The letter from Kathy was titled: Testimonies Wanted, and was one of a number of copies sent to individuals here who're part of her prison ministry and receive Christmas holiday packages. The letter was a call to those who had received packages the previous year to write a personal account that expressed how receiving these "blessings" has made a positive impact in their lives.
I remember the opening words of the letter read, "our bakers are growing weary..." Apparently alot of time and effort goes into these bakesales in order to raise funds that make it possible for Kathy to do what she does for those of us in need and from what seemed to be a lack of a more personal engagement coming from our end was misleading our bakers to feel as if their efforts were maybe falling short of doing any real good. Kathy stressed the need for us to open ourselves up in order to deepen the understanding and relationship between us all.
The group of photos were of Kathy alongside of smiling church members and tables covered with all sorts of beautifully packaged baked goods. I thought to myself, "these people must be our 'weary bakers.'" That's when it dawned on me, a sense of how significant it was what you all were doing from behind the front lines to support Kathy's work here. Also the term "weary bakers" and holiday bakers were born as you became the subject of our growing conversations.
After sharing Kathy's letter and the photos with Tyrone and other a new conversation and interest in writing this zine began to take place between us. We all went from being thankful to being grateful. The photos alone worth a thousand words. Having received your generousity, knowing little more than Kathy's name seemed for grated and superficial, and Kathy's letter calling for these testimonies made it more clear to us that there were people who wanted to let us know they cared... and that God cared. People who were reaching out to make that connection with us through Kathy, and through baking. Kathy's letter had to spell that out to us in so many words it seems. We decided to respond.
My visit with Joseph that following month of February, I shared with him Kathy's letter and asked him to help us put this zine together as a surprise to Kathy, the weary bakers, and the rest of the prison ministry unit. He was more than ready and willing to do that too, and we would spend the coming months during visits and over the phone putting these testimonies together. Using the features on my Blog @ Betweenthebars.org, he would transcribe the handwritten testimonies I had mailed to the website to scan onto my blog page, download the transcribed copies and send to me to put it all together. Once it was done, I would mail the master copy to Joseph for him to prepare copies to present to Kathy.
In the beginning, it wasn't my intention to write a testimonial or testimony at all. Even after reading Kathy's letter, when I had the realization connecting me to Kathy and our weary bakers in such a personal way for the first time, it hadn't quite yet revealed itself, the words I'd find to write my testimonial. In fact, because of the faith-based nature of Kathy's letter addressing her Christian brethren, asking for testimonies, I had at first interpreted her words with mixed feelings. As if this "faith" disqualified me and whatever my contribution might be. It took a minute for me to find my own testimonial writing itself.
Whether or not Kathy was intending to address those of us (like myself) not a part of the same faith when she wrote that letter doesn't much matter to me. Even if the holiday package and everything else was intended for those Christian prisoners here, I doubt that any of that would make a difference to Kathy, or to you good people for that matter. I think what's most important is reflected through these testimonies. Appreciation and gratitude, communication, and friendship, as well as faith. Kathy's call to those who she knew already wasn't to my exclusion at all. It was my opportunity in fact, answering her call for support as a way to express and exhibit the gratitude felt by myself and others. Having no idea she had tapped into something and someone to such an effect. I wanted Kathy and everyone to know the story. Hopefully, this will prove to be a testimonial proof of the relevance and meaning in what's being accomplished through your prison ministry unity.
I've spent a very long time away from the church, and away from Christianity. That means away from God, away from prayer, and in many respects, away from a more meaningful relationship with people in and around my life. It wasn't until just a few years ago that even as a self-proclaimed religious heretic, I had made a conscious decision to reconcile my beliefs with those of my family and friends in a more positive way. To open up my mind and my heart once again. After 17 years this is my first time in a long time to engage the church in such a personal way. For the first time in the 7 years, 20-something issues history of Write or Die zine, I've also engaged the church through this project. Since that December of last year I'm finding myself doing what I didn't expect to be doing just several months ago. I've said that I don't believe in miracles, blessings and such things. But sometimes, it seems to me downright spiritual!
I think that I've just about said everything I wanted to say here in this testimonial. So, I'll close this missive to you good people with the hope that these testimonies are well received. And to our weary bakers, I hope that you all can read this zine before or by the time your next scheduled bake sale this year, and maybe find some new purpose and perspective from our message. I know you're all steadfast in both faith and works, even when the good things you do seem squandered. It's a tireless and often thankless task what you do but trust that Kathy has your back, and the potential of each person whose lives you touch in a positive way through your ministry and social outreach. Thank you.
"Life is messy and we are called to put ourselves in the middle of the mess and work to make a difference, however small. We are all carrying a heavy load, fighting a hard battle, but so is every person we encounter in this mystery we call life."
- Matthew Kelly
<Pictured> Joseph and Byron (July 2017)
Visit my editorial blog @ BETWEENTHEBARS.ORG/BLOG/BYRON-WILSON to see more of the WRITE OR DIE zine project and leave me your comments.
Also check out our @MTTC2017 post @ BETWEENTHE BARS.ORG/GROUP/PAPYRUSCOLLECTIVE for a MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH comments and replies dialog with us.
Errors / Typos made during the transcribing of the written text are present here and there, please excuse this inconvenience.
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