how to see April in January.

Please do not let the title scare you. I am not in possession of a crystal ball or tarot cards, although I will confess in my younger years I was a big fan of the Magic 8 ball.  But none of those things is required for me to tell you how to see April in January. 

This past Friday I made a familiar trip to the bus station. One of my girls from prison was being released, and as TDCJ would have it, women released from prison go home via the Greyhound bus station in Waco. I made my first trip to the bus station on October 18, 2013. Over the years, I’ve made many more trips, but none like this one.

When the TDCJ van finally arrived, my girl T got off wide-eyed. Knowing she was headed to a transitional home in a new city, I assumed her overwhelmed and fearful look was a result of the uncertainty ahead for her. I could not have been more wrong. After a much-needed hug, her first words to me were this, “Miss Trae, there’s a girl on the van that doesn’t have anywhere to go. She needs help.”   

Now I had expected many things T might say to me, but I had not anticipated this because here’s what I know. Leaving prison is scary business for these girls. Most of them have no choice but to go back to the horror that sent them to prison. Worse still, the felony strikes by their names ensure it will be almost impossible to find employment or housing. They also know that the relationships they damaged in route to prison means they’ll have few, if any, caring family or friends waiting for their return. These girls don’t stand a chance, and they know it.

I am certain the old T would have had her mind on all those scary things… so much so that she would’ve never noticed someone else in need. Selfishness and lack of regard for others plays a big part in sending women to prison, just like it plays a big part in my sin.  But the new T, the one who gave her life to Jesus, has new eyes… and a new heart. And that’s how she saw April in January. 

“Without spiritual eyes, you can be right in the midst of a mighty act of God and not recognize it.”

April. That’s the girl T saw with spiritual eyes and with a heart of flesh, not stone. T saw her, and that was all it took for God to do the rest. After I had a conversation with April, I discovered she had fully served her prison sentence and was headed “home” to a small west Texas town. The only problem was “home” was not a safe place for her to go. She was terrified of “home.” With a leap of faith, I told April to give me five minutes to make a phone call. My first call was to my friend… the founder and director of the transitional home where T was headed… to see if she had one more bed available. She quickly told me she had just received five women the week before and all she had available was a couch. April did not hesitate. A couch in a house of a woman she’d never met and in a city she’d never been to before sounded better than the “home” she’d always known. That thought doesn’t just break my heart; it shatters it. But God. God and His mighty acts of love. And we would’ve missed out on it completely without T’s spiritual eyes. After many happy tears and hugs, I asked April if she understood what God was doing for her. All she could say was that she wondered if this meant God loved her. 

I could tell you about the second miracle with April’s new bus ticket… and then I could tell you about the divine timing that ensured these two vulnerable girls were not alone in a horrible bus station… and then I could tell you about the powerful provision of a job for April on her second day in her new home… and one day I feel absolutely certain that I’ll be able to tell you April has given her heart and life to Jesus forever. I have prayed that prayer on repeat since last Friday. Father God, I beg you. Please do not just save April from the bus station. Save her from hell!  

And God, please give me spiritual eyes. I want to see April in January… every single day.

with big love,

p.s. Will you help me LOVE A LITTLE LOUDER?
 I mentioned several weeks ago I am now serving in a new program in prison. The new program is called STRIVE, and it’s a 12-week program to help prepare women for release and reentry. { Side note: There’s an incredible God-orchestrated story about how I ended up there, but I’ll have to tell you that story later. But for now, don’t you just know that God has been preparing me to volunteer in this program since my first trip to the bus station in 2013?!!? } Anyway, the program focuses on helping women overcome the trauma that sent them to prison; career readiness skills; employment referrals; post-release supervision; and community support. Part of career-readiness is learning how to apply and interview for a job, and the women have an opportunity to participate in two job fairs. Amazing! And even more awesome, the STRIVE program includes a boutique where the women can obtain clothing and other personal items they need to be prepared for interviews and for successful reentry.

We have 60 women preparing for these job fairs and to go home, and they need your help! Here are some ways you can love a little louder:

1. Business-casual and business-dress shoes: Think ballet flats and low-heeled pumps in gently-worn condition. We need women’s sizes 5-10, but we also have a couple of women with really tiny feet, youth sized 4-1/2 and 5.

2. New panties and bras: For panties, I typically buy the 6-pack of Hanes bikinis or hipsters. Y’all know it’s awful to shop for bras, so I typically buy the Hanes bras that come in sizes S-XL. The girls tell me these work great because they often don’t know what actual size they wear anyway. { Note: These links are to examples on Amazon, but you can also get similar items at Walmart and Target. }

3. Purses: Now I know a purse is not a necessity, but gently worn, fashionable purses would be an awesome treat for these girls when they go home. 

4. If it’s easier/faster for you to donate money, you can make donations to First Baptist Crawford, P. O. Box 30, Crawford, Texas 76638. Please note “PRISON MINISTRY” in the memo of your check. Every single dollar donated supports these girls.

If you can help with any of these, please let me know via email. If you have my cell number, you can also text me, but y’all know I can’t put my cell phone number here for the whole world to see. 

And finally, I know this is a BIG ask, so I want to say an even BIGGER THANKS! Asking is never easy for me, but I won’t get to see the miracle of God’s provision if I don’t position myself to need one! 


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