C – CALLING
This was one of the very first pieces of art brought out of Snake River Correctional Institution (SRCI). The inmate artists determined, on their own, to create something spectacular to launch their unique support of the Otino Waa children. Since then over 600 additional works have been created with a passion to make a difference in the lives of children they will likely never meet. All of the artists are convinced God has placed them in prison for specific reasons. VOH and the Otino Waa kids were quickly embraced and passion continues to grow.
H – HOPE
This piece became was so much more than the artist imagined. It hangs at a school for troubled teen girls in Oregon. The school is a last chance to avoid incarceration because of behavior at home or encounters with the law. The girls were asked to remember the significance of determination to move ahead in life and leave their past behind them. Convinced the rhino has no doubt it will get where it wants to go, there is no need to look back. The girls were so moved by the piece all fifteen of them wrote letters conveying how touching the art (and artists) was to them.
U – Unity
Prison culture promotes conflict in a variety of ways and it is wise to choose your friends carefully, especially along racial lines. The inmate artists at SRCI meet once a week in a small room where art supplies are kept. Within that room all prison culture falls away as passion for Otino Waa increases.
Two new members were invited to join. Let’s say they were not on the best of terms. They were assigned opposite corners of the room. That quickly changed as they worked intently on their individual pieces. One evening one of them looked over a shoulder and was shocked to see they both drawing the same image – the leopard you see. The situation was so striking they were overcome with appreciation for what the other had done. A quick decision was made to complete each work and then only use half of it for final display.
Philippians 2:2 says, “Complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other.”
R – RESTORATION
Ben has been incarcerated for 13 years and had been estranged from his family for almost that long. A brother had written Ben off as a lost cause and was not interested in reconciliation. Ben’s dad, who is also an artist, has severe Alzheimer’s disease. The brother attended an Art Walk which include some of Ben’s pieces. He was startled to make the connection between Ben and the Otino Waa kids he was supporting.
The brother purchased three pieces and brought them home. The art was laid out on the kitchen table for Ben’s dad to see and they told the story multiple time. He would ask over and over again, “What is this?” It seemed impossible to get through. Sometime later, with the art, once again, in full view of the dad, the family noticed tears streaming down his face. “Dad, what’s wrong?” As he examined and touched each piece he said, “This is my son. My son, Ben. He is helping kids. My son is back.”
The whole family was touched enough to consider re-connecting with Ben. They look forward to new relationships, starting with a prison visit with Ben. This story continues.
C – COUNSELING
One new inmate at Warner Creek Correctional (Lakeview) had been so frustrated by his efforts to “scribble” and had almost given up. Another, wonderfully talented inmate artist, volunteered to mentor him and over a period of a few weeks discovered the hidden talent. Not only was a lasting friendship established, but new and wonderful talent, that would have been lost, is now being produced for the benefit of the Otino Waa kids.
H – Healing
His face was grey and his overall appearance spoke of many health challenges. The first time we met Richie he was brought into the chapel service in a wheelchair.
A few months later, we saw Ritchie again, only this time he was slowly making way under his own power and active with conversations. The change was remarkable as we found out he had started creating art with the other inmate artists.
A few more months go by until our next visit at SRCI. To our amazement, Ritchie is moving quite quickly, helping set up displays of the newest art creations. Again we had to ask about his health. He said he had been granted permission to take his art supplies to his cell. There he pulled back the mattress to use the bed frame as a table. Sitting on the floor he was able to work for many more hours. He was discovering renewed health via his art.
The next visit brought even more amazement as he now had a bit of a tan. Now what? He was now taking walks around the perimeter of the prison fence enjoying the sunshine of eastern Oregon as he thought of the kids he was helping.
“The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the simple-hearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. Psalm 116:5-6