Ministry Training for Volunteer Women Chaplain serving Female Inmates
My name is Cheri Jordan. I’ve lived in South Carolina most of my life. The South is the “Bible Belt” so I grew up hearing about Jesus, but not knowing anything about a relationship with Him. I grew up in an extremely abusive environment. I was the oldest child and quickly learned to take on the role of protector and provider. My early years taught me not to trust in people or in love. I only say this now because it had a profound impact on the way I related with Christ later.
I was tossed around among foster homes and was living on my own by the time I was eighteen. With very little to my name and limited resources, I often went to bed hungry. That’s when I discovered that a nearby church offered free dinner on Wednesday night. I cared very little about the service that followed. I just wanted the free food. Out of kindness and respect, though, I stayed for the service. The church filled my empty stomach and slowly began to feed my soul as well. I no longer went just for the food. I began to hunger and thirst for more knowledge of God.
As I began to develop relationships at the church, the people there began inviting me to more events. More events meant more food. Later that year, I was invited to a weekend conference with the women of the church. I decided to tag along. While there, I heard a woman named Dorie Van Stone speak and her story changed my life. She came from a background of abuse and abandonment and was convinced that no one, especially God, could ever love her. Her story was a mirror reflection of what I had gone through and believed about myself. She talked about the power of God’s love in a way that made sense to me and I gave my life to Christ that weekend.
I wish I could say that I became a model Christian after that. I certainly tried and that was my problem. It became about “works” for me. Because of the way I was raised, I was convinced that love was something that could be easily taken away so I spent years trying to earn and keep God’s love. I know I was very much saved during this time, but I wasn’t experiencing freedom in Christ. I spent years in bondage.
I went on to marry and have four kids. We brought them up in church and I taught Sunday School, youth group, and led children’s Christian theatre. I taught Bible studies, had daily devotions, home schooled my children, and the perception to others was that I was living the good Christian life. But I was still miserable inside. I had so much hurt and anger from the past and memories that I could not deal with. I finally came to the point that I told God He needed to help me deal with it and expose the pain before it ate me alive. I said, “Whatever You have to do, just help me be free.” Ha, ha, be careful what you ask for.
My life turned upside down. People often say that things tend to get worse before they get better and that was certainly true in my case. As I began going to counseling, I was overcome by memories and grief. Instead of allowing God to help me deal with the pain, I tried so many wrong methods; the wrong counselors, the wrong medication, the wrong everything. I began to cling to people to help me get through but people disappoint. I finally decided to give up. I decided that healing just wasn’t going to be part of my story. Instead, I got involved in a new ministry and tried to pour myself into that to keep my mind off the pain. I began going to our local jail and serving the incarcerated women there. That was the very place that God began His work of restoration on me.
In the jail system I met so many women who had stories just like mine. They came from abuse, poverty, hopelessness, and had a hard time trusting love. I began pouring into them the love of God and the hope of His word and, in turn, God was pouring the same thing into me. What I discovered was that while I helped others heal, God was healing me. The local jail became a sanctuary for me and a place of restoration.
As a result of ministering in the jail, I became involved in a local non-profit agency and am now working with them. We reach out to incarcerated women, develop relationships with them, and help them upon their release from jail to write a new story for their lives. I have become passionate about this work and am now living a free life in Christ as a result.
I am pursuing classes with CLI because I want to become trained in chaplaincy. I have been approached at the jail about becoming a female chaplain. The thought terrified me at first, but now, I know it is part of God’s calling on my life. I want to be better trained and equipped for the job. I know that God has prepared my heart and He has allowed certain experiences in my life in order to equip me for this work, but I need more practical training. I so appreciate the free courses that are offered through CLI. I would not be able to do it otherwise. I’m still a mom of four and they are my priority, but kids are expensive especially as they approach college age! Most of my income is invested back into them and there is very little left for mom to pursue her dreams. CLI is making that possible for me.