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A New Life

When Kristal was released from prison, she went to transitional housing in Claremore.

Living in a Christian community felt like being in a foreign country. 8 years later, Kristal spends her vacation time on the mission field, sharing the true freedom she found in Christ.

We chatted with Kristal about her new life and it was so good, we decided to share it with you, in her own words.

What happened in your life that led you to prison?

The first time I took Lortab was when I was a child. I got them for migraines. My whole life was addiction. I had a son who I loved, but he was raised by other people in my family. I bounced in and out of their lives in my addiction, in jail, rehab, and court ordered programs. The last time I was arrested was April 2014.

“I have never in my whole life found freedom like I did behind that razor wire. It was because of Christ.”

How did you meet Jesus?

Volunteers at Oklahoma County Jail led me to Christ. I would go to the Chaplain’s office just to be around them because when I was with them, I felt really different. I felt good. I felt valued, worthy, forgiven, and important when I was with them.

I used to be very anti religion. I didn’t know the difference between having a relationship with Christ and being religious. When you are a heroin and meth addict, you know there are places you don’t belong. Even in our addiction, we always know the places that we don’t fit.

I had always felt that I would never be good enough to be a person who has their life together. But these women would sit and talk to me. They showed me there is so much freedom in Christ, that you can give some away.  I became changed because of how they loved me with God’s love. They walked me into faith.

In prison, I went to every chapel service. I have never in my whole life found freedom like I did behind that razor wire. It was because of Christ.

How did you meet Rhonda?

My mom passed away when I was at Eddie Warrior’s and Rhonda [Bear] was the volunteer chaplain. That was a devastating situation and the first storm I went through as a believer. I had assumed that I would go back to my mom when I got out. But I could feel the Holy Spirit in my prayers and in my grief.

I took the Women in Transition class for the first time while I was at Eddie Warrior’s. I took it again at Turley and that’s when Rhonda and I became friends. In November of 2015, I was about to get out on an ankle monitor. I was so nervous. Rhonda said, “I want you to come to Claremore.” I was like, “Where’s Claremore?!”

A Stand in the Gap volunteer, Janet Edge, picked me up from prison and drove me to Claremore. You might as well have dropped me off in another country. That’s how foreign it was to me to be in a culture of church and people who are believers.

*NOTE: Rhonda Bear is the Director of Stand in the Gap’s Women in Transition program. In addition to teaching our class in Oklahoma prisons and jails, she also independently runs transitional living homes to support women as they leave prison or jail. The hub of her ministry is in Claremore, Oklahoma.

What was it like to get out of prison for the last time?

I was 43 years old. My son was about to graduate from college. I had never had a bank account. I had never held a job. I didn’t have a driver’s license.

I had a lot of fears about not knowing anyone and about going through things alone because my family didn’t really want anything to do with me yet. I was carrying a lot of shame and regret.

But God had already lined up people to walk with me and pray for me before they had ever met me. I thought I was coming to a program, but I was coming to a family.

Rhonda matched me with a Stand in the Gap team, Janet Edge, Jack and Sharon Moody, and Sheila Richie. They radiated God’s love and I leaned into them. I used to wouldn’t trust anybody. God told me, “If you trust me, I need you to trust the people I put in your path.” So I went after it like a woman on fire. They would give me rides to work if it was raining. They took me to get a bank account. They took me to see my son at his college graduation. They supported my every endeavor.

I tried to soak in all the characteristics of them that I admired and wanted to build in myself. I learned all those characteristics that I’d never had in my addiction. I knew they had always been in me, because that’s how God created all of us. You just have to sharpen them.

How would you describe your Stand in the Gap family and the impact that experience had on your life?

My Stand in the Gap team had built their foundations so strong that they allowed me to stand on their foundation while I was building mine.

That first year, my relationships with other people were transformed because I was becoming transformed. Everything I did, I was working as if I was working for Christ. Through my Stand in the Gap family, I learned that I was a valued enough person to be able to be that. My relationships with my son and brother became restored.

Now here we are 8 years later and from those people that were my Stand in the Gap then, we still continue to share life together. In the moments that I need a confidante, they are still my family.

I knew my Stand in the Gap family was a serious gift. I knew God had blessed me with people that would take me above and beyond anything I imagined and it has. I thought the best life could be for me would be that I wouldn’t use, and would get a job that would pay the bills. But you don’t understand the abundance that’s out there. The best life you can think of in prison is fixing the life you already had. But the old is gone. God is laying the foundation for something new. People through Stand in the Gap are praying for you before you even know they exist. It’s overwhelming.

What is life like for you now?

I got married. My husband is a pastor. We just started a small church in Claremore. I used to be minister of evangelism and outreach. Now I work at Grand Mental Health. My son and I are very close. When he was growing up, it was like he was the adult in our relationship. Now, he comes to me when he needs advice.

I have been a volunteer on 6 Stand in the Gap teams. Once you’ve been through it, you want to be part of that experience for someone else.

Ready to Stand in the Gap for someone like Kristal?

Stand in the Gap's Women in Transition