Hi, my name is Demika and today I want to share some of my life with you.
I was born in Ripley, Mississippi. I am the oldest girl of five siblings. I grew up in a small town filled with racism and division. Within my home was drinking and drugging. My oldest brother had his own Dad, my three younger siblings had their own Dad, and I had my own Dad.
My Mom and my Step Father were married ever since my earliest memory at the age of three. Due to his excessive drinking and work load I was left to babysit my baby sister. She was about 9 months old. I was three. I must have fallen asleep and my sister climbed out of the house some kind of way. He awoke to her crying and he in turn took his anger out on me. I was whipped with a metal clothing hanger, until I bled down my legs. My grandmother came from out of nowhere like a guardian angel. She and my Step Dad had some sort of altercation. My granny put me in the front seat of her car and drove away. This was my life.
I was afraid to talk, afraid to sleep, afraid to leave my Mom and afraid to be a kid. On top of all of this, when my Mom and Step Dad were away the devil came in to play. I was molested by several family members. I didn’t know that I could tell my Mom what happened to me because there was no direct communication with the children unless it was discipline.
I was filled with shame and torment. I carried a fear that my Mom wouldn’t believe me or that I would get a whoopin’. That was my mind frame at six years old. So, I tried to kill myself. I stabbed my wrist until I started to bleed. I didn’t want to live any more. My babysitter walked in and caught me. She ran and told my Mom. Nothing happened. I remember no questions, no comfort, no nothing. Eventually, my Mom left my Step Dad. Months went by and she got into another violent relationship. Out of the blue she sent my oldest brother and middle sister to live with my grandma in Michigan. It left me to raise my other two younger siblings.
One night, I saw my Mom’s new boyfriend trying to kill my Mom. He was stabbing her repeatedly. I grabbed a bat and started swinging it with all my might. Somehow I knocked him into the glass so loudly that my Aunt from across the street heard and ran into our house. As she came into the front door to help my Mom, he turned to jump onto her pregnant belly. She was flung into the sofa where they both laid in a ball sobbing. Eventually, the police came and arrested him. Hours later, he was at my Mom’s bedroom window trying to break in. I begged my Mom not to let him back in. My Mom told me to put his clothes on the back porch. I ran to the back door and threw every clothing item down the stairs and locked the door. I thought to myself “bye, bye dirt bag”. Of course, I cursed, I was eight and grown up, so I thought.
With all of this happening, my Mom packed up and we moved to Michigan. On our long drive to Michigan I thought about all the horrible events that had taken place. As I glared at the moon wondering why it was following us, I said, “when I get older I’m never going to let anyone beat me like that.” Needless to say, in a few short years, I ended up in abusive relationships myself. I thought that fighting them back made my situation different than my Moms. I still got beaten up, but I thought at least I fought back. My mind was tremendously warped. I smoked weed, drank and partied to numb the pain. I got into selling dope as I worked and went to school. This was a good life. My kids and I had all we wanted. Who was I fooling? I moved to Colorado to get away from that life. Not until this very moment as I’m writing this testimony did I recognize that I moved to a different state too. Just like my Mother. I too wanted something better for my kids and myself. Yet, I carried all those same generational habits and curses with me to Colorado. I didn’t have a clue to the rage, anger, bitterness, un-forgiveness, and so many other internal toxins that would manifest. I had my new life, new job and new school but I picked back up with the same guy just a different state. The cycle began again.
I didn’t realize that one moment can completely change your life.
One day a group of my family and friends were partying and decided we wanted to go out to a club. Suddenly, as in unison we all had a change of heart. We decided to chill at home and continue to party. My babysitter and I left to go get some more alcohol, but we never made it to the store. We got jumped by four women and three guys at random. I totally lost my mind. I snapped and did what I thought was best at the time. I stabbed three people and one of them died. This moment has seared in my brain for life. Remorse, regret, shame, pain, and shock is at my core soul. I never imagined that I would ever take someone’s life. This tragic day has surfaced suicidal contemplations. Toiling with the idea that this would make it easier for my victim’s family. The scriptures rose up in me. Resist the devil and He would flee. There is none righteous no, not one. We all fall short of God’s glory. God has a plan and purpose for my life. The ultimate word that I still stand on is what the enemy meant to harm me. God is turning it around for my good and His glory. I thank God that He is a healer and a Redeemer. He came to set the captives free from bondages that I carried for years. The Word is alive. It is a process, and a challenge to be a better person than who I was when I came in here. We overcome by the blood of the lamb and the words of our testimony. I strive to be not only a hearer of the Word, but a doer, as well.
“Bloom where you are planted”, has become a part of my everyday life experience. I have a growing awareness that I am a seed growing into what God has called me to be. My heart is always receptive to Chaplain Terry’s light that shines bright for each woman in this facility. Her spirit of determination ignites me to bloom and flourish. Each volunteer and donor is a word, a seed, water and a sower that nourishes our drylands.
My final thoughts are in Isaiah 55:10-11 “as the rain and the snow com down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my Word that goes from my mouth. It will not return to me void (empty), but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” I believe that every person is a spoken word from Gods mouth. We all have a purpose to fulfill. We will not return to the father empty of what He has purposed us to do.
I stand on God’s promises to be the woman He has predestined me to be. I will come forth, but until then “I will bloom where I am planted”. Thank You.
My name is Rachel #165729. I’m 25 years old and I am currently serving an 11 year sentence at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility. I am writing this letter to you today as a very different person than I was before my life changed forever in the light of my savior, Jesus Christ. So I want to take this opportunity to thank you for allowing me to share my story, and more importantly, allowing me to testify to the miraculous transformation God has performed in my spirit.
My life started out fairly normal. I was a happy child with a loving family and big dreams. I had a good childhood for the most part. When I was 5, my little sister was born, making my family complete. Life was good, but then about a year later, my parents got divorced. They did their best to make the change as painless as possible, but I was young, and like most kids do, I blamed myself.
I started to manifest the guilt I felt as a deep sense of insecurity, which led to the discovery that if I did well in things like school or sports people seemed to love me. My insecurities were less noticeable if I was performing well, so I made sure I was the best at everything I did. I never showed weakness because I was afraid that if I did, no one would love me.
I struggled deeply with the human condition. I never felt connected or like I fit in. I constantly felt homesick and like something was missing…
Then, when I was 12, I tried cocaine for the first time. It was the answer to my secret struggle. I felt like I could do anything, be anyone, and never feel alone again. It was everything I had been looking for, that is, until I came down.
For the next 9 years, I decided I would be the best at staying high, and I did everything in my power to never come down again.
I did every drug I could get my hands on. I found myself in a multitude of abusive relationships. I hitch-hiked across the country alone at 18 years old. I fell in love with the free-love, hippie culture because it represented the freedom and acceptance I so desperately desired. The poetic irony of all my searching was that the more I chased after freedom, the more imprisoned I became.
I couldn’t face my pain which grew more and more unbearable as I put myself in dangerous situations daily to feed my addictions. I missed opportunities, hurt people I loved, and for nearly a decade I tore through this world with reckless abandon for myself and anyone who crossed my path. Drugs were my idea of God. Abuse was my idea of love. I tried everything I could find, but nothing ever filled the hole in my heart.
On July 27, 2013, two months after my 21st birthday, my life literally went up in smoke when my ex-fiancé and I got into an altercation with some people at a party, resulting in us lighting their house on fire. Afterwards, I went to the mountains, alone for 3 days to hide out from the cops, but in that dark solitude, I could no longer hide from the demons in me. I saw hell during those days as the devil fought for my soul, but even there in those mountains God was with me.
On the 3rd day, I put my last syringe into a dumpster instead of into my arm and I turned myself in. I was tired—tired of the pain and tired of running…
I was booked into the Jefferson County Jail, a 21 year old, 100 pound junkie with 22 charges and a possible life sentence. The reality of my situation was too much for me to handle, and I ended up on suicide watch after an officer found me with a sheet tied around my neck. I had hit rock bottom.
Even at my lowest point, God was with me. Finally, I was determined and stable enough to have a bed and they gave me a bare mattress and a stiff blanket. When I laid my head down, I did something I’d never done before. I surrendered. I prayed to a God I’d never believed in because I couldn’t do it alone any longer.
The next morning, I woke up in that dark basement with a single beam of sunlight shining across my face, and in that moment, I knew God was real.
After that day, I found the strength to keep going. I ran after God with the same tenacity I once used to run from my problems. I gave my life to His glory and I found myself being led to new levels of peace and understanding.
I spent time with God through prayer, meditation, and fellowship with other believers, but despite my newly blossoming spirituality, life was hard. All the pain I had masked with substances rose to the surface. But through God’s infinite mercy, I found healing. I found strength. I found my voice. I found my worth.
I found forgiveness through Christ, but I still had to answer for my actions and as I was finding my spiritual identity, I was also fighting my case. A couple of days before sentencing, I cried out to God, “Please don’t make me go to prison. I’m just starting to live right. Don’t lock me away.”
Then I heard a message from a still, small voice, “You have to go, and it’s not just for you.”
I received 11 years for 1st degree attempted murder and arson. Three years later, I can honestly say it was the greatest blessing of my life. I experience more peace, more joy, and more purpose now than I ever imagined possible.
My walk with God has been a beautiful journey, and I owe so much gratitude to the amazing volunteers that offer their time to come into this environment and share the love of Christ with us.
What New Beginnings does is so much more than providing a worship serve. It is a God-ordained blessing. The volunteers not only see the light in us when we aren’t able to see it in ourselves, but they give their time to help us reclaim that light.
Today, I live in a state of eternal gratitude. God saved me. He saved me from a fate worse than death; a life without love; a life without God. And if He can save someone like me, believe me when I say, He can save anybody.
He is a God of grace; a God of salvation; a God of miracles. Not only is it a miracle that I am able to share my story with you today, but today I stand in God’s glory with a life filled with meaning. Through God all things are possible.
Never forget the truth of who you are. God has a purpose for all of our lives. He is calling to each and every one of us. Now is the time to answer.
Thank you, and God bless you.
There is none Righteous, No Not One. (Romans 3:10)
~ Greetings~ My name is Michelle.
Blessing to all~ I am going to open myself up to share a great transformation created in me by my Lord Jesus Christ.
A paradigm shift within a person comes from understanding and knowledge of a person’s past that creates an individual. As I sat down to write this, I was really trying to put a finger on where all my anger came from growing up and into my adulthood. What happened to lead me to the situation I am in now? I have had a deep sorrow that has carried a lifetime of pain. I was born in 1979 ….. I am 37 years old. I am an only child by both parents. I was born in Denver and raised in Houston.
My past is something I do not like to share because it’s embarrassing for me. We did not attend church. God was never spoken of. My mother was a troubled soul and struggled with substance abuse, mental illness, and sexual orientation. She did not believe in therapy or receiving help. I was not allowed to bring people around the house. They did drugs in the open and that kept me isolated. My mother never taught me to love myself or love in a healthy way. My self-perception has been distorted my whole life. I have the hardest time still to this day seeing truth. I am finally aware that my mother’s actions are not the way of the lord.
My mother and father met at Cheeseman Park in Denver in the seventies which is a drug infested park. My dad was selling dope in the park and that’s were they met. They were together a total of 5 years, a couple before I was born and three after I was born. My parents used (intravenous speed) the whole time they were together. My dad went to prison when I was two years old on a crime a lot like mine. My dad came out of prison and beat my mom in a fight over the dog. My mother left him for a woman. He threatened to take me from her because she was gay.
A male friend of my mother’s named Bobby molested me when I was three years old. My mother kidnapped me from my dad when I was four in the fear of my dad taking me from her and moved to Houston, Texas. I did not see my father until I was eight years old. I was old enough to threaten my mother with reporting to the cops. My mother finally acquiesced and allowed me to contact my dad, and we reunited shortly thereafter. Sadly, during those gone-missing years and in subsequent years I was exposed to all manners of dysfunction, abuse, violence and neglect as a result of my mother’s lifestyle.
My mother was super selfish and self involved. Her mood swings were up and down. The things that would come out of her month towards me were the nastiest words ever. This process would build me up then tear me down. Things got worse in my life. How could they be any worse? Well it did! One night when I was 12, she was high and she touched me inappropriately! Therefore, I ran away. After that, I ran from all of my issues. There were a lot more situations in between the years. From 12 to 15 years old I was not living at home with my mother. I did what I had to do to survive.
My father moved on after the divorce and built a new life with a good woman and her two sons, His home provided me with some much-needed structure and stability. I lived with my dad exclusively. My whole family believes he would have ultimately been able to diffuse and mitigate much of the damage that I suffered at the hands of my mother by providing me with consistency, boundaries and love. Because I shared my life with both parents, going back and forth between Texas and Colorado, my mother remained engaged in my life and her manipulation, interference and damaging influence continued and would haunt me for many years. As any child with similar life experience, I began to struggle during my teen years. I was unable to make sense of the trauma that had been perpetrated upon my life by my mother during my formative years, and my relationships and choices reflected that trauma.
My mother gave me my first hard drug (Speed) in a pill form when I was 15. This introduced drugs to my life. Because of my drug use, I was able to bandage my pain, and not deal with reality. This use of drugs at such a young age stunted my growth, the ability to cope, and ability to mature. I kept using drugs to cover the pain. I moved out on my own when I was 16 and became a workaholic. My drive for money and success became fierce which blocked me from dealing with the trauma that happened to me.
I came to Denver one week before Thanksgiving in 2001. I was dating and became pregnant with my son Jacob. Jacob was three months old when I meet my ex-husband Richard Velez. He was so charming and dressed nice. I was attracted immediately.
Richard had a business that was just starting. We started to date and climb the corporate ladder. After a year I got pregnant with my daughter, got married and bought a home. A year later Richard started to become mentally and physically abusive. I was naïve to the manipulation. He abusive came on quickly. I was running the office and taking care of the little kids all day. I became very overwhelmed with my life and all the fights with Richard. I wanted to get counseling and save my marriage. I finally moved out and filed for a divorce.
Richard lost control of me and that sent him over the edge. It became his life focus to ruin my life. I lost it and started to use drugs. My whole life was ruined in that year. I lost my soul to the devil and was doing the works of the devil. I gave up all hope for life and thought “why try anymore?” I had the worst attitude towards living this life we are given. Which led me to prison. I thought about just taking my life.
Then something happened in me - the desire to attend church. I gave my life to Christ 2009! That was when everything changed for me. My relationship with Christ has been the best thing for my life. He forgives me and that gives me so much hope for my future. When I realize his love for me, my desires changed and my love for life had a great appreciation. My actions showed towards my family, friends and others. I have a strong support system now because of my actions. I see my beautiful kids. I can parent from within these walls because Christ has allowed me to do so. I work as the Chaplain’s clerk for all Chaplain’s within the facility. I have a trusted position with many responsibilities. I will never take for granted the amount of blessings I have and always praise God for the blessing. This situation is a humbling experience. God has written my name in the book of life. The light of Christ shine through me onto everyone I meet. His grace is something that is given; I do not have to earn it.
This is how I want to hold my life. I want to maintain genuine discernment. To hold my life with authenticity. To keep all commitment and be responsible. To empower individuals on the existence of oppression and domestic violence. To have non-violent communication, fist, tongue or heart. I want to be loving and full of guidance. Integrated orientation towards God including my deeper attention. I want to set the attention on remaining sober for the rest of my life. I want a tuned sense of my perception, choice of my attitudes, and habits of thought, speech and action. I am still learning from God, he is the best teacher, parent and love of my life. Thank be to God.
Sue’s Post Holiday Reflection
As family holiday celebrations and traditions may change through the years, eyes and hearts have the opportunity be opened in unexpected ways. We may feel a tug to reach out and give to others we have never met. I had such an experience this year.
At a Sunday morning worship service in Boulder, I listened to Pastor Terry’s plea to not serve pumpkin pie and Christmas cake ALONE to 300+ women at the upcoming Correctional Facility Thanksgiving and Christmas services. With some apprehension, I turned in my information for clearance, and signed up several weeks in advance to help serve.
On Thanksgiving Eve, a group of us who had signed up together to visit and help serve, gathered in the lobby, went through what seemed like airport security, and prepared to enter the prison. We walked through several gates with our New Beginnings volunteer escort who guided us into an open area between the buildings and on to the gym.
As we entered, there was a group of “offenders” nervously practicing their music for the service. Our group scattered ourselves throughout the grouping of chairs and waited for the rest of the women to arrive for worship. Eventually, women dressed in green scrub-like uniforms wearing warm tan coats filed in, welcomed at the door by Pastor Terry. They were excited and talkative as they came in to start singing and begin the worship service.
The service lasted about an hour and then the group that I came with got up and went to the back wall to help serve pumpkin pie, cider, and bananas. The women filed by in long lines to be served. Their words of appreciation made a huge impact on me. I decided to come back again for the Christmas Eve service.
On Christmas Eve, I again came with a group from church. Again, we hosted Fellowship time. This time, I had a better sense of what to expect. As I sat in the gym along with over 300 women, I was struck by how such a large crowd listened intently to Pastor Terry’s message about hope and knowing what it means to “wait”, including waiting on the Lord. The worship service had both “hip” songs and traditional Christmas carols. One of the women behind me really knew Holden Evening Prayer and she sang with her heart and a terrific voice. She carried our section “Unit 3C”.
Communion took a long time because 300 plus offenders formed lines to come up one unit at a time to receive. It was quiet and respectful. The experience of communion in this context made me ponder communion in a new light.
Finally, it was time for Christmas Eve dessert. We had to cut the Christmas cakes with spatulas because no knives were allowed. The women loved the clementines and bananas. Fresh fruit is a rare treat. Again, many thank you’s and God bless you’s were exchanged.
I treasure the hand made thank you note given to each of us servers at the end of the evening by some of the women.
As we walked back out into the courtyard, one woman said thank you and to appreciate the family we would get to go home and see.
Again we were escorted through several secure gates. The noise of the slamming doors you hear on TV is real. Loud and definite.
It was a privilege to meet these women. Many looked 18 years old and fragile. Others were older with gray hair. Some were in wheel chairs and escorted by their friends. So many different faces with stories unknown to us. It puts our lives and the freedom to come and go into a serious reality check.
I plan to be there as often as I can.
The saying, "If you give someone your time, you're giving them a part of your life" The singleness of that strikes me of two recent ministry opportunities via "New Beginnings" at WCF. Both Thanksgiving Eve and then again on Christmas Eve services with the ladies.They have nothing but time to think about....how blessed was I to be part of their worship service on those evenings.AND, they thanked me for caring, coming to their services, sharing my male voice to hymns, two even remembered me from Thanksgiving to the Christmas Eve service (how kind) and the second time they went forward with meto receive communion. Thank you dear Lord for this blessing of time in our faith journey TOGETHER.