Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Jan. 8, 2001

Ministry aims at healing inmates' losses

Lee Ellen (Handrich) Gsellman is the daughter of the late Theo L. Handrich and Eva L. Handrich of Howard Lake. Gsellman graduated from Glencoe High School.

Aside from their orange tunics, none of the 22 women gathered around the table at the Summit County Jail on Wednesday morning look alike.

They range from 20 to 50 years old, thin to heavy, blonde to grayhaired, light to dark-skinned. The crimes that brought them to the jail are just as varied. Yet, on the inside, God sees something very much alike in each woman - a hurting heart suffering from a major loss in life.

It was a desire to help heal those hurting hearts that motivated APS Post-Abortion specialist Lee Gsellman to step into the Summit County Jail to lead this Bible study for the first time one year ago. She was convicted by an article that estimated upwards of 80 percent of all female inmates have had abortions; Lee surmised that much of their inward pain probably stems from their abortion experience. But, since the inmates can't come to APS for help, Lee and her assistant Martha Forsyth committed to taking the Lord's healing to them each week.

Using the Bible and "A Time to Heal" study guide, Lee and Martha show the inmates how God can enable them to break the chains of denial1 anger, depression and unforgiveness. The women are attentive and eager for their turn to read the corresponding Bible verses aloud. A circulating ~raver request sheet quickly fills u~ and there is a call for more paper. A box of tissues also makes its way around the circle. The tears reflect their deep hurt. Many of the inmates are only on the verge of understanding the roots of their anguish.

When asked to identify the losses they are hoping to cope with in this Bible study, they share:

"I lost my family because of my crime."

"I lost the trust and love of my family."

"I lost my three babies and my house to alcoholism."

"I lost my inner-self to the streets."

"I lost the respect of my kids." One woman whispers, "I've stuffed the pain of my abortion inside." She continues, "There is a gap between my first and second child that I can never forget.

I ask myself, 'What would her name be and who would she be?' I am ashamed and I medicate the pain with drugs." Why this whispered shame about abortion when many of these women openly live lives of drug and alcohol abuse, stealing or prostitution?

According to Lee, "I believe it is because God has written on our hearts not to shed innocent blood. Christian or non-Christian, it brings great shame and condemnation that is difficult to talk about." And, drawing from her years of experience Lee reasons that their abortions may play a pivotal role in the painful lifestyles they

Lee adds that many of the inmates also have ongoing generational influences they are working against, such as childhood sexual abuse and early introduction to a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol. "Abortion can be generational, too," Lee suggests.

The hope that is offered, however, is that these age-old patterns and the secrecy surrounding them can be broken with repentance and good teaching. Lee and Martha use Psalm 103 as a foundation for turning generational curses into generational blessings.

Martha also offers the compassion of one who has experienced abortion. "I can relate to the pain they are feeling and the loss they are suffering. I long to help them find the peace that I did," she says.

Almost every week, Lee and Martha see more breakthroughs and the crumbling of defenses. Women who wouldn't participate early on now come in with testimonies or songs.

Some women have even shown up at APS after getting out of jail. "There is an overall shift in perspective from self-sufficiency to God as the all-sufficient One," Lee explains. "They are beginning to see that God has them in jail so there will be no distractions and they can finally allow real healing to begin.


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