Michelle Smith Lewis’s story begins with family. Married with two sons, Michelle talks lovingly of the three beautiful granddaughters who call her Mimi. She says, “The greatest gift of being a grandparent is that it is like a do-over without all the stress of being a parent. We get to give them the best parts of ourselves that we hadn’t quite grown into or lived into when we were parents.”
Michelle’s life was radically altered when her son was incarcerated for five years. She says, “Of course in the beginning I was devastated. And even today, even though he has been home for over a year now, if I allow myself to go back to the beginning, I can still feel the devastating horror of him being free one minute, and the next minute he wasn’t. I couldn’t get to him; I couldn’t talk to him. During those beginning days and weeks and months I made the decision to run full on into Christ as opposed to running away from Him. I wanted to DO different. I wanted to understand, ‘How did we get here?’ so that this doesn’t happen again. Even though I’m not responsible for my son’s choices, we’re family and we’re interconnected. So I wanted to understand my role in being his mom. I wanted to understand about me so that I could be better for myself and better for my family while he was incarcerated and when he came home. So God began to birth Faith Freedom Life. It really is serving other people and giving them everything I needed and still need along the way. It definitely is a calling. I proudly tell everybody that I believe in two things: Jesus and therapy! All the support services are everything I have needed and pass along. We call it gathering our tools for our toolbox for everyday living.”
She continues: “Faith Freedom Life is a nonprofit that serves families of the incarcerated. It doesn’t have to be a son, a daughter, a husband or a wife. Unfortunately a lot of us know someone who is incarcerated, whether they are in our immediate family, our extended family or are a friend.” Their original idea to was to have in person support groups, but Covid interrupted that plan. Currently all of their support services and workshops are offered virtually, which has extended their reach far beyond the immediate area. They offer support groups twice monthly, along with guest speakers on topics of interest to their targeted audience, and workshops from Equipping Ministries International.
Michelle states that “the cornerstone of the support group is the 12 steps to inner healing which are on the website. Those are actually 12 steps that God gifted me and a team member. They are our own and we work those steps. We go over a step a month. We talk about it and come back the second group of the month and discuss everything God has downloaded to the participants about that step.”
When asked about how the ministry has affected her own family, Michelle says, “My son has said that I’m different. He says that he is glad that my life has changed and that I am who I am now. He told me that ‘it doesn’t mean that I am going to be all into religion like you are.’ But it pleases me that he notices a difference. The caveat to that is that, with the way my life is now, my relationship with God, it’s ok that I stand alone. Yes, it hurts. But they notice. They may not understand it, but it has a positive impact on the family because of the way I respond instead of react to them, because I can’t expect anyone in my circle of influence to be different if I am not living that example first.”
Michelle’s story is one of hope. She comments, “My pastor taught a series on Noah. God commanded Noah to build a boat. Even though Noah was ridiculed by the townspeople, even though there wasn’t any rain and hadn’t been any rain for years after he was told to build the boat, he stayed true and obedient to what God told him to do. Eventually his family came along side of him and helped him finish that boat and got on the boat. Eventually. But he had to stand and be obedient no matter what they did or no matter what anyone else said.” For Michelle, her personal faith and Faith Freedom Life is that boat that will save both her family and the families of so many others.
Michelle Smith Lewis works for Bon Secours Mercy Health where she is pleased to be able to openly share her faith in a culture that encourages spiritual conversations.
For more information on Faith Freedom Life, visit their website: https://faithfreedomlife.org