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After that, addresses seemed to appear, many in the most amazing ways, and the 4 I'd been writing to went onto 50, then 100 - and then we stopped counting ! Poems started to come, often with words, whose meanings I had to discover. And, as I was led the poems became called Penwork. I thought I'd found all the Lord had for me, I thought I knew His plan for me. But in truth, that was simply the spadework, preparing the soil for the seed He was to plant.
In October 1998, 16 months in our Lord, my dear friend, Pat, sent me a book. “Feel this is for you,” she wrote, I took one look at the prison bars on the cover and, horrified, put it away! But our Lord's Holy Spirit was at work and before long I picked up the book. I'd not been able to read much due to on - going visual problems, so feared I'd not be able to read the words anyway. I opened the book. The page was sharp and clear, no fuzz, no blur! I started to read, and read on and on until the end. Within the story I saw myself... Rita (Rita Nightingale “Freed for Life”) and many of my thoughts and feelings had as Rita's. I even used the same phrases. But there the likeness ended... or did it? And then I saw that I, too, was in a prison, that of my own body. The book and its story made an impact on me greatly - but was then forgotten. In April - May of 1999 I relapsed very badly and became unable to do a thing. Even drinks were in a plastic beaker by my face, drunk through a plastic, bendy straw. It was a low point in my life and my 22 to 23-month walk was put to the test in so many ways. It was during this time our Lord started to talk to me about prisons and prisoners. I was not keen and did not want to go along that road, but gently, firmly, He led me and started to take my worldly ways, thoughts and feelings and melt the ice in my heart into water... and that water into the wine of His Love.
In October 1999 I knew I was to reread Rita’s book, and this time saw another story, that of life in a Thailand woman's prison. I had no idea at all that people could be allowed to live in such a way and it did much to change my outlook. I saw there was a world I didn't have a clue about.
In March 2000 a magazine came. It was of Christian poetry
and, as I took it out of the envelope, it flipped open and
a name and address jumped out of the page at me. I stared
in horror as I read MAX SEC... PRISON... ZAMBIA... No, no,
I muttered, no, that's not for me... I can't write to someone
there... What if... What?? But the words on the page glowed
back at me. I clutched at straws: my family would disapprove;
they would not like me to write there. I can't hurt them:
I love them.
So I took a pen and started to write, but nothing came - I could not write a word... no flow. Then I heard, Tell him, My child... tell him why you nearly never wrote... I swallowed hard. Tell him, Lord, that I thought... that I said... Yes. My child, tell him. So I did and the words flowed and flowed: the soil had been prepared and the seed sown. PRAISE HIM! (Psalm 126 : 5)
As I wrote to others during those weeks I shared that story. It's one that stays with me. I only have to think of that dear brother’s name to recall how easy it would have been to miss a most wonderful blessing. You see, that first prisoner’s name is JACOB (thanks be to God for him) and through sharing that story some dear friends of mine, through a friend of theirs, introduced me to the work of Release International and I was given many names to pen to.
Then, lying here in bed, I felt deep within me a need to listen to Premier Christian Radio. Now, sound causes me pain in my ears and head so I was not too quick to respond to that, but the feeling grew so strong I turned the radio on... and heard two male voices talking about writing to those persecuted for their faith, those locked away in wooden stocks and cells as big as a cupboard! That day our Lord opened the door to Christian Solidarity Worldwide and another list of beloved brothers and sisters came into my hands. I had become so full of His Love for those 'shut away ' that I wrote a piece for a postal 'set aside ' (sent to those kept in bed, or to their home, or with disabilities) Christian Poet and Writers Group. I just felt that I was to reach out and share.
That was the birth of Penwork Ministries. For we all love to write, but many of us have much stacked against us. But nothing is too hard for our Lord. Soon I had become a 'bank' for prisoner's names and addresses and passed on any news, magazines, and so on.
Just before Christmas 2000 I felt our Lord saying to send parcels to the prisoners, but in truth I could not imagine how. But I was learning and thought, well, if it's of our Lord. He will provide... and He did. Rather surprised friends found themselves sending stamps, toothbrushes, toothpaste and not understanding why! Our younger daughter, Lucinda, was rather taken with the whole idea and with our 3 rolls and 2 fishes went shopping. Everywhere He led her she found “buy one, get one free” or a special price for vitamin tablets or boxer shorts, soap, for example! And while I'd thought our Lord said 6 parcels (to become known as ‘goodie bags’) I think I must have panicked and not heard the '-teen'! As 16 goodie bags went out, I could fill page upon page with how He provides for us. We have an AWESOME LORD.
While there is not room to share the story of all those 16 parcels, I'd like to tell you about one brother. He had a 'no parcels' ban on and very little of his mail ever got to him. One day, a few days after Christmas, he was sitting on the floor of his cell when in walked a man (prison staff or angel we leave that with you). He walked over to our brother and placed into his hands an unopened parcel (all mail is censored, letters read, parcels opened and sorted through), turned and walked away, leaving our brother praising the Lord. I'm still not sure whether it was the simple pleasure of opening a gift or the gifts themselves that gave the most joy, but on a slip of card he wrote, “Now I KNOW He is the Living God and He can open doors men have shut.” PRAISE YOU, LORD.
As we when into January 2001 and then into February I was filled, bit-by-bit, with the Knowledge we were to go on. Then I heard, “It’s not just for Christmas...” and I knew that, as impossible as it looked from my side, nothing is impossible with God and if this was of Him, He would bring it into being.
In March 2001 we opened an account in both Lucinda and my names, so as to keep funds in a separate account. In this way Lucinda is able to take care of the banking. She is a special gift from our Lord and while Lucinda, often gets teased in shops for buying boxer shorts by the wire basket or toothpaste by the 40s, 20 bottles of vitamin tablets and soap in large numbers, she takes it all in her stride. She is Penwork's footwork and shops, banks and posts. One can only guess at how many stamps she has affixed to parcels.