During International Restorative Justice Week, we lift up stories of people who are proactively seeking healing and reconciliation in the aftermath of crime. Lorenzo is a CBI student in California who recently told us about the creative way he is trying to reconcile with and give back to society, even as he does his time behind bars.
Around the prison, Lorenzo is called “The Bear Man” because he is teaching fellow prisoners to hand-sew stuffed teddy bears. Lorenzo explains that his goal with this project is to help other incarcerated men realize that they are not a hopeless sum total of their mistakes, but that they are capable of change. “They are not bad people,” Lorenzo says. “We only make bad decisions.”
After receiving an enthusiastic response from other prisoners, Lorenzo wanted to find a way to get the bears from the prison workshop to underprivileged children on the outside. And so the Create a Bear with Care program was born. Recently, Lorenzo’s program sent fifty bears to children living in a home for battered women and another one hundred bears to the Angel Tree Foundation.
Since then, Lorenzo and his fellow “bear artists” have been able to see photos of the kids who receive their huggable creations. The prisoners’ reactions to the photos are telling. “If I could share with you the look of joy and pride on the faces of these men who helped make the bears for these kids, it would bring tears to your eyes,” Lorenzo says. “You would know that God did a wonderful thing in many lives, and not just the lives of the kids.”
Like many CBI students, Lorenzo is putting what he has learned in his studies into practice by serving others. That is one reason why CBI provides long-term discipleship alongside a commitment to restorative justice: we know that true reconciliation between broken people and broken communities cannot begin without first reconciling sinful hearts to God.
And as Lorenzo’s Create a Bear with Care program demonstrates, when evil is overcome with goodness and brokenness is restored to wholeness, the healing effects are always contagious.
Read more about how the Create a Bear with Care Program is reaching underprivileged children.