My name is Karen Parker and I was released from Mabel Bassett Correctional Center September 1 of this year. About a month before my release my case manager started my discharge paper work which included checking each county for fines and court costs ordered to be paid by me upon my release. Unfortunately, the results of his search were way more than I anticipated. According to records I owed over $6,000 to three different counties and had 48 hours after I was released to contact these counties and make payment arrangements or a warrant for my arrest could be issued. I was also told that I had 24 hours to report to the parole and probation office in downtown Oklahoma City to check in and be assigned a parole officer.
The day I was released the director of Living Hope Ministries picked me up to take me to the Hope House where I would begin a one year Christ centered discipleship program. Before we even got to the house we went to the DMV office to get my driver’s license only to find out that it was suspended. I was able to pay $20 to get a state ID. The next day she took me to the parole office where I did my intake and was assigned a parole officer.   I was told to meet with him within 48 hours in a different building a few miles away. We also went to DHS and applied for a food stamp card. Third on the list was a cell phone which we obtained from Assist Wireless. Later in the day I spent almost 2 hours contacting court clerks in each county to make payment arrangements. I was blessed in that I was allowed to contact them by phone.  Most counties require you to report  in person. I explained to each one that I had just been released and wasn’t employed yet so they gave me 30 days to pay them. So, here I was with no job and a felony criminal record and had only 30 days to find a job and pay $25 to one county, $50 to another, and $40 to a third county. Next, was the task of finding out exactly what I had to do to get my driver’s license reinstated. After 4 phone calls I learned I had 4 tickets to pay totaling $800 as well as $300 reinstatement fee. I am very fortunate that I have a father in my life and he was able to help me pay those tickets. I got the tickets paid and went to the DPS office only to find out a mistake had been made and the court clerk had put some of the money towards a ticket that wasn’t affecting my driver’s license. I was able to straighten that problem out over the phone and did get my license. I am also fortunate to own a car but had to pay $500 to tag and insure it. Two weeks later I received notice in the mail that I had 14 days to pay an additional $325 for yet another traffic ticket in another county. It was around that time that I learned that because of two driving under suspension tickets that I did not go to court for, I also had two $500 fines for failure to appear.
I don’t think people realize that when you are released from prison you have absolutely nothing. You have to buy hygiene products, clothes, shoes, make-up, etc. You have to buy food. You are literally starting over and I honestly don’t know how anyone can do all these things without help. I thank God every day for Jamie Ruston and Living Hope Ministries because there is no way I could have accomplished everything I had to do. Most people coming out of prison don’t have a DL or a car so they need someone to take them everywhere. It is so overwhelming just trying to adjust to being free again let alone have 24 and 48 hours to be five different places.
I am now working at a good job but circumstances caused me to only be able to work very few hours for the first month which has caused me to fall a little behind. This stresses me out but I am very blessed to now be working full time. I get paid twice a month. One check I have to pay $115 on fines/court costs, car insurance, and phone bill but my second check after rent I am lucky to break even. I am one of the lucky ones because many, many people aren’t able to find a job right away and immediately fall behind which causes them to give up completely and return to their old lifestyle.

Patty's message of living with hope - October, 2010

2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” This scripture is very significant to my life because not too long ago I was totally hopeless and lost in the wilderness. I was living in a world of darkness and Satan had a hold on me. My choices of living for my flesh and selfish desires landed me in jail for a short time but sadly I continued in my sinful ways. Then, again, another trip to jail only this time I was on my way to prison. I am so grateful now for God’s amazing grace that saved me from myself! While in prison I decided I was through with the self-imposed destruction of myself, my health, and my relationships – not to mention the pain I caused my family. One day in my deep despair, all alone, my heart broken and tears flowing, I fell on my knees and surrendered all my fears, addictions, my earthly possessions and my very soul to God asking Him to please restore me and redeem me. I knew I didn’t have a chance to make it if I went back to where I came from upon my release from prison. I asked God to make a way for me and that I was ready to live righteously in His power for Him. I wrote Living Hope Women’s Ministry, received an application and just knew that I was cutting it close to have approval by the time I was released. I trusted in God and prayed that if He wanted me in this ministry to make a way and that I would commit myself to the program. Three days before my release I found out I would be the newest member to the Living Hope family. The Lord opened this door for me at the perfect time. I trusted Him to make a way and He did but only after I waited for Him to work. I can’t remember the last time I have felt so free and happy, not to mention fulfilled, as I do in my life now. God is a faithful God!! Today I put my hope and trust and energy into serving a mighty God.

Jeremiah 33:3 says “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Being a part of Living Hope has been blessing upon blessing. As I call upon Him He is answering me. I now have Christian sisters around me and the family members of an awesome church. God has expanded my territory with loving support and a spiritual journey that is exciting and prosperous. I am so thankful to be delivered from the snare of the enemy who is defeated because of the victory in Jesus Christ who ransomed me. I choose to be blessed and live according to scripture. For the joy of the Lord is my strength. Rejoice, again I say rejoice!! The Lord and this ministry have changed my life. I now wake-up with a song in my heart and a smile on my face.

Sandra's message of living with hope -  April, 2010
Trading My Turmoil for the Giver of Peace

While I meditate and fellowship with God these thoughts come to my mind and I think this is my testimony: When I was in my early twenties, I remember telling my mom I wanted “peace of mind” but, sadly, I continued to live in turmoil for 25 more years until I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. The journey to that final surrender to Jesus took me to places that gave me anything but peace. No one or nothing could satisfy or rid me of the chaos, confusion, unrest and turbulence in my life. When I was at the end of myself, I submitted to the only One who could give me that peace I had longed for. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27.

Today there are circumstances in my life that seem like mountains that I know only God can move but, because of my relationship with Him, I am able to trust the Lord and live in peace. I choose to live my life by faith and not by sight and continually pray for “mountain moving faith.” I choose to not look at my circumstances the way they appear. God has given me revelations and conformations that it is in His hands and, therefore, I can live today and not worry about tomorrow because God is already there. Fellowshipping with the Lord throughout my day is so sweet now and, where I once lived in turmoil I am thankful, I now live in joy and peace of heart and mind because Jesus lives in me.

Jessica's message of living with hope - January, 2010

Time was running out and I had a big decision to make. Do I go back to the only people and places that I knew, the environment that landed me in prison, or do I go to an unfamiliar safe place? I made the right choice and sent in an application to Living Hope Women's Ministry because my commitment to change was so strong. I know how badly my family and I needed for me to be transformed. My incarceration was a blessing and gave me time to evaluate all of my destructive thoughts and behaviors. Correction was welcomed. I am changing because I want a better life and a better relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am learning as much as I can about the things that I need to do and how to control my thoughts and actions so that the outcomes of my decisions will no longer adversely affect my family, myself, and society as a whole. I am willing to give up all that I have ever known, in order to do so. There is no question about whether or not I should change. Change is a must in order for me to survive. I am coming to the conclusion that these changes are inevitable and are already happening. The help and direction that I am receiving from Living Hope is allowing me to adjust as easily as possible. This process is bringing so much hope back into my life. At one time my existence was futile. I trust that anything that comes my way will be better than before. From rock bottom, the only way to go is up and my final destination is Heaven.

Christine's Story - August, 2012

On June 15, 2012 I was released from prison after being incarcerated for four years.  I have battled a life of addiction and trouble with the law for the last 10 years.  I have spent more time in jail, prison or running from the law than anything else.  This time coming out of prison I decided to make a better choice and was accepted at Living Hope, this was tough decision for me because I have three children in Kansas that my mother and a friend have been raising. When you get serious about recovery and really want to change your life around, you sometimes have to do what is hardest instead of what would be the easiest. Through my coming to Living Hope, the Lord is doing a work within me and preparing me to be a better mother, daughter, sister and person.
Shortly after my release I was blessed to be able to make a trip to Guymon, Oklahoma where I had the opportunity to spend the night with all three of my children and what an amazing twenty-four hours for me. The closer we got to Guymon the more nervous I began about seeing my children.  A spirit of fear consumed my every thought because it had been a long time since seeing my children and I wondered how they would react. The moment my mom pulled up with the kids the fear washed away and replaced by unconditional love.  My kids clung to me as if I had never been away and from that day forward I knew that it was the beginning of rebuilding my life with my children.
God promises he will restore our lives and all the years we have been consumed by sin will be gone and God will bring us to a place we are completely satisfied in Him. God is the lifeline that I can hold unto when things look hopeless and helpless for me.  One of my favorite scriptures is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me….” Each day that I wake up I rely on Him for strength to get through the day.  My being away from my children is not easy but I know that the time I spend here at Living Hope and growing in my walk with the Lord is worth the rest of my life with my children.

He Saved Me - April, 2012

I believed and received Jesus as my Savior very early in my life - so early, that I don’t ever remember there being a time when I didn’t know who Jesus was. But for most of my life, I didn’t know Him personally and I didn’t make Him my ‘Lord’. I lived an existence separated from the greatest love there is. My life had been full of insecurity, rejection, drug addiction and prison. I knew Jesus took my sin and died in my place, but I guess I didn’t really know what that meant except that I would live in heaven with Him when I died here. When I finally understood that He gave me so much more and that I could have it now, I came to my senses. I surrendered my life totally to Him, for that is all I can do. He has already done everything else.

Since then, He has brought me out of prison and into Hope House. Psalm 40:2 ‘He has lifted me out of the slimy pit , out of the  mud and mire; He has set my feet upon a “rock” and given me a firm place to stand.’ Now with the love and guidance of Janet Sherry and many other mentors through Living Hope Women’s Ministry, I am finally living with and for the love of my life- Jesus Christ. I am living a life of joyous freedom from all that kept me bound and trapped; a life full of blessing, security, and love. 1 Peter 5:10 says "And the God of all grace..... after you have suffered a little while, will Himself, restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.’ Praising and thanking God is my “addiction” today. (Ps 40:3) "He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord’. In Psalms 116:1-6 it says,  "I love the Lord because He had heard my voice and my supplication. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live. The pains of death surrounded me; the pangs of sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I implore You deliver my soul.” Gracious is the Lord, and righteous, yes, our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low and he saved me.          

In Christ, Karen

God's Abundant Love - January, 2012

I arrived at Living Hope on December 19, 2011 and from the moment Janet, the director, picked me up at the gate it has been a complete blessing.  I was greeted at the Hope House with a warm welcome and felt the love from all the ladies. All my needs were met before I even arrived.  God has provided for me abundantly and His spirit hovers over the Hope House.  I was blessed with the first job I applied for and the ministry graciously makes sure I arrive to work and home again every day.

I also want to say that Crossings Church is awesome and so are our Hope House Bible studies.  I stand in awe of all that God has done for me this first month, all I can say to describe  it is Ephesians 3:20 “He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, over and beyond all that we can ask or even imagine.”  I am looking forward to a wonderful year at Living Hope.