Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Book Review: MISS BRENDA AND THE LOVELADIES

Title: Miss Brenda and the Loveladies
Author: Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
Pages: 240






Miss Brenda and the Loveladies is the remarkable account of one woman who made a difference in the lives of thousands of women convicts, enabling them to rebuild their lives and turn their backs on their guilty pasts.

Growing up in poverty, Brenda Spahn had built up her own accountancy and audit business and an enviable lifestyle for herself on the strength of her own hard work. Investigated by the IRS for a crime she hadn’t committed, and under the mercy of a fierce legal system which threatened to send her to jail for it, she learned to rely on God. She promised herself, and God, that if she were able to avoid imprisonment, she would take an active part in prison ministry. She would rehabilitate women ex-convicts and help them re-build their lives again.

She kept her promise. For months she worked with the inmates of the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama, listening to them and giving them hope. The brief glimpse she had of prison life inspired in her the knowledge of the deadend it leads to. The knowledge inspired a God-directed vision, to give others a second chance, the way God had given her a second chance when she faced the possibility of years in prison.

And then the prison authorities sent her seven women convicts facing parole. One of these women was the proverbial gang leader from hell, and all were violent, hardened criminals who had done time for a host of felonies and crimes. The ones whose files declared them, CANNOT BE REHABILITATED.

And so began the greatest challenge that Brenda had ever undertaken.

Meanwhile, the housemother, cook and driver that she had hired quit on seeing the women. Through it all, Brenda has no idea what to do, or even what to do next. She fumbled on, knowing that God will direct her to do the right thing. Slowly the women got used to the routine at Brenda’s house, allowing Brenda’s faith to sweep over them.

It wasn’t easy. Living with ex-convicts who were doing time for some violent crimes. But Brenda never gave up. She overcame tremendous obstacles but refused to lose sight of her vision. Her patience and faith won eventually, as each of the women grabbed hold of the chance they had and decided to succeed, to repair their fractured lives and relationships.

Even as Brenda was convinced that the work she has undertaken was in keeping with God’s plan for her, she received a nasty surprise. When a local newspaper covered the work she was doing, her posh and wealthy neighbours accused her of harbouring convicts in their peaceful neighbourhood, and demanded that she leave immediately.

The hostility was overpowering and Brenda feared that this setback might spell the end of her programme. But God had a better plan. Eventually, He led Brenda on to establish the Lovelady Center in an abandoned hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. A whole-way house that serves 450 women and children every day, providing substance abuse counseling, drug rehabilitation, meals, childcare, career counseling, and job opportunities to women working to establish successful lives outside prison.

Miss Brenda and the Loveladies is the story of how Brenda got involved with a group of convicts and made their rehabilitation her life’s mission. This is not fiction, but real, although it does sound crazy enough to be fiction.

Each chapter begins with a quote that sets the stage for that which is to follow. The style is chatty, yet confessional, and matter of fact. The account is imbued with faith and hope, and conviction and a strong dash of humour. As when Brenda sees herself through the eyes of others and realizes just how crazy she must look.

Interspersed with Brenda’s narrative are single chapters each from Sharon “Shay” Curry, the toughest and the most vicious of the convicts, besides Tiffany, a drug abuser and felon, and Stephanie, an ex-employee of Brenda’s who came from a poor background and was helped by her boss, Brenda, and who eventually stole from her. The accounts detail the lives of physical and sexual abuse, besides drug abuse, stealing and prostitution.

Chapter 10, titled, “Imagine,” is hard hitting. Brenda proceeds to explain the abuse and deprivation that these women have gone through, through sentences preceded with the word, Imagine.

Imagine if when your parents ran out of drug money, they gave you to drug dealers in exchange for dope.” Or “No one cared that you wore the same pair of underwear for weeks.

With God’s help, the seven women later swelled to 20, and then to thousands of thousands. Brenda put in all she had into the programme, her money, time and resources, increasingly realising that it was her destiny to be doing that. Eventually she sold her business to devote herself full time to the programme.

Read this book to learn about how one woman, with God on her side, can achieve the seemingly impossible.

An inspiring true story, all the way.



    Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.




2 comments:

  1. Sounds like a wonderful book Cynthia. Will read it for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm sure you'll love it, Dagny. We need all the heroes we can get.

    ReplyDelete

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