by Glen Doss, Major –
As the prison Bible study ended, the young woman shuffled sadly from the room. The image of her newborn son was haunting her.
“I felt so beaten down and hopeless,” recalls Rae-Lynn, 42. “I thought I would never see him again. I had not yet been sentenced, so I had no idea when I was going to be released. I lay in my bed and sobbed and sobbed, thinking: ‘God can’t get me out of this.’ Then a Scripture from Hebrews came to me: ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ I heard a voice speak those words to me, and I knew I couldn’t give up.”
Rae-Lynn’s journey to faith began at her childhood home in Oahu where domestic violence reigned. “I remember feeling like we were always walking on eggshells when my dad came home from work. When he argued with my mom, he would sometimes turn on me; it was pretty scary. It was a godless household.”
She remained an honor student until high school, when she “was determined to hang out, be part of the in crowd. I got all that but my grades dropped,” she says. She attributed this to her boyfriend’s abusive behavior toward her.
After high school Rae-Lynn obtained a two-year business college degree which opened the door to some good jobs. Then, at age 26, in an effort to lose weight, she used “ice,” a very addictive form of crystal meth.
She quickly became addicted. “I realize now I was in big trouble and just didn’t see it. I had drugs in my desk at work. I was using throughout the day–– every day. I eventually got fired; then I just spiraled downward. Every job after this didn’t last. I was lost—really lost!”
Moving back in with her parents, Rae-Lynn tried to clean up her act. Things started going pretty well; she got a good job. Then, three years later, she relapsed and turned again to drugs.
At 31, she took up with a man who was “a chronic [drug] user and an ex-con,” she says. “He specialized in stealing cars. I was captivated by the lifestyle. This lasted for four or five years.”
Eventually, both were caught. At age 35 and five months pregnant, Rae-Lynn went to prison. With every intention of putting her child up for adoption, she pranced into prison, thinking, “Hey, I can live this way; this is an easy life.” But, she adds, she was also pondering: “What do I have to offer this child? I’m a nobody, a drug addict.
“Yet, when I finally got to hold my son,” she explains, “everything changed. I remember the moment vividly. He was upset because the nurse had wakened him. As she placed him in my arms he screamed bloody murder. I said something like: ‘Oh, honey. It’s okay’—he stopped crying immediately and went back to sleep. The doctor remarked: ‘Wow! He knows you’re his mother!’ I thought: ‘That’s right. This is my son; he knows me.’ From that moment forward I told myself: ‘I don’t care what I have to do, this child is going to be under my care. I’m going to be his mother.’ The idea of adoption just flew out the window.
“As I turned to leave, the realization hit me: I was leaving my child, not knowing where he was going to go, what was going to happen to him; and it was all due to drugs! I cried my heart out!”
Upon her return, Rae-Lynn found she had been relocated to a different cubicle where she encountered two women grounded in their faith. As they spoke to her about the Lord, Rae-Lynn listened attentively. There was “one in particular,” she says, “who led me to God. She encouraged me to study the Bible and attend church. Desperate, I made a decision to surrender my life to God.”
Sentenced to two years, Rae-Lynn was told that if she were accepted into a treatment program she could be released early. She prayed and prayed. “God opened the door by way of The Salvation Army Women’s Way Program,” she insists. In 1998, after just five months in prison, Rae-Lynn was released to Women’s Way in Honolulu. “The program permitted me to bond with my son; I will always be grateful to The Salvation Army,” she says humbly.
“There I learned how to be a parent and how to better communicate and express myself. I grew in my faith. Over time my thinking became healthier. I looked forward to the worship services and gained a close friend in Chaplain Jan [Young]. She remains one of my good friends.
“People are completely amazed when they find out about my past; they can’t imagine me living that lifestyle. I was this materialistic, self-centered girl, but my goal today is to live for God. I want to glorify him. I want to live in such a way that will lead others to want to know him.”