Unexpected blessings from an unimagineable place

My niece was just days away from coming back to the states from Africa when complications with her pregnancy demanded that she have an emergency C-section. We were all quite concerned about the idea of her having that precious baby in a place where clean water is a luxury. My sister, her mother, booked the first available flight but still would not be there in time for the delivery.

It was one of those times in life where the feeling of helplessness drives you to your knees in prayer regardless of your current spiritual views. When you are powerless, prayer seems like a really good idea.
Thankfully, baby Grace was born with no complications and she and her mother are both doing well. Our family rejoices with this new life.
But imagine how you would feel if someone in your family that you love was diagnosed with cancer and facing the battle of a lifetime and you could not be there by their side. The long treatment days, the nausea and sickness, and the lack of energy to do anything for themselves and you are out of town for the duration and unable to help in any way. It is easy to see how quickly you might resort to prayer.
A group of men in that very situation have come together and formed a support group of sorts to help them deal with that. These men have expanded their prayer time to pray together not only for their loved ones that are missing them, but also for yours. They also use their time together to create a beautiful and most unexpected gift for our chemo patient – quilts.
The thought of these grown men sitting around in a quilting circle defies my imagination! Cutting squares and counting stitches, what I would give for a picture of that! When I give a new patient one of these quilts of love and tell them that men made it, they laugh at me in disbelief… and then I tell them the rest of the story.
You see, the reason these men are out of town and unable to be with their family members is because they are residents of the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. A pretty name for an ugly place, prison.
In prison, it doesn’t matter if it is your wife, mother, brother or child that needs you. There are no field trips or day passes. It doesn’t matter if you are a really good person who made one mistake or a career criminal because you are there for the duration of your sentence regardless of how much your family member might need you.
If I were in prison and my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, I think I’d go one of two ways: either I’d be obsessing on an escape plan, or so depressed that I’d just shut down. Group prayer while making a gift for others just would not be my response!
The quilts that the men make are not exclusive to our cancer patients. They’ve given them to homeless people throughout the state. They’ve given them to the families of those serving in our military as a sign of love and appreciation. They may not be able to participate in the “normal” things that we enjoy, but they are dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of others. Whether it is through their quilts, or their prayer time, they’ve got us covered.
I think there is something very inspirational and humbling about that. How many of us, who have all the freedom in the world, take the time to make a difference in a stranger’s life? Take the time to pray for others who are hurting? Make a decision to do something positive with our less than perfect circumstances?
I stand amazed.
These men are part of something called the PLUS unit. This is what the card reads that comes with each quilt:
This quilt was handmade by men in the P.L.U.S. (Purposeful Living Units Serve) Program at the maximum security Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Carlisle, Indiana. 
P.L.U.S. is a re-entry program which offers the offenders an opportunity to choose alternatives to their previous behavior through an emphasis on spiritual, moral, and character development. For the men of Wabash Valley, quilting has given them a way to bless and comfort many across the state. 
Serving long sentences, many for violent crimes, the men of the Wabash Valley P.L.U.S. Programs are not typical quilters.
To quote one participant “A quilt is just a bunch of scraps that aren’t of much use on their own, but together they have beauty and purpose, just like us.” 
Although the men do not know you by name, God does. And they have prayed for you while making these quilts and asked God to bless you, and meet all of your needs.
Well done men. Thank you for your selfless service.
P.S. You didn’t think I’d end this blog without showing off my gorgeous great niece did you? NO WAY! Introducing the perfect and adorable baby Grace!