Christine Shaffer: From prison to purpose
    September 18 2015 by Lisa Falknor, Arkansas Baptist News/Baptist Press

    In her 32 years, Christine Shaffer has worn many labels. Pregnant at 15 and again at 17, society branded her an unwed mother. At the age of 19 – weighing a scant 98 pounds – “friends” called her a meth addict and drug dealer. And, at 23, the state of Arkansas marked her with another title: prisoner.
    During her 366 days in prison, she committed her life to Christ.
    This year, Aug. 3, Shaffer held an award representing her most recent title, an identifying marker to forward her graduate school dreams. Shaffer is the 2015 national $1,000 Faye Dove Scholarship Award winner.
    “I cried a little when I found out I won,” she said. “It’s a big deal to be picked among everyone in the nation.”
    Today, she’s a college graduate, a River Valley Christian Life Corps (RVCLC) weekly volunteer and mentor, a married mother of four and, finally, according to the county where she lives, someone without a record.


    Photo taken from Facebook
    Christine Shaffer (center) and her four children.

    “Christine has gone over and above the norm,” said Mary Ramsey, state coordinator for Christian Women’s Job Corps/Christian Men’s Job Corps who presented the award.
    “She’s met every goal with God’s help. She came from back here, but now she’s up here” Ramsey said, motioning first behind her and then above her head to demonstrate the progress Shaffer has made.
    To Shaffer, in order to come from “back here” to “up here,” she needed her record expunged.
    When she got out of jail, no one wanted to hire a felon, she said. She said one lady at a staffing agency “laid it out for me straight.” The lady laughed at her, saying, “You can’t do anything with your record.”
    Still, Shaffer held on to Bible verses studied in the unlikeliest of places – the prison laundry room: “I would stay up all night in jail to read the Bible and pray while I did my work-study.”
    “My life lesson I learned in prison is to lean on God,” Shaffer said.
    Among the verses she read were “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) and “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
    Getting her record expunged seemed impossible.
    “The laws have changed,” the judge told her. “It will take five years.”
    That’s what led her to the RVCLC, formerly Fort Smith Christian Women’s Job Corps.
    “I thought I was looking for a career plan,” Shaffer wrote to the national Woman’s Missionary Union Faye Dove Scholarship board, “but what I found was discipleship and love.”
    “The one word I always use to describe CWJC is ‘discipleship,’” said Ramsey.
    The program is set up based on Christ-centered mentoring.
    “Without Christ and without these women mentors teaching other women to pray and to live by His Word, CWJC would not be successful,” she said.
    “We did Bible study every time we met,” said Shaffer’s mentor, Roxana King, 61. “I’d give her a goal for the week and try to help and encourage her.”
    “My dream is to build a home for women transitioning out of jail,” Shaffer said. “I want to teach women life and parenting skills, to be an encourager, to give people hope.”
    “I want to teach them how to live for Jesus,” she said.
    Even though the judge said the expunction would take five years, with RVCLC’s help, it took five months.
    “I’m well on my way,” Shaffer told the Aug. 3 crowd, smiling.
    Shaffer plans to graduate in 2017 at an accredited Arkansas Christian college with a master’s degree in mental health and family counseling.
    (EDITOR’S NOTE – This story appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News. Lisa Falknor is northwest correspondent for the Arkansas Baptist News.)

    9/18/2015 12:59:45 PM by Lisa Falknor, Arkansas Baptist News/Baptist Press | with 0 comments
    Filed under: Christine Shaffer, Union Fay Dove Scholarship, WMU

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