Mother, daughter pray with inmates at Dawson County Jail
Erion and her daughter, Heidi Revelo, walk into the jail once a month and spend an hour talking to and praying with some of the women staying there
LEXINGTON, Neb. — There aren't a lot of people that willingly walk into a jail, and even fewer who allow themselves to be locked into a room with inmates staying there.
“The jailer locks the door, and we're all locked in there together,” Terry Erion said.
Erion and her daughter, Heidi Revelo, both of Cozad, walk into the Dawson County Jail once a month and spend an hour talking to and praying with some of the women staying there, The North Platte Telegraph reported.
“I used to think of people in jail as ‘those people,’” Revelo said.
She explained that the first time they walked into the jail nearly a year and a half ago, she recognized someone she knew. That's when she realized that “those people” all had problems, stories and lives to live.
“It's taught me not to be judgmental,” said Revelo.
Revelo is a chaplain at Tyson Foods in Lexington, and when her mother wanted to start volunteering with the bible study program at the jail, she decided she would join up.
“It's a calling,” said Revelo.
They were joined by Dianne Laier this last spring. Laier said she'd heard of the program and had wanted to be involved for some time.
“I just have a heart for people (in jail),” said Laier.
The women, who attend Cozad Bible Church, are assigned the fourth Sunday of the month. They meet with the women for about an hour, and then part ways. There were a few churches on the rotation so those going to the group could experience a different church every week, but the program recently lost its administrator and it has been a little up in the air.
“Sometimes we come in and they say they haven't had church since we were there last time,” Erion said. “We don't always have somebody there.”
In order to participate, the women to receive access cards for the jail, undergo background checks and have their fingerprints taken but Revelo said it's worth it. When they walk through the door they're greeted by women who are similar to themselves, women with children, women who have simply made mistakes.
Revelo said they never ask the ladies why they are there or for how long, but once in a while they volunteer some information. Erion said that many have children at home that they are concerned for. Others are housed at the jail but aren't from the area, meaning they have no visitors. They spend the majority of their time in their pods, said Revelo, and they're often very open and willing to talk when they come to the group.
The women can pray for anything they want, and they also take turns reading a written prayer out loud.
“We pray for the person next to us,” Erion said. “We empower them to pray.”
Erion explained that the women are allowed to take the written prayer back to their pods and insert the names of their family members and children. Sometimes the women in the group don't know each other when they walk in.
“As we sit and visit, you can see friendships start to blossom and they will support each other,” Erion said. “They can't do it alone.”
Erion and Revelo agreed that the goal is to offer women hope. They explained that after a woman is released, they often never hear from them again, since the women know nothing more than their first names.
“We plant the seed,” Revelo said. “You don't know what's going to happen later.”
Revelo added they help build a bridge for the women. Those who are in the system are there because they weren't living ideal lives, for whatever reason. She explained that it can be difficult for them to cross over from the wrong path to the right one, but she hopes the program will help lay the stepping stones.
Every week, after the volunteers walk out, they hold the names of the inmates close to them.
“I have such a heavy heart for them,” Revelo said.
“We remember their names,” Erion said. “That way we can keep praying for them. We still think about them later, and they're always in our hearts.”
Both Revelo and Erion said being part of the program has caused them to rethink the way they live their lives. Erion said she tries to think more of others instead of being wrapped up in her own world, while Revelo noted that she tries not to pass judgment and to keep her heart open.
“I hope that I give them hope,” said Erion. “Hope to hang onto— that's more than just human hope.”