On October 24, 1999, Gene and Carol Kent's only child, Jason P. Kent, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. An Annapolis Naval Academy graduate with an exemplary record, and a source of pride and joy to his parents, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Carol Kent shares their story in her book, When I Lay My Isaac Down. "It's discovering that the cup of sorrow is also the cup of joy as we engage ourselves in understanding the upside-down nature of the cross. By sharing my story, I can give people the opportunity to find hope, and it's a helpful way for me to process my own grief." Her follow up book, A New Kind of Normal, helps readers to make hope-filled choices in the middle of lives that are much more challenging than the dream they once had for their future.
During this painful writing period, Carol and Gene prayerfully decided to establish a non-profit organization to positively impact inmates and their families. Carol shares, "While God would never condone what my son did, His mercy and grace abound. Our eyes are open to a whole new world--the prison system. We now see needs we weren't aware of before, and doors are opening to help some of the neediest people in our society.
There are about 2,000 prisons in the United States and over two million inmates.
The primary goal of Speak Up for Hope is to provide hope to inmates and their families through encouragement, education, and counseling.
"No one organization can possibly meet all the needs of prisoners and their families," continues Carol. "Speak Up for Hope will address prisoner family needs in a way that will complement existing non-profit organizations."
The Kents are determined to face the future with hope, joy, and faith. Carol says, "God can take a situation like ours and redeem it for His purposes. Our vision is to help inmates and their families adjust to their new normal."
Yellow Roses by Carol Kent
With the arrest of our son in 1999, heartache took on new meaning. We had never been on the needy side of compassion before and I experienced depression for the first time in my life. One day the doorbell rang and it was the florist. I opened the door and he said, "Is your name Carol Kent?"
I said "Yes it is."
He said, "Lady it's your lucky day." I wanted to tell him to go make somebody else's day lucky; I wasn't in the mood. He handed me a bouquet and I took it out to my kitchen island, opened it up, and there was one dozen, long-stemmed yellow roses.
I wondered who had graced my day with this beautiful gift and I opened the card. It was from two of my sisters. It said, "Dear Carol, you once gave us some decorating advice. You told us that yellow flowers will brighten any room. We thought you need a little yellow in your life right now. Love, Bonnie and Joy."
It was just like God unplugged my tears. I sobbed like I never had before and felt my grief. I once again admitted to God that I didn't know how I could live through these circumstances, but I knew I could trust Him--especially since He had put family and friends in my life who felt my pain. I had never been so needy, but I had never felt so loved.