Sunday, February 28, 2010

Val's Prayer

Thank you most high & mighty God:
For last night lying down
This early morning rising
For Health, Love & Use of all the gifts
That you have given me
Most of all Father: Thanks for the Gift of Discernment
For it teaches me: that as long as I put You first,
I am practicing the Gift of Letting Go.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Educational Outreach: Dallas, TX

Nine new friends took a journey from Dallas, TX to Nashville, TN to spend the morning with the Thistle Farms community and learn about the program, the message and the method. Among these guests were a judge, a county commissioner, a vice squad lieutenant, a police sergeant and the director of a women's treatment facility. They were all here because they are looking to start a similar program in Dallas.

Elisabeth Holland, a nurse practitioner and Director of Project Matthew, had been looking for a way to create stability and establish community for women who had been on the streets and eventually in jail. She found that most women she worked with had no other ways of surviving.

After talking with friends in her own community, Bob Mason, a missionary in Dallas, put her in touch with a friend who is friends with Becca Stevens. Good news for Lis -- she didn't have to create this kind of community from scratch, it already existed!

Lis gathered people working on a project called New Life Opportunities (or Prostitution Diversion Initiative) and set up a visit to Nashville where they could hear and see how the Magdalene program operates and runs. We look forward to helping this organization out by sharing our own experiences and as one of the women in the circle said this morning, "let the women in Dallas know they have sisters in Nashville that are here for them."

story & photos by Carolyn Snell

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sunday at Ten Thousand Villages

This Sunday, February 21, be sure to stop by Ten Thousand Villages in Nashville to meet up with Thistle Farms! A percentage of all proceeds from Sunday's sales will be donated to our organization.

Ten Thousand Villages in Nashville, TN, is a fair trade retailer of artisan-crafted home decor, personal accessories and gift items from across the globe. Featuring products from more than 130 artisan groups in some 38 countries, they are part of a network of over 150 retail outlets throughout the United States selling Ten Thousand Villages products.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Have A Fabu-lous Valentine's Day!

In preparation for a sweet V-Day, if you're in the Nashville area, stop by Fabu today from 5pm - 8pm, and meet up with a lovely Thistle Farms rep who will be on hand to show you the best bath and body products to pamper yourself or your special someone!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Find Your Way Home Prison Tour: New York, NY

On Monday, January 25, members of the Thistle Farms community visited Rikers Island in conjunction with the Find Your Way Home Prison Tour.

Becca Stevens shares her thoughts:
It was a grey and stormy morning crossing the bridge to Rikers Island to visit the women’s prison. This was the fourth stop on our “Find Your Way Home Prison Tour,” and it was by far the most daunting. For weeks I had been feeling rocky anyway. Over the past few years Thistle Farms has been floating in and out of churches talking about body care products and sharing stories of hope. Since we have started discussing systematic changes within the prison system, the dialogue feels different. There is a different tone and timbre to the conversations, and the sweetness of the work we do in our community seems to pale in the wake of the huge waves of the systems we face. The tour of our nation’s prisons has taught us all what it means to relinquish control, to perceive the hope that differentiates people all dressed alike, and to keep searching for new meaning in age old problems.

I love how we walk into prisons armed with our book about living in community, with musicians who can tell a story through song, with graduates of Magdalene who have seen the inside of prison walls, and with a message that no one is so far away that she can’t find her way home. It is a challenge because I know that If we present good arguments, share beautiful stories, work really hard, and pray faithfully, it still may not make a change that anyone can easily see. No matter how imperceptible, still we are walking the right path. It is overwhelming to try to change the conscience of people and to talk about mercy and forgiveness in a system where justice is thrown around as though it were infallible or unchanging. I think many people believe because they are not experts, they are reluctant to voice their own opinion. Proposed new laws that will cost states millions of dollars to incarcerate women who were victims, long before they were criminals, are detrimental to the entire penal system. Those projected prisons should confine people who have violent histories.

The vast majority of women we serve in Magdalene are preordained to prostitute themselves and use drugs at an early age. Young girls are victimized and ensnared in communities that tolerate the buying and selling of humans, communities that allow drugs and prostitution to flourish. When I think about the thousands of women who, like me, have been violently abused at an early age, I know intuitively that many of these women would benefit more from mercy than the “justice” of confinement and by being reminded they are beloved children of God. We are hearing the same life story from women in every prison; 85 percent are held on drug or related charges. Many are spending years just passing through. No matter how rough the waters, I remain grateful we have this gift of sharing the good news of hope and the story of our small community on this tour.

We are deeply grateful to Rev. Stephen Bauman, Rev. Cathy Gilliard and Christ Church UMC Park Avenue for hosting us for the weekend as well as the Simone family - Carleen, Winston, Isabelle & Winston Jr. - for a fabulous home party and amazing hospitality. What a remarkable weekend. Following are a few more photos from our visit:

Our host church, Christ Church UMC Park Avenue.

Becca and Bev, Katrina & Tara leading the Adult Forum.

A Thistle Farms party at the Simone's lovely home.

....and wonderful new friends!

With gratitude from Becca, Bev, Katrina, Tara, Ali, Marlei, Dorinda, John and everyone from Magdalene/Thistle Farms!

- marlei

photos by J. Kutsko except 2nd image from top by C. Snell