Speak Up For Hope receives many letters each month from people dealing with the pain felt when a loved one is imprisoned. Most of the letters are from family or close friends of the inmates and some are from the inmate themselves. They are letters of extreme emotion and heartache. Sometimes, we receive letters from people who are in horrible confinement, imprisoned in a completely different kind of prison. We respond to all the letters. Carol Kent’s mother, Pauline Afman, with the help of Carol’s sister, Bonnie Emmorey, pray over and respond to the letters. It is a vital part of the Speak Up For Hope ministry. Carol’s sister, Paula Afman stopped at the Post Office to pick up the Speak Up For Hope mail recently on her way back from a visit with her nephew, Jason Kent, at Hardee Correctional Institution. A letter was waiting in the box and the Speak Up For Hope response letter follows.
April 5, 2011
Thank you for your letter and for sharing about the ongoing medical challenges with Anna, and how God has blessed you through A New Kind of Normal. Prison isn’t always the same for everyone, as there are many kinds of imprisonment. Sometimes there are bars on the doors and windows and sometimes prison comes in a completely different form.
I am Carol Kent’s sister, Paula, and in all honesty I am staying with Carol and her husband Gene for awhile, because of God’s grace and their dear hearts. As you probably know, Carol and Gene travel a lot, so I picked up the mail for them while they have been away for the past several days. I told her about the still sealed piece of mail from you, and she asked me to read it to her. I did, and I cried all the way through your heart wrenching letter. Rather than put your letter on the stack of mail to be responded to as time permits, Carol asked if I would respond to you, as she could tell that this letter touched my heart deeply.
You see, my son and only child, Tony, was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 26. He was an all A student, in his last year of college, with a double major; and I was a very proud, single mama. However, his seizure disorder came on fast and was so severe that the neurologists could not control the grand mal seizures, not even with 21 pills a day. The medications dulled his mind so much that he couldn’t continue in school and was forced to withdraw with only four classes left before graduation. That was a sad day for us. I couldn’t understand why God would permit what felt like a curse on my precious son, but every time Tony would seize, I would thank God. Does that sound crazy? I certainly was not happy that he had another seizure, but I know that God has a purpose for everything, and He is always in control. I was very grateful for that, because I am powerless without Him. On September 12, 2009, a year and a half after Tony’s diagnoses, and over 20 hospitalizations, he had a seizure that took his life.
I too had prayed, screamed, and cried out to the Lord, and often felt like He did not hear me. I was criticized at times for doting on my adult son, as many epileptics can live quite normal lives and some people just didn’t understand his extreme need. I threw my arms in the air and begged God to teach me whatever lesson He was trying to teach me/us and give us back our hopes and dreams for Tony’s good health and a successful life. That was not His plan.
I have been asked many times if I am mad at God for the anguish of Tony’s disease and for taking my son from me. It shocked me the first time I was asked, because the thought had never occurred to me. Mad at God? How could I be upset with God? He is the one who gave me the gift of 27 years of my most precious earthly possession. No, I am grateful to God. It is because of Him that I will be able to see my Tony again, and when I do, his mind and body will be in perfect condition!
I often visit my nephew, Jason Kent, at Hardee Correctional Institution, the maximum-security prison where he is currently imprisoned, ministering to inmates and indirectly ministering to the corrections officers and all those who run the prison. He has helped me to understand how very minuscule this earthly part of our life is, very important as it is our opportunity to do God’s work, but very short.
I can feel the deep love bond that your whole family has for one another. I wonder if Anna has been chosen by our Lord to help to draw you all closer to Him. Just reading your letter has drawn me closer. Do any of you keep a journal? It may help, both now and in the future for reflecting. I would encourage you to express not only your experiences but your emotions, all of them. I am praying for Anna, her sister Tina, and for you and Ben. It sounds like you are a God loving, strong family. I pray for the doctors in Gainesville as they try to diagnose Anna’s condition and for the treatment that they prescribe. God is almighty and He loves each of us. It isn’t always easy to understand why we are put through the trials and tribulations that life brings. Anna’s physical problems are as imprisoning as the cold hard bars that imprison my nephew, possibly even more. Ask yourself this question. What am I going to do to embrace my situation and shine through the darkness? I wonder how many people who live in a Godless dark world will see your candle burning and turn to Jesus.
I have been praying (and crying) all through this letter and I want you to know that I feel a sweet peace for your precious family, the kind that comes from heaven. I’m excited for what God has in store for Anna and your whole family. Anna was especially chosen by God to be His very special tool. That is not a death sentence. I believe in miracles!!!
Philippians 4:6-7 (New Living Translation) Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
This is a scripture with which my mother has encouraged many others and me. I hope it gives your heart and mind the peace that we can only find through our almighty God. Carol sends her love and prayers, too. Your letter touched her deeply.
God bless you Linda, and your whole family.
*Names have been changed for privacy.