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Monday, November 24, 2014

Pastorgraphs: “Nursing Broken Souls”

E-Vangel Newsletter
November 24, 2014

Christ United Methodist Ministry Center

“Christ in the Heart of San Diego”
3295 Meade Avenue - San Diego, CA 92116 - (619) 284-9205
Pastorgraphs: “Nursing Broken Souls”

Carmen Warner-Robbins began her career as a registered nurse, tending broken bones and bodies in the emergency room. She now tends broken souls as she ministers to female inmates through Welcome Home Ministries, which she founded in 1996. Her career includes being an acclaimed nurse who initiated national programs in domestic violence, founded teen-mother and rape-crisis programs, and created the first certification course for Emergency Department nurses. Carmen served as director of nurses at the San Diego chapter of the Red Cross. She co-founded a medical textbook publishing company.

And Carmen, a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary, is an ordained United Methodist elder. She serves as Chaplain of the American Jail Association, whose membership includes 3,100 jails with over 100,000 members.

It was when she was serving Methodist congregations in the San Diego Mid-City area (our neighborhood) that Rev. Warner-Robbins began serving as Supervising Chaplain for women in the San Diego County Women’s Detention Facilities (Las Colinas). “That’s when God began calling me into this specialized ministry,” she recently said in my office. Thank God she responded.

San Diego County averages about 800 female incarcerations per month, or over 10,000 per year. Sixty percent of them return to Las Colinas multiple times. Local taxpayers fund these inmates at the rate of $56,000 each per year.

Welcome Home Ministries (WHM) has implemented a unique and effective program in conjunction with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department that has received national acclaim. Women who go through Welcome Home’s “Future Achievers in Re-entry” (FAIR) peer mentorship program have a 10% recidivism rate. No other peer program in the nation has such dramatic success. (More about FAIR in a later edition.)

“Women previously trapped in a street life of drugs, abusive relationships and prostitution now can find HOPE from a God-ordained pathway, ‘From Cell to Celebration’” Carmen said. 

Much of WHM’s effectiveness is due to the fact the mentors were once peers of incarcerated women. Rather than “preaching down” to them, the peer mentors have “been there, done that”. They become living models of how to break out of the revolving door at Las Colinas. Two of Carmen’s previous clients are now her assistants. Donna Cleveland, whom I wrote about in my Pastorgraph on May 7, 2012, and Annie Beitler-Burchard, now assist Carmen from WHM’s Oceanside office and their new San Diego office located here at Christ Ministry Center.

Teri Figueroa, North County Times Staff Writer, wrote: “A slight woman with soft eyes and a megawatt smile, Warner-Robbins lights up any room she enters, and yet makes each person in that room feel valuable. To each of them, from the heads of national groups to drug-addicted female inmates, she delivers the same nondenominational message: I have faith in you. Her faith in God is ever-present, from gospel music in her office to the large wooden cross hanging from the walls.”

At an age when most of her clergy colleagues have retired, Carmen is busier than ever. When asked about retirement, she replied, “I’m just getting started!”

In Christ’s Service,
Bill Jenkins

From The Quote Garden:
“Being a part of Welcome Home does not mean a free ride,” Warner-Robbins said. “The women have to give back. They have to provide for their own and the other women’s healthy futures. They do this by helping new members, visiting those still in jail, speaking at community functions, establishing liaisons with community colleges, organizing fund-raisers and delivering food and clothing to Mexico’s poor.”
~ Rev. Carmen Warner-Robbins, AMN Healthcare, Inc. (2003).

View this YouTube Video about Welcome Home Ministries. 

Visit Welcome Home Ministries
Photo credits: Correctional Ministries and Chaplains Association (CMCA) and Welcome Home Ministries.

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