Serving Time with Christian Service
I am Lorna Moore. I was incarcerated as Lorna Anderson. I served 21 years, four months and 23 days at Topeka Correctional Facility in Topeka, Kan., for second-degree murder.
I was raised Methodist, but I really became involved with United Methodist Women while I was incarcerated. Kansas East United Methodist Women has a prison ministry with incarcerated women and families, and it provides parenting classes and retreats for mothers who are incarcerated. In 2001 Kansas East decided to start a United Methodist Women unit inside our correctional facility.
At first I was very skeptical. My childhood memories of United Methodist Women were rummage sales and funeral dinners. I just didn’t see how we were going to do that in prison. But I so respected these women who brought in other ministries like craft classes that I went.
The night of that first meeting, I just knew I had to be a part of this group. They gave us new-member packets, and I went back and read every piece of paper in them. I read response magazine from cover to cover. I couldn’t go to sleep; I was so excited.
We were chartered as a Topeka District United Methodist Women unit in Kansas East Conference. The unit at the maximum custody facility is Women for Justice and Mercy (WFJAM).
The minimum/medium custody facility unit is Women Helping Women Inside.com (WHWI). The dot com is for “carrying on mission.” I had the honor of serving as the first president of the unit inside that facility.
WHWI was chartered at a time when I really needed something. I had already served 15 years, and the parole board had just passed me for another five.
God says, “I’ll never give you more than you can handle.” But I argued with God for weeks. I told God, “You have me confused with someone else, because I can’t handle this for another five years.”
When God closes a door, God opens a window. When God opened mine, in came United Methodist Women.
Isaiah 40:31 says, “Those who wait for the Lord ... shall mount up with wings like eagles.” And I thought, Okay Lord, I will just sit here and keep waiting. But United Methodist Women gave me a whole new perspective on waiting.
Waiting isn’t just sitting there, idly, waiting for time to pass. Waiting is serving. It is those who serve the Lord who mount up with wings like eagles. And because we had the United Methodist Women unit, I was able to serve others on the inside and on the outside.
We really wanted to be involved in mission. But because we had no money, we started looking for things to do that wouldn’t require a lot of cash. We became the prison welcome wagon. We sent any new inmate a letter and a bookmark, told her about our unit and sort of reassured her that there were positive outlets inside the facility to make her experience a little less unpleasant.
We relied a lot on the women from the outside to help us. The Parson District in Kansas East was doing a parish nurse program to distribute Files of Life packets that provide first responders with a patient’s vital medical history. The Parson District had 10,000 Files of Life magnetic refrigerator pouches that needed to be stuffed with medical cards and house door stickers. For those of us who were involved in the unit, this was a chance to get together Friday evenings and do something for someone else.
But it just wasn’t enough; we wanted to do more. So we became very creative. We became involved in recycling and used any money that came from that for mission. Most women in prison know how to crochet, and they usually have a lot of time.
I had crocheted church purses for my granddaughters, so we thought we’d make a few of these and sell them for $15 each at the School of Christian Mission. Within a few hours, we were all sold out and taking orders. In the first year we sold more than 200 church purses. It was a great way to raise money for mission. United Methodist Women of Kansas East and West Conferences kept us supplied with yarn.
One of our huge mission projects was a walk-a-thon. United Methodist Women across the state, and because of an article in response magazine from across the country, pledged sponsorship as we walked on the track of our facility for two hours.
We raised more than $5,500 through that walk-a-thon. We used that money to buy gift cards from a national chain of shoe stores at a discounted rate. We donated these cards to United Methodist Youthville campuses in Newton and Dodge City, Kan., to buy shoes for children who had been placed there by social services. For some of the children that might have been the first new thing they’d ever gotten.
United Methodist Women members in Topeka Correctional Facility make a pledge to mission and every year they meet that pledge. They strive to be a Mission Today Unit. We talk about mission going full circle.
United Methodist Women came into the facility, and now women inside are going back out and being involved in mission. Mission is ongoing and spreading everywhere.
Today, I am out of prison and serve as vice president of United Methodist Women at 10th Avenue United Methodist Church in Hutchinson, Kan., and on the Kansas West Conference United Methodist Women nominating committee. You can’t find better people to demonstrate faith and love. United Methodist Women models that, and it is a very empowering experience to be involved.
I think any district or conference that is close to a women’s prison should try to get a United Methodist Women unit started in the facility. It will not only help the women on the inside, it will help the women on the outside, too. Kansas women will tell you they get so much out of going into the correctional facility and seeing women’s enthusiasm.
Lorna Moore is vice president of United Methodist Women at 10th Avenue United Methodist Church in Hutchinson, Kan., and a member of the Kansas West Conference United Methodist Women Committee on Nominations.
Praveena Balasundaram is a frequent contributor to response and a member of United Methodist Women at Solebury United Methodist Church in New Hope, Pa.