abortion. FRC is there to assist them when they are released as well. We are blessed when God breaks the cycle of addiction and incarceration with the love and power of His Son, Jesus Christ.
The Lord showed me that if I had aborted my daughter, she would have gone straight to heaven. When I was considering adoption, God decided that her adopted father would be my husband! When she eventually arrives in heaven, she will have drawn many souls with her. God also told me that she is my soul winner. I was the first soul she led to Christ, and she did that while she was in my womb! I believe my daughter was sent by God to rescue me.
There is an obvious need for ministry inside local prisons and jails for the same services we provide to the "outside" community. The only difference is that incarcerated women cannot come to you — you must go to them!
To learn more about how your center can pursue a prison ministry program, contact Julie Stanley of Family Resource Center at FamilyResourcecl@aol.com or call 225-686-1123. Visit their website at www.FamilyResourceClinic.com.
Kristen Maddox and her husband Ricky have been married for 26 years! They have three children. Kristen was formerly with the Family Resource Center in Livingston, LA.