We are happy to announce that Stand in the Gap “graduate” Debbie Davis has joined our team!
It’s one of our greatest pleasures to work with people who have experienced a Stand in the Gap family first-hand. Debbie is the 4th person to join our staff after having been served by this ministry! Our Executive Director, Francois Cardinal, says, “Debbie Davis is coming home! She brings a lot of great experience to the table, both personally and professionally. I’m excited about working alongside her to serve this ministry that we both love.”
Debbie says that her successful re-entry into society after incarceration “was initially because of the love, support and commitment of my SITGM spiritual family. It has always been a part of my heart to offer hope and joy to those around me. I want to continue that life long mission by offering my non profit experience of over 10 years to accomplish this.”
Seven years after we first shared her story, Debbie is still close with her Stand in the Gap family. “I still am blessed to have them in my life as they continue to encourage me and offer advise.”
are Stand in the Gap “graduates”
Seven Years Ago, This was Debbie’s Story…
“All I could think was, You’re not going to know anybody. This was going to be sitting down with five complete strangers and that is totally uncomfortable for me. But when I walked in the room for our first spiritual family meeting, I was the only one who knew everybody. I thought, Really? Maybe I am supposed to do this.”
Lorrie Quinelly heard about Stand in the Gap one morning in Sunday school. She expressed an interest, but two weeks later, when she was approached about being part of a spiritual family, anxiety set in. “I said yes, then I could not believe what I’d gotten myself into.”
The worries continued until her first family meeting. When she walked into the room and knew everyone waiting there, she began to wonder if perhaps her quick response had led her to the right time, the right place, and the right people.
Debbie heard about Stand in the Gap while she was in prison, serving seven years of a twenty-eight year sentence for embezzlement.
When she was released, she remembers, “I felt such freedom. It was an exhilaration of emotion, tears and laughter all at the same time.” And then reality hit. “When a person is incarcerated, they have others around them 24 hours a day. After release, it is almost like a feeling of being exposed. The vulnerability is like trying to walk through a pitch black room. You don’t know where to take a step or what’s around you.”
She started attending Southern Hills Baptist Church where Pastor Hess Hestor took notice of her and recommended her for a Stand in the Gap spiritual family.
When she walked into the family’s first meeting as the “Neighbor in Need,” she was looking forward to the prayer support she knew she would receive there, but she also knew that her past and her present made her uniquely capable to pray for people in need.
Sam Clammer is retired. He and his wife have been in volunteer ministry for many years. But volunteering to be part of Debbie’s Stand in the Gap spiritual family was something he did on his own. For him, the first spiritual family meeting was a lesson in what not to expect. As the group of mostly strangers sat in a circle, Sam tried to pick out who was the “Neighbor in Need.” He didn’t guess Debbie.
“That was a small slap in my face, my inability to judge correctly. I quickly realized, I shouldn’t be trying to judge anything! At Stand in the Gap, you cannot try to predict or expect what will be shared. You’ll miss out on something better.”
Once, Debbie told her spiritual family what it’s like for most people when they are released from prison. “They get a bus ticket and $50.”
Lorrie asked, “A bus ticket where?” “Back to your home.” Thinking of all the potentially destructive outcomes, Lorrie asked, “What are you supposed to do?” Debbie was honest, “You are on your own. Unless someone intervenes.”
Debbie had not been in exactly that situation. She had someone to pick her up and found transitional housing relatively quickly. Lorrie says, “She has been very up front, very honest with us about everything. She would come to the family and ask what we thought of things. There were times when, as a group, we didn’t have a consensus. That was very hard for her, but she was willing to be submissive to that authority. And to be held accountable. As a teacher, I see it with cocky students I work with, but with Debbie there was never any animosity. That impressed me a lot.”
In prison, Debbie had cell mates; she was constantly surrounded by people. In her transitional living facility, there was more privacy and certainly more independence, but she still shared a room. Small things became frustrating. For the most part, Debbie didn’t even have her own food, and what little she did have, would sometimes be “borrowed” by roommates.
Her spiritual family started praying that a house would become available. The rent had to be reasonable for a single person, living alone. Lorrie remembers, “We started praying, and Debbie ended up with a two bedroom rent house that had been completely redone; new paint, new appliances. It was like moving into a new house. I told her if she didn’t want it, I did!”
Debbie shares the house with one roommate, her dog, Josie.
Debbie works hard, but enjoys her many hours keeping the books at a pet grooming business located near her church. She continues to regularly attend Celebrate Recovery.
She is in the process of receiving a Department of Corrections “Volunteer Badge,” something that is extremely difficult for the formerly incarcerated to receive. Once she’s been “badged,” Debbie will be allowed back inside DOC facilities to teach Stand in the Gap’s Women in Transition curriculum at a nearby correctional center.
As Lorrie puts it, “Debbie is thrilled because it’s an opportunity to help someone else like she has been helped.”
Although Debbie was the “Neighbor,” it didn’t always seem that way. Sam says, “Very early on, I felt like we were all equals. Debbie was a prayer warrior. She wasn’t just someone with needs of her own, it was clear that she had it on her heart to help people. It was natural for her to be very strong in her prayers for the family members.”
Lorrie, a teacher, lost her job a few months after her spiritual family began meeting. Her small, private school closed unexpectedly and the 25 teachers on staff were left to look for work in a year when teaching jobs were scarce.
“As a rule, I’m pretty closed. Talking to my spiritual family about my job situation was challenging for me at first. But, I’m a single person, my source of income is me. This was a time when I could have really panicked.” Instead, Lorrie asked for prayer.
“My mother was a worrier, I have been a worrier. My friends were so amazed that I didn’t panic when I didn’t have a job. That was totally the result of praying through it with my spiritual family. It did not occur to me to worry about this.”
At the learning center where she’d been working as a part-time tutor, a full-time employee was unexpectedly pregnant. “I was in a position to work full time, filling in for her while she was on maternity leave.” Lorrie was grateful for the job, but she missed the classroom. She asked her spiritual family to pray.
This June, after a year out of the school setting, Lorrie was offered a job teaching freshman English and 7th and 8th grade Language Arts. She is back in the classroom and will continue to work her original, part-time tutoring job at the learning center. She smiles a peaceful, panic-free smile, “Not one bill has gone unpaid this whole time.”
Sam’s daughter-in-law was rear-ended in May 2010. While she was undergoing treatments and surgery, she lost her job as a nurse. Three days after she returned to work in a new position, her husband, Sam’s son, had a heart attack on the road while working as a truck driver. The financial and emotional toll on the family was intense. Sam asked for prayers for the health of his family.
But, with his spiritual family, he avoided the practical, financial burden that injuries, job loss, and illness were placing on his natural family. “I never had to say this, but it was big in our lives. The spiritual family sensed the need and that I needed support.” Sam’s entire spiritual family stepped in with prayerful encouragement for his unspoken need.
Looking back, Sam says, “God speaks to us in many ways, but in all of those meetings he was speaking to me through these other people.”
When the spiritual family first began meeting, Debbie mentioned that while she was incarcerated, she had not been given the opportunity to make a single choice. As Lorrie recalls, she said, “After years of that, it’s hard to return to a place where you have so many choices to make, even something as basic as picking out deodorant can be a draining decision.”
Together, the spiritual family experienced illness, job loss, death, a wedding, a new house, a new job, dreams delayed and prayers answered. The spiritual family encountered choice after choice, after choice. And each person, not just the “Neighbor in Need,” received the prayer and family support they needed for unique and difficult transitions.
For Lorrie, “There were some days when I thought, Do I really have to go to another spiritual family meeting? I really want a nap. But I never regretted getting up and going. There was always benefit for me there. It was one of the easiest growth experiences I’ve ever had; not because we went through easy things, but because I didn’t feel like it was requiring me to do a whole lot extra. I just showed up and prayed.”
Sam learned that “God leads, gives me the words I need, and tells me how to listen. And He showed me it’s not so bad to miss seeing your favorite team play on Sunday afternoon.”
And for Debbie, the Stand in the Gap experience “offered a spiritual bonding with people that are at first unknown, but become as precious as your own natural family as together you seek God’s guidance. The focus is not so much about how you got to where you are, but developing a healthy plan for your future. My life is now settled and I am content. I enjoy breathing in life. I feel healthy.”