From Convict to Redeemed
Jim is a serious offender. He is on his second federal sentence and has been designated a dangerous offender by the government of Canada. That means his sentence is indefinite. He has no idea when he may get out. That’s Jimmy the convict.
Jim signed up for the first ever Prison Bible Encounter Program cohort in 2016 and before COVID 19 struck, he was on target to be part of our first ever graduating class. I haven’t seen him for nearly a year now, but I have heard from him. Occasionally Jim convinces a friendly guard to let him call me at the college.
On one such call, Jim excitedly told me that several guys on his unit wanted to apply to our program. He wanted to know if there was anything he could do to get them ready. I sent him half a dozen of the English prerequisite workbooks and now Jim is tutoring these men so they will be up to speed when we return.
That’s Jim the teacher.
Jim called again just before Christmas and asked if I could do him a favour. Then he told me about Carney. Carney has been in prison for most of the last six decades and was now showing early signs of dementia. Jim was moved by the fact that this would probably be the last Christmas that he
was lucid enough for the season to have any meaning. Jim’s idea was to decorate Carney’s cell in a big way. Part of that was to get Prairie College students to send Christmas cards containing Christmas blessings and words of encouragement. In the end, Jim was able to decorate Carney’s cell with over seventy cards. That’s Jim the caregiver.
Recently, Jim informed me that he has been using some of his time during lockdown to do beadwork. He went on to explain that he’s been making keychains and lanyards that he intended to donate to Prairie College. Jim bought and paid for all the supplies and dedicated literally months of his time to this project.
A few weeks ago, I got a call from the institution office asking me to come and pick up Jim’s work. I wasn’t prepared for what was in the box. Jim had created fifty beautiful lanyards and keychains – no two alike – for the school. In his own words: “I wanted to have a way to give back to a group of people who, through their dedication to us, have given so much. I came up with the idea to make some lanyards and keychains and donate them to sell to help offset the cost of our textbooks which have been supplied to us at no cost.” That’s Jim the philanthropist.
When Jim was locked up, they threw away the key. Then he began to study the Bible and to understand what Jesus meant when he talked about salt and light and of “the least of these.” He began to experience gratitude and to actually care about the other men in his unit. And that’s when everything started to change.
That’s Jim the redeemed.
If you are interested in a piece of Jim’s beadwork, they are available for purchase on the Prairie online Shopify shop: prairie-college-shop.myshopify.com.
There are examples of his work pictured above and below. The lanyards are about 49-cm long and the key fobs are 21-cm long. Considering the time and effort Jim put into these, the price is $20 for the keychain and $40 for the lanyard. This price does not include shipping and is on a first come, first serve basis.