Note: This is the second installment of a new series of posts. Once a week, we will hear from one of our friends in maximum security prison. These women were students of mine in one of two classes I taught at the Tennessee Prison for Women, Disciplines for Christian Living and Faith and Culture. They are part of the Lipscomb LIFE program, an educational program that enables women who are admitted to earn an associate of arts degree in seven years. Today we introduce Tonya, and look forward to sharing more of her story in upcoming posts.
Meet my friend, Tonya. Tonya currently resides at the Tennessee Prison for Women. She is a volunteer tutor for the education department giving instruction for career management and the adult basic education program. She also gives back to both the inside and outside community by donating items including hats for the homeless. Tonya’s greatest joy in life is her two teenage daughters, whom she assists in the care and guidance of alongside her family. Tonya is working on an Associates Degree with Lipscomb University through their LIFE program. She is a certified facilitator with the theotherapy project promoting emotional healing and has been involved with the program since 2007.
Tonya continues to seek stability, security, and community within the institution. In addition, she attempts to find kinship and support from those outside the complex. She is an inspiration as she parents from the inside—no easy task–but she is committed to raising her girls. She does so through phone conversations, prison visits from them, and through her family. Following is a recent journal entry that she chose to share with us:
“This past week has been a much welcomed blessing of God’s grace extended through forgiveness. As my relationship with my sister begins to be renewed, I am reminded of the healing power of forgiveness. This healing and wholeness comes about through reconciliation with God, with self, with family, and with community.
It is difficult for me to put into words the effect this healing has had in my life, other than it has been transformative in not only my life but in my family’s and those I am surrounded by. Through this process, I am in a continual state of growth and maturity. The healing that God has already provided me with has been the most significant aspect of my spiritual formation.”