Brenda Spahn was so eager to share hope with women inmates she once broke into a prison.
It was. But it’s not even half the story of how a successful businesswoman in Alabama redirected her passion for making money to rehabilitating broken lives.
Miss Brenda and the Loveladies is the story of how it all started. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my review.)
Brenda Spahn has spunk, and she won’t take no for an answer, even when she has no idea what she’s getting herself into. When her tax preparation business came under scrutiny for some alleged improper practices, Brenda and her daughter, an employee of the company, faced possible jail time if found guilty. When they were spared serving even a brief sentence, Brenda realized she wanted to minister to women in prison because she could have been one.
The road was rocky at first, and she admits she was in over her head. She wanted to share a message of hope and thought she could just walk into a prison and do that. Eventually, seeing the need for a place for recently released women to turn their lives around, Brenda opened her lavish home to seven female ex-cons from the roughest women’s prison in the country.
Everyone expected her to fail: the state, her family, the women themselves. But Brenda didn’t give up, even at personal cost to herself and her family. She now runs the largest transitional center for women in the country.
Her story is eye-opening and sad. I cried reading about how prisoners are treated in the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women. Their humanity and dignity are stripped from them, and they are often given no hope to ever change. Brenda challenged that idea and opened what she called a “whole-way” house, as opposed to a halfway house, to aid their restoration.
It’s also funny and inspiring. I laughed picturing some of the ridiculous situations Brenda and the women often found themselves in, and I cheered for victory over each obstacle Brenda faced.
This is a book that will challenge readers to reform their own way of thinking, especially when it comes to the idea of God changing hearts. The work Brenda is doing is proof that He can restore and redeem even the worst of life’s trials. It was a reminder to me of the very real horrors people face and that even those who have committed crimes are people with hurts and hopes.
Brenda describes her own change of attitude this way:
Hearing their stories changed me. Yes, most of them had done bad things. But, oh my, most of them never had a fighting chance. … Truth was, I believed that these women had deserved what they were getting. Now I knew their stories. What so many of them “got” was not anything anyone should ever get … They were survivors, and many were trying to live on, even though they barely had a chance. (32)
The stories told are gritty and raw at times, including “colorful” language. I appreciated that it was left in for the tone and topic of this book. Though that may bother some people, I think it’s appropriate for accuracy and reality.
I’m not sure I could do what Miss Brenda did, but man, am I challenged to live the Gospel in a radical way. Almost no one thought her idea was any good, and now the good she has done is immeasurable.