Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Little is much when God is in it

A staff member of a local church was asking about the work of HFP.  Then she asked about the results of our work.  I must confess, I struggle to come up with meaningful answers.  Some days what we do just doesn’t sound like very much.

We like to boast about the big things.

It makes us proud to say that, thanks to our many whistle-blower friends behind bars, we were able to bring the U.S. Department of Justice into Michigan’s prison for women to investigate numerous cases of cruelty and abuse of mentally ill inmates.

We like to point out that we invited then Warden Heidi Washington to participate in an HFP-sponsored seminar on bringing in some type of hospice care for those inmates dying in our state prisons in 2014.  And then, when Ms. Washington was appointed Director of the MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS in 2015, she implemented plans to bring in hospice care for the terminally ill. 

We’re proud to sign our names to documents and projects seeking Parole Board reform, sentencing reform, solving the overcrowding crisis at Huron Valley, preventing juveniles from going into adult prisons, etc., etc. 

But it’s the little things that keep Matt and me busy.  While other agencies quietly grumble about our claim that we’re the only one that helps inmates with many of their in-prison issues, I can assure you that this kind of assistance is uniquely ours.

A guy got assaulted in his prison cell in Muskegon nearly 3 weeks ago, and was transferred to the prison hospital in Jackson.  He arrived there two days after the assault, but his property still isn’t there…and that includes his glasses.  He can’t see!  We’re on it.

A woman struggling with dementia who uses a colostomy bag as a result of botched prison surgery now struggles to get supplies that she desperately needs…instead of giving her new bags, they give her Scotch tape.  We think we got that resolved.

A man with a frightening, rare and serious malady involving his genitalia is suffering from severe persecution by staff, ridicule by peers, and incredible personal embarrassment.  It would be a prisoner’s worst nightmare, and we’re working hard to help him.

A lifer who has already served 28 years is trying to make something of his life, even though he will never get out.  At age 47, he’s attending community college through a special program offered in Jackson.  The source that was covering his tuition for him suddenly dried up, and he has no money.  We’re hooking him up with a caring church, and it looks like this student who boasts a 4.0 grade average will be able to stay in class!

We did our best to get better care for an inmate who died of cancer this month.  His only survivors are two elderly aunts in the Detroit area.  Matt and I are sending out prayer shawls to both women…shawls that were made by women behind bars for this very purpose.  A hand-written Bible verse is attached to each shawl.

A prisoner planning to get married next month needed a copy of his birth certificate, something his bride-to-be cannot help with, because she lives in Australia.  Matt made it happen!

A woman complains that she tries to download music to her player…she gets charged for the music, but her player doesn’t work.  Our solver of electronic problems, Matt, is working with her and she’ll eventually get her music again.

A mentally challenged little boy whom I tried to help when he was 16 and in the adult prison system is now about to face the Parole Board.  He should be freed so that he can get proper care and supervision.  We’re writing a letter of support to the Parole Board.

A prisoner asked his mother to contact us…one of his friends appears to be seriously ill and is withering away before his very eyes.  And he’s obviously not getting proper treatment.  We’re on it.

Speaking of medical problems, the family member of another inmate called Matt so say something is wrong---he has now lost 50 pounds!  He needs medical care.  We’re trying.

A mom called us to say that her son, a young man, is being threatened by gang bangers who want money to protect him.  He’s scared, and has now been placed in segregation for protection.  She doesn’t know who to talk to.

The floodgates opened on these seemingly little issues this month, and the first month of 2016 may be a record-breaker for HFP.

That famous author Anon. once wrote:  Never stop doing things for others.  Sometimes those little things occupy the biggest part of their hearts.

A writer of Proverbs says:  Giving to the poor is like loaning money to the Lord.

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