As a little girl, Mericea wanted to grow up to be a nun. She came from a Catholic family and loved God from the time she was very small. However, a sexual predator repeatedly molested her as a child and told her she was too “dirty” for God to love her. The sexual abuse continued and as her dream of “serving God” died, Mericea moved into a life of prostitution and drugs.
Mericea’s drug abuse caused her to neglect her own small daughter and in time, Mericea ended up in prison. While incarcerated, Mericea not only found a true relationship with God, but also joined the Theotherapy Project program and began to heal emotionally from the deep wounds of the past. She has already used the principles she has learned and her deep love for God to bring about reconciliation between her and her pre-teen daughter. What was almost destroyed in her as a child has now been rekindled by God’s unconditional love. It is God’s healing in action. Mericea is now out of prison, back in the community and doing great!
My name is Beau. It is no easy thing for me to tell my story. Actually, my story is hard for me to believe. Sometimes I am tempted to believe that no one else will believe it…so why tell it? I, like many others, come from a tragic background. I could go into the details but I won’t. Suffice it to say that like many people, things happened in my past that had a very negative impact on how I made the decisions we all have to make as adults in this world. I lost my right leg at the age of 14 and my life began a downward spiral I was hopelessly ill equipped to handle. I made one wrong decision after another until I was firmly grounded in a world of drugs, crime, and living a life of despair.
After several trips to prison for various crimes, I found myself on the third week of July, 2003 on my way to my latest incarceration in Nashville, Tennessee.
Not long after I arrived at the CCA prison facility where I would spend the next several months, I heard about a program being offered to the male and female inmate population called “Theotherapy”.
My life was about to change dramatically. From the first time I heard Mark West speak, I knew that my life was never going to be the same. Here was someone describing to me a method of dealing with the things from my past that were continuing to derail me in my present. It gave me hope for my future.
With tools administered through some of the most loving people I have ever met (some of which I now call cherished friends) I went through a journey of healing unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I learned that all though my life, I had had several bumps in the road and yet there was a successful path I could get on. I learned that by getting honest with others and with myself I could rehash the past wrongs I had been subjected to as well as the wrongs I had administered against others. In the midst of it all, I could find forgiveness for those who had hurt me and forgiveness for myself. Most importantly, I learned that I could find freedom from the hurts of my past and in that freedom I could find a new beginning, starting with today.
Today I am still on that journey and I know I have issues to deal with every day. But, with the tools I gained in Theotherapy, I now deal with those issues in far more productive ways. I live with members of my family who graciously accepted me into their home and have even provided my employment. They have nurtured me in my transitions and supported me emotionally. I have been drug free for several years now, and the incarceration period I spoke of was my last.
I work, I enjoy my family, I paint and I draw. But most of all, I enjoy a relationship with Jesus…a relationship offered to anyone who calls on His name asking for forgiveness, believing He is the Son of God and that He can give you that forgiveness.
Check out Beau’s art at http://artbybeaumillican.synthasite.com/
“Theotherapy has changed my life! It has strengthened my relationship with the Lord and has given me the tools I needed to access God’s healing. I has also been a privilege to assist Mark with the program here at Tennessee Prison for Women and to be a witness to the work this program is accomplishing in the lives of many of the women involved in the program through the love of Jesus Christ. I’d like to thank everyone involved with the Theotherapy Project. The seeds that are being planted here will bloom for years to come.” Michelle (Inmate Intern/Facilitator & Administrative Assistant for The Theotherapy Project)
“Theotherapy has brought to my doorstep a Christian ministry which has inspired in me a deep love for God’s Word. As a result, I’ve been blessed with joy, peace and real freedom” Roger (Inmate Intern/Facilitator at Turney Center Industrial Prison)
Theotherapy truly represents “God’s Healing” to me. I’m very happy to say that I am getting a little better every day. Theotherapy is bringing joy to my soul…” “Jennifer (Inmate Intern/Facilitator at TPW)
“Theotherapy has been a tool that the Lord has used and continues to use to enhance my relationship with Him. It has been a program that has truly affected my life in a positive way.” Robert (Inmate Intern/Facilitator at Turney Center Industrial Prison)
A teaching on forgiveness by Kenneth Parnell, Inmate Facilitator at Turney Center
“The chain reaction of evil…hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars…must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation…love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend…By its very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by its very nature, love creates and builds up.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
At a time when his own house was being firebombed and his children were being threatened and crosses were being burned in his yard, Martin Luther King, Jr. said this about forgiveness: “We love men not because we like them, nor because their ways appeal to us, nor even because they possess some type of divine spark; we love every man because God loves him. At this level we love the person who does an evil deed, although we hate the deed that he does.”
Dr. King was a great leader whose spiritual inspiration and devotion to God was great.
Matthew 6:14-14 says, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
I personally am in need of constant forgiveness. I need forgiving on a regular basis. Some people are apprehensive about forgiveness because they don’t understand what it is. Sometimes forgiveness seems offensive…so offensive that we dare not try it. We are often afraid that forgiveness means pretending that nothing happened to us. We are afraid that if we forgive, we are opening ourselves up to being hurt again. We are afraid that forgiving means letting people get away with it.
Many people feel that forgiving requires that we forget the offense, which they rightly see as impossible. Many people can’t imagine that their feelings toward the offender can ever change. Although these concerns are understandable, they are not justified because they are a misunderstanding of what forgiveness is. Forgiveness begins with acknowledging that we are people who have a right to be treated with respect. Forgiving does not require denying that we have been hurt. On the contrary, to forgive we have to admit that we have been hurt and that we have a right to feel hurt, angry or resentful. Forgiving does not require denying our feelings. In fact, as we have seen in Theotherapy, to fail to admit we have been hurt is one of the major impediments to forgiving. We don’t have to forget in order to forgive. The process of forgiving will not produce amnesia.
We can’t will our feelings to change. Saying, “I will not be angry” 100 times may produce exactly the opposite result. But we can take certain actions that will change our patterns of thinking. We might be surprised to discover that our feelings can change in response to our actions.
The philosopher Joanna North of Great Britain has written one of the best definitions of forgiveness that I have come across and it goes like this:
“When unjustly hurt by another, we forgive when we overcome the resentment toward the offender, not by denying our right to the resentment, but instead by trying to offer the wrongdoer compassion, benevolence, and love; as we give these, we as forgivers realize that the offender does not necessarily have a right to such gifts.”
We have learned through Theotherapy that forgiving begins with pain and that we have a right to our feelings. First, we are acknowledging that the offense was unfair and will continue to be unfair. Second, we have a moral right to anger; it is fair to cling to our views that people do not have a right to hurt us. We have a right to respect. Third, forgiveness requires giving up something to which we have a right…namely our anger or resentment.
Forgiveness is not a feeling, it is an action. You don’t “feel” forgiving…you feel angry, sad, hurt, etc. When we choose to forgive, even when it hurts terribly…that is when we can truly realize the power we have to walk free from bitterness, resentment, hatred and bondage to unforgiveness.