(This article comes from The Book Room - The Christian Post's new section for book enthusiasts and authors.)
Brenda Spahn lived a comfortable life as a entrepreneur and businesswoman. Then a brush with the law led Spahn to make a life changing promise to God – to serve him. That promise led her to open a transition house for female inmates.
Her recently published book Miss Brenda and the Loveladies (Watebrook Press) reveals how a God-inspired vision transformed the lives of the first seven women to pass through Spahn’s Whole Way House, now the The Lovelady Center. Below Spahn answers commonly-asked questions about the book.
Q: Welcome Brenda Lovelady Spahn, author of Miss Brenda and the Loveladies. Brenda, you had a brush with the law and that experience led you to make a promise to God. In those dark moments, what did you promise you would do?
A: I did the same thing most of us find we do when we find ourselves in situations much larger than we are. I prayed. In my case, I actually found myself angry with God. I kept explaining to Him that I had been a “good girl” and had done many good things for Him, and that should have been enough! Finally, after many intimate moments my promise was so simple, and it was what He really wants of us. I promised to serve Him and to seek His will in Brenda’s life. For some, it is less demanding than of others. In my heart I knew I had been running from Him for many years doing all sorts of “Godly things” I felt should have been enough. My promise was to do His will to the best of my ability.
Q: Up until that point, you were a successful entrepreneur and businesswoman. How would you describe your lifestyle?
A: I lived very comfortably. I was not wealthy like some people but we had grown to a point that we had all we could want. Now I see just how I wasted what resources I had on selfish spending. I was certainly a shopper!
Q: Tell us about the first time you volunteered at a women’s prison in Birmingham, Alabama. How did that experience open your eyes to your vision of starting a “whole-way house” for women being released from prison?
A: Because it was somewhere I felt led to go, it was a most emotional experience for me. Currently there are classes devoted to teaching and explaining the ins and outs of prison life, but then there were none. I simply walked in. I had never been to a place like that and within minutes I was a changed person. There is simply no way to explain what I felt. Sadness, hopelessness, abandoned shame, and desperation are just a few of the emotions running rampant through the prison that night. All of a sudden my problems melted away. Starting the “whole-way house” was a different experience. I began seeing the great need for a place that would fill the time before a woman would be ready to live a stable life after prison. I was very naïve and took my idea to several half-way houses only for them to tell me that a program was not what the women needed. Still typical Brenda, I was determined to find a way for someone other than me to do it.
Q: How were you able to convince the state of Alabama to let you open your own home to seven ex-cons?
A: I badgered them and found a friend at TASC (Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime), Ken, who I included in the book. There is usually a door that will open if you knock hard enough.
Q: Tell us about the moment the van pulled into your driveway and the seven women stepped out. What was going through your mind?
A: Fear, hopelessness, sadness, and all the other things the women had felt, was flowing through me. I was actually scared but I was scared for me. I was stepping into unfamiliar territory and was so afraid of failure. After what I had gone through legally, and seeing that as such a failure, I was terrified of failing at something else, so fear was consuming me.
Q: Some of these seven women had been in and out of prison most of their lives. What were you most surprised about the adjustments they had to make to life outside the prison walls? What sort of life skills did you teach them?
A: I was shocked most that at first the women wanted me to tell them every move to make in the beginning. I had felt I would have a real problem with them needing me to keep them inside the lines because freedom would drive them to do things that might not be good for them. On the contrary, they were so afraid, it was difficult to get them to do the exciting things I wanted them to do! They mostly wanted to stay in and do nothing in the beginning! I pushed them to try new things. I would take them grocery shopping and simple things like that. Drugs had stolen simple life skills that we take for granted. All domestic skills had to be taught and real hygiene. Social skills were really weak. Going out in public in crowds was terrible. We would practice that over and over. There are so many skills that had to be taught.