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Nancy Mathis

Fayetteville, AR

Our society is full of divides and that's very unfortunate. My experience with St. Paul's in Fayetteville, which is an amazing place, was the divide between the prison community they serve--they serve the women's prison community--and the church. They do a ministry for the female prisoners. A couple of weeks ago--because I'm fairly new at the church...A couple of weeks ago on Transfiguration Sunday, they had an amazing service, which, I'll be truthful, I did not want to go to, but I'm actually employed as "Associate Choirmaster" and I thought "I'll go and I'll sing. We did it outside. They had a...It was a hot afternoon. They put like a horse trough out. I thought "I don't am not sure about this. This looks very dicey." Then we saw the women. We started out inside and the women were dressed in their prison garb. There were about 20 of them, I would imagine. know I'm of middle class background, I don't see prisoners very often, on the side of the road when the picking up trash and things and I think, "Oh, what did they do?" and you sort of look down on them and that's my divide and I don't feel a whole lot towards them because they caused themselves to be in this situation, right? And so I saw them, starting inside the church, and I looked at them and I thought, "Well they look like me look a lot like me, a lot of them look like me." And then we got outside and we got in the preparation of them being baptized. I was up really close, trying to see. and nobody knew what they were doing exactly. And, you know, it was an interesting experience. I saw the look in their eyes and the way they were welcoming Christ into their lives and how they wanted to restart. Baptism is about a restart, you know? It was amazing. It was one of the most powerful things I've ever witnessed. To watch each...It took a long time to do this because they all had to be immersed and brought out. It was an experience I will never forget and it really changed my life. I would like to think it made me more compassionate. It made me more understanding. The problem is, with time, you forget about these things so it's really nice, you know, maybe this will help me reinforced my belief that we're not...We are all the same. Yes they made mistakes and I could tell from their faces that they were considering these mistakes. This one lady in particular was just about to be released back into society and they were talking about how hard it was for her to go back in, that she didn't really want to go back into society. Oh my goodness, (makes 'dung' bell sound) the bell, the light went off for me and I thought, you know, "I want to support them." They involved us, the congregation, in saying "Will you be there for these people?"  and I want to be there for them, it's a matter time, but, you know, if I ever see one of them, I want them to know that we do want to support them. That's the wonderful thing about this church in St. Paul's in Fayetteville, it's that they really do believe in this. It is not just words; they believe this. They live with this in their life and I'm so honored and grateful to be a part of it.