By Connie Hegeman, Secretary of the Prison Ministry and Prison Reform Committee
Now I know why Jesus told us to visit the prisoner. “I was in prison and you visited me.” Matt. 25:36b and, “I was …in prison and you did not visit me.” Matt. 25:43c. We Christians often ignore this along with the threat of eternal punishment when we ignore this command.
After reading Sue Ellen Allen’s, The Slumber Party from Hell, I realized that this is about the closest I’ll ever have the opportunity to visit the prisoner unless I, too, am imprisoned.
The Prison Ministry and Prison Reform sub-committee of Conference Church and Society, at our second gathering at the Conference Center in Phoenix heard Sue Ellen’s story. While hearing and reading her story, I felt the incredible cold and the sweltering heat of the buildings that house the women in the Perryville Correctional Center. Not even in my wildest imagination could I capture the reality of being in prison with stage III breast cancer, nor the extreme nausea caused by chemotherapy, nor the coldness of the staff.
Even these incredible conditions did not engulf Sue Ellen with bitterness and despair. For seven years she maintained her innocence yet forgave all who were responsible for her incarceration. She concentrated on survival and the well-being of her fellow inmates. She started so many programs to help those around her. She watched one twenty-five year old roommate die untreated from a form of leukemia. After serving seven years Sue Ellen was released on patrol.
With meager funds she has started a program called Gina’s Team, named after that young women. All the money received from the sale of her books goes into this program that provides educational programming within our juvenile facilities and prisons as well as a Welcome Back program for smoother reentries upon release. At no cost to the correctional systems these programs have created book clubs, creative writing programs and other motivational programs.
“Slumber Party from Hell” was published by Inkwell Productions in Scottsdale. Go into your local bookstore and ask for it or try http://Amazon.com. Ms. Allen can be reached at email@example.com or P.O. Box 36, Scottsdale, Arizona, 85252. She is available for speaking engagements.