The testimonial below was written by Bill Mori, a parishioner at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Ham Lake. Bill’s experience with the Prison Ministry through the newly created EMBRACE program gives a new meaning to the call from God to “visit the imprisoned.”
“My wife Kay & I met Tyrece, currently an inmate at the minimum security correctional facility in Stillwater, through our parish Deacon, Tim Zinda who facilitates the Prison Ministry and specifically, the EMBRACE Program. When I first heard about EMBRACE I felt no inclination whatsoever to become personally involved. Moreover, as a member of the Parish Council, I was skeptical about our Parish taking on yet another program or ministry, especially one that might involve a financial commitment. Kay was far less skeptical and went with Deacon Zinda to visit Tyrece in Stillwater. She came home having learned three things about him. First, Tyrece is turning his life around thanks to a deep spiritual commitment to Christ, the Catholic Church and the dedicated work of people like Deacon Zinda. Secondly, Tyrece has a hunger and excitement for reading sacred scripture and other spiritual writings. Lastly, she found out that Tyrece was then working on his GED but struggling with math. That’s where I got involved.
Kay asked if I would be willing to help Tyrece with Algebra. After some consideration and reluctant soul-searching, I agreed to try. At the end of my first visit with him I was completely convinced that God wanted me involved and we eagerly planned to meet on Sundays to work on Algebra. However, bad news arrived at the end of that first meeting. The guard announced that a new rule had just been adopted prohibiting inmates from bringing anything with them to the visiting room. Since visitors can bring nothing into meetings, how were Tyrece and I to work on math without books, paper or pencils? The guard offered little consolation but did give me the phone number of the Lieutenant in charge. The next day I called the Lieutenant, explained the difficulty of the situation and asked her to consider making an exception for Tyrece. She politely explained that an exception for one is an exception for all, but did agree to consider the situation. I came away from the conversation with much disappointment and little hope. Joyfully, I once again learned that God answers prayer! The very next day Tyrece called with the great news that the Lieutenant agreed to make an exception and allow Tyrece to bring his math materials to our Sunday visits.
Tyrece is a bright and eager learner and after just a few visits, he re-took the math portion of his GED and passed it. He has now received his High School diploma. Tyrece’s self-confidence now has him convinced that he will pursue higher education. Tyrece will be released in March of 2017 and Kay & I look forward to joining him in celebration of his freedom, his diploma and his new life in Christ. With so few visits I can claim no credit for Tyrece’s success in math. Truly, truly God answers prayer.”