Two years ago, Magdalene & Thistle Farms began a Find Your Way Home prison tour to share principles of healing with women's prisons and communities across the country. With support from the Cal Turner Family Foundation, we traveled to 9 different cities, including New York, Memphis, Houston and others, sharing inspiring stories from Magdalene graduates and music from songwriter friends. We performed the Find Your Way Home program with inmates in women's prisons as well as with churches in the community who wanted to learn more about this work. Last year, we performed the same program at The Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina; and this year we were invited by the Greenbelt Festival in England to share this same program in the UK. The Greenbelt Festival is a Christian arts, music and social justice event in it's 39th year and has over 20,000 attendees most years. It was an inspiring experience to meet remarkable people from across the world working on behalf of love and justice. We were grateful to be invited.
Thistle Farms founder, Becca Stevens, returned from the UK with these thoughts:
Don Schlitz, Regina Mullins, Shelia McClain, Marcus Hummon and Becca Stevens performed at the Greenbelt Festival in England. Highlights of the trip include Shelia watching the guards at Buckingham Palace, Fish and Chips, and making new friends from around the world. We shared stories and songs about the universality of the issues around prostitution, trafficking, and addiction and how we heal in community. We are working on a partnership with The Next Step that wants to make bath products for the UK market. Marlei Olsen did a wonderful job organizing the whole group. Stacye Schlitz and John Kutsko were a beautiful addition to the team taking pictures, singing harmony, and carrying the message of Magdalene and Thistle Farms to this part of the vineyard.
Shelia, a Magdalene Graduate and Assistant Resident Manager, shares her experience on the trip:
On September 16, 2004, I would have never been able to imagine how good life would be. Coming into the Magdalene Program has opened doors that have always been closed. I’m amazed how my hell helps inspire people to help bring change or inspire an individual to forgive. I get the opportunity to travel and share a little of myself. When I was in addiction, I didn’t realize that this was an international problem. I honestly thought it was only here in the US. These last eight years has opened my eyes to the truth. This is happening everywhere.
About six months ago, Becca called me and told me to start working on my passport. Becca invited me and Regina to go to The Greenbelt Festival. The last six months have been very exciting to me. I was anxiously waiting on August 22 to get here. The first day that we arrived, no sooner than we landed and got to our hotel, Regina and I were on a bus trying to find the Buckingham Palace. We got off the bus downtown and asked for directions. I was so excited and at the same time a little nervous. We found the palace. I loved the soldiers. We decided in order to see as much as we could in the 24 hour span, we had it would be best to get on a tour bus and let them guide us.
I came back with at least 100 pictures of the beautiful buildings and cathedrals. I must say I felt like a big kid, wanting to see everything. Everyone kept asking if we were on a holiday. I guess it was really obvious! I love getting to experience different cultures. The English breakfast was really good. The following day we went to the Greenbelt Festival. On Saturday, we did the program: Find Your Way Home: Stories and Songs of Hope. The next day while waiting for Marcus and Don to perform a women came up to me wanting to talk. My story had gave her some hope that she too would be able to move on from the demons of her past and be ok with the person she is today. Although we had taken different paths we had been through the same childhood tragedies. This to me was amazing. I’m so grateful for the program, all the volunteers, Thistle Farms, and everyone who donates and believes that love heals.