For the past three months, I have had the honor to intern at Kahaila-Reflex for a bit each week, and witness the incredible work being done to redefine offenders and support those who are in trying circumstances.
For Mother's Day, I was able to come to the prison with Kahaila-Reflex and see what a chaplaincy service looks like. However, this Sunday was different than any other Sunday. Before the service began, the chaplain explained how many of the women find today particularly difficult because of rough circumstances with their children, as well as their own mothers and family backgrounds. What for many was a happy day of celebration was a painful reminder to these women of the separation they were currently in from their children, or of painful circumstances with family in general.
As the women started to trickle in and took a seat in the chapel, the music began to play and Jo's voice seemed to combine the women's voices together into a lovely symphony. The light streamed through the stained glass windows, illuminating the morning glow and adding to the worshipful atmosphere. As a first time attendee to a prison chaplaincy service, I was incredibly struck by the power of these women's voices and with what fervor they sang the verses of the songs.
The chaplain then began to speak on the mothering qualities of God, and explained how He could relate and understand what many of these women were feeling. Though this was a hard time full of intense emotions, these women sang with their whole hearts at the end of the service; their evident appreciation of these worship songs and the hope hidden in them was encouraging and amazing to see.
As the women flowed out of the service into the sunshine that had burst through the clouds, they each received three daffodils- one to keep, and two to give away. There are few times where I have felt more impacted by complete strangers; yet, there is something to be said about people who have been hurt, labeled by society, who have experienced the most difficult of situations that life has to offer. Yet, they still sing. They still laughed. They still shared their flowers with those around them.
We are all someone's mother, father, son, daughter, sister, brother, or friend. We all have a story, a purpose, and a journey that is still unfolding. Having the opportunity to worship and sing the morning away with women currently in prison showed me just how alike we all are. We all crave community, we all want to belong, and we desire purpose. Kahaila-Reflex has seen this, and they choose to see women in prison- as well as those who have left prison- not as permanent offenders, but indeed, as offenders redefined.
Grace is a aspiring social worker and has been interning at Kahaila Women's Project for 3 months. Grace has loved seeing what they do and how they do it. Upon completion of her internship, Grace will be returning to Atlanta, United States to complete a Masters in Social Work.