Prairie Wife of the Week: Jodi Hubert (Ministering to Women in Prison)
Posted June 1, 2016 by Prairie Wife - 4 comments
Here at PrairieWifeInHeels.com we’re all about offering support to other women, it’s even in our mission statement! This weeks’ Prairie Wife takes supporting other women to a whole new level! I first came in contact with her 8 years ago when she held a MOPS meeting at her house. As you tend to do in a small town, we’ve often run into each other and we have several friends in common. Two years ago we met up at a flag football game and as our kids played we chatted about Jodi’s latest mission…mentoring women in our local jail. I was fascinated and made a mental note to approach her later about being a Prairie Wife of the Week. As you read Jodi’s story, I hope you’ll be inspired to find ways to support other women in your community. As this mother of 8 says, “I am one woman and there aren’t enough hours in the day to help everyone that needs it. How amazing would it be to cause a domino effect and show these women not just one or two people care but, a whole community cares about them?”
Prairie Wife (PW): First tell us a little bit about you and your family.
Jodi (J): I was born in Ohio. My dad was in the Airforce so, my sister and I moved a lot when we were kids. We moved to Wyoming in 1986 and I’ve been here ever since! I went to college at the University of Wyoming and I’ve been in Casper since 2002. I love raising our family in Casper, the focus on family in our community is amazing and wonderful. Right now my husband and I have eight children living with us ranging in ages from 18 years to 9 months! Five of the children are biological, two are adopted, and one we have guardianship of. My husband is an Elementary principal and I keep busy Homeschooling our kids and doing a multitude of other tasks that I couldn’t even begin to list!
PW: Can you talk a bit about your experience with the Foster care system and adoption?
J: Five years ago, my husband and I heard of a woman that was planning to abort her baby. We offered to help, even to take her baby if she chose life, but despite our offer, sadly that pregnancy ended. This experience was heart breaking but, it opened my eyes to the need of offering support to these women and their unborn babies. So, I began to volunteer at a local organization called True Care. As I worked with these women and their unborn children I began to realize, if I am fighting for life for children still in the womb, shouldn’t I be caring just as much about the babies that are already born?
This thought process led my husband and I to get certified to do respite care for Foster families. In Nov 2011 we took an emergency call for a toddler and were put in contact with a mom that desperately needed support. I developed a relationship with this mom, we educated her, and helped her navigate the ups and down of parenting. It was so rewarding for both of us, she was able to get custody of her son back, and I am still friends with her to this day.
I am a huge advocate for helping the parents. Often, many of the parents don’t know how to get past their own lack of education, trauma and emotional issues. In the majority of cases it is best for children to be with their parents. That being said, shortly after the experience listed above we received a call to foster two children – an infant born with meth in his system and his five year-old brother. We worked for months for reunification but in the end, the mother was unable to make changes, and we adopted the boys.
PW: Along the way you felt called to minister to women in jail. How did this journey start for you?
J: My journey into the walls of the Natrona County Detention Center was definitely not on my radar. As someone who found Jesus later in life, after many twists and turns including some that could have landed me in jail, I know that God doesn’t reveal the big picture right away but, instead leads us through small steps. God also has a sense of humor and this story is a perfect example of that!
About a year and half after the boys were placed in our care, I became aware that their biological mother had been arrested and was being held in the jail in Casper I felt called to reach out to her, to let her know we had never quit praying for her and to share the good news of the Gospel with her. I knew that it was important for her to still have the chance to have a role in her children’s lives. I took her a letter that her oldest son had written as well as some pictures of the boys, even thought I was scared out of my mind on that first visit, it went very well and we both felt loved by the other. We started to write back and forth, and this eventually led to phone conversations. During one of our talks, she mentioned that she had been to church in jail and sang some hymns. So I called and inquired about the program. I ended up chatting with the woman who leads the program, and after a “God-ordained” meeting, she invited me to help her minister to women in jail.
Anyone can visit with an inmate behind the glass on visiting days, but to lead a study or go in and do professional visits (sit in a room with the inmates) you must either be a Chaplain or an Attorney or have special clearance. This all happened so fast, and within just a couple weeks, I filled out the paperwork, had a background check and became a Chaplain.
For the last 2 ½ years, Every Tuesday night I go to the jail and help lead a bible study with a groups of women in jail. These women are locked up 19 hours a day and are only out of their cells for five. For them to be willing to give up an hour of their limited “free time” to participate in a bible study is, in my opinion, already a huge step. We hold two different meetings for an hour each, that includes worship music and Bible teaching.
Regardless of the crime, I would guess that 95% of the women in jail are there because of substance related issues. So many people think, the solution is easy…just stop doing drugs or abusing alcohol and everything will be fine. There is more to it than that. A great resource for me has been The Heart of Addiction: A Biblical Perspective by Mark E. Shaw. In it he talks about recovery vs. transformation. Recovery is often simply an outward change of behavior, but the root issues and hurts that caused the addiction are still there. People that are “recovering” often revert back to their addiction because they simply stopped the behavior rather than addressing and changing the problem that caused the substance abuse. Transformation on the other hand, leads to a permanent and inward heart change. I believe that if a person surrenders their life to God, He can change their passions and teach them to think differently about their past, their abilities, and their future. As a result, they are transformed and able to lead a life where they hopefully are no longer are slaves to substance abuse.
PW: As you spend time mentoring women, what did you learn about yourself?
J: More than I could have imagined!
To pray like never before. I have never felt so inadequate in my life! In my prayers I beg God for wisdom, I have questioned God, I have shared with Him my worry, fear, sadness, and regret. I want to save people and give them a better life but, through this I have learned to accept that I can’t, only God can. I am simply a messenger of His truth, His forgiveness, and His power to overcome even the worst situations.
That with every huge success there are disappointments. One of our girls I formed a relationship with was doing great, going to church with her children, and then I heard that she killed herself. Why?
Knowing God is in control and has a plan does not make the pain go away.
Compassion at a level that I never knew I had.
I have also surprised myself with some changes that happened to me. I became a public crier and a hugger.
I have become a “writer” and I try to record my thoughts in my journal after each session. Going back to read past entries has helped me to reflect and grow as a mentor, woman, wife, and mother.
I make judgements about people and situations less quickly and love and appreciate people different from me more quickly.
PW: Can you share some of the things that surprised, intimidated, or disappointed you as you formed these mentoring relationships?
J: I was surprised at the depth of dysfunction and trauma that these women have experienced their whole lives. 10-step programs aren’t going to cut it. There are hard core hurts and root issues that need serious counseling and healing. It also surprised me how easy it can be to relate to these women and care about them. I’ve benefited from what they have to offer me…and the fact that they had so much to offer was humbling to me.
When I go on Facebook and see how some of these women live, it’s scary. Just because someone isn’t using drugs anymore doesn’t mean they are suddenly living a healthy life. Drugs is only a small part of what many of these women are struggling with. Women leave jail and are going back to unhealthy relationships with significant others and their families and friends. To break the cycle of abuse in their life they have to walk away from everything they’ve known, and there can be a lot of backlash from people they love.
At first I felt intimidated and inadequate when asked hard questions of faith, of suffering and of the character of God. I’ve learned I have the confidence from God that I need to share my faith. I’m not afraid to say I don’t know, to be honest that I don’t have all the answers or, to get back to them at another time with an answer.
PW: There has been so much good that has occurred as a result of your work and dedication. Can you tell me some of your biggest successes?
J: I feel like it’s God successes not mine, anything good that happens is not because of me alone!
A big success that comes to mind is when we moved one of the women I had met in jail into our home so we could offer her support and continue to mentor her. To see my children sacrifice for her, that was huge. Even though her road has had additional bumps and she lives elsewhere at the moment, her story is not over and God continues to work in her life. God also taught me a lot about myself in that situation, so I would consider that a big success for both of us!
When you work with people that have felonies on their record, you can’t have them around foster children…so when the woman I talked about above came into the house we had to stop participating in foster care. We were at peace with that decision. But, we learned quickly that if God wants to put a baby in our house he doesn’t need DFS to do it! During this time, I received a letter from a girl in prison who had heard of my work with women and my adoption of our two boys. She asked if we would consider a private guardianship for her baby, and after much prayer, we accepted. Even though we don’t know how this story will end either, I trust in God to make it a success.
PW: Do you hope to continue mentoring women or do you think you’ll find new and different ways to share your talents?
J: I’ve learned to just follow where God leads me, and keep taking those little steps I talked about before. I feel like I will always be mentoring women in some way or another. I would love to eventually see myself training other women to mentor. I am one woman and there aren’t enough hours in the day to help everyone that needs it. How amazing would it be to cause a domino effect and show these women not just one or two people care but, a whole community cares about them?
PW: If any of our readers want to learn more about mentoring underprivileged and incarcerated women or become active in a program like you, how and where do they begin.
J: Start asking questions. And do what I did, make a calls to your local jail or women’s halfway home and simply say…”I want to help what can I do?”
PW: What advice do you have for other women that want to help in their local community but aren’t sure how or where to start?
J: Start small and don’t look for a huge change. Think about your talents and ask around, make a phone call. The ways that you can help women in your community are endless…
–If they have no vehicle offer to give them a ride to work.
–Babysit so they can go to work or attend a women’s support group.
–Take them to grocery store and educate them on healthy eating.
-Invite them over for dinner and have them help cook the meal.
–Bring them with you to church.
–Take them out for coffee and a chat and offer them fellowship.
–Donate bibles or other religious items to the jail.
–Pray for them.
PW: Let’s get personal for a minute, how do you keep your balance as a woman, wife, and mother with a large busy family?
J: I couldn’t do it without the support and encouragement of my husband and kids, great friends, and my local church family.
Because we have older children in our home, my husband and I have the luxury of sneaking away for a date without much notice. We try to focus on keeping our communication strong. I have my moments where I feel overwhelmed and anxious, and I have to constantly remind myself that my family comes first. My primary ministry is in my home. It’s vital to involve your children in ministry and serving. When we teach them life isn’t about them, and talk about the injustices in the world and the privileges they have, it helps them in their journey to becoming better adults.
I also have great friends that will literally help at a moment’s notice. And our church is not only wonderful about supplying Bibles to these women, but it is a place of refuge and support for me on those hard days.
There are a lot of things that I don’t do because not only do I homeschool but, I partipate in this ministry. I don’t often go to the mall, go on vacations or have “me” time. It’s just not the season of life I’m in. I’ve learned the importance of asking others for help and allowing others to minister to me.
I’ve also realized that saying no to things I know are good, doesn’t make me a bad person. To step away from some of the other ministries I was involved into focus on this has allowed other people to step up into those positions.
PW: Where do you hope to see your family over the next few years?
J: I hesitate to say…I am just open to God’s plan and I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing until he leads me down a new path.
PW: Any last Prairie Wife words of wisdom?
J: People matter to God, and they should matter to us. We are all in need of rescue, and God does it in His way, and His timing, for His glory. I feel humbled and honored that He allows me to be used in this small way, as a messenger of hope and redemption to the forlorn and lonely. Little actions can have an enormous impact but, in the end it’s about hope for something bigger and better and lasting. No one is hopeless. Anyone can be redeemed and changed and given hope for their future.
Tags: , addiction, addiction recovery, community service, Foster Care, jodi hubert, mentoring women, Prairie Wife of the Week, recovery, substance abuse, support for women, volunteering, women in jail