Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Crime and Punishment (not about the book) (07/21/11)
By Lois Farrow
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The home for troubled teenagers was the first residence, but by sixteen she had graduated to adult prison. In and out, in and out, like a revolving door, the pattern continued for nearly thirty years. The drug habit had to be fed, and stealing was the only way she knew.
The longest time inside was in Sydney, five months. It just about killed her; five months without drugs! Her dealer was waiting outside when she was released, and within an hour she had relief, but now she was back in the familiar cycle again.
No amount of punishment made her stop her crime; it only made her angry and more devious as she tried harder not to get caught. No one challenged her about her life choices or told her there was a better way.
Tessa hit rock bottom. She found her way to her brother who took her in, and helped her get back to her own country. When she got home to her mother in the small town she’d been brought up in, she tried to go straight, but pressure from her old crowd made it almost impossible.
Somehow she hit rock bottom again, and determined to change. She came face to face with a man she knew from the past, from whom she had stolen. The hardest thing she’d ever done was to look this man in the eye and say ‘I’m sorry’. For the first time in her life she realised her crime had victims, that real people were hurt by her actions. The insatiable need for drugs had left no room for consideration of others.
Facing this man was the turning point. Determined to use her experience to help others, Tessa set up a restorative justice program. A Christian co-worker invited her to an Alpha course, and reluctantly she attended. She surprised herself by completing the course, but as the suffering of Jesus was graphically described in the video, Tessa fled home and sobbed for hours, weeping for the years of hurt and pain in her life. For the first time Tessa experienced the love and forgiveness of God, bringing healing and purpose into her life.
Today Tessa helps others turn their lives around by leading Restorative Justice Programs throughout the country. She helps offenders to face up to their crimes, to see their victims as real people, to have the courage to face up and say ‘I’m sorry.’
What punishment couldn’t achieve in Tessa’s life, the grace and forgiveness of Christ brought about. Truly a miracle!
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