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Charlie* made some bad choices and found herself in a Costa Rican prison facing a long sentence.

Alone and afraid, Charlie sought ways to survive in her new home. She didn’t have any friends in prison, and her family refused to visit her. Charlie decided that the only way to defend herself was to become tough; to become someone who was feared.

Charlie traded her normal clothes for baggy, masculine attire. She stopped wearing makeup and cut her hair short. She acted tough and was easily mistaken for a male.

Charlie’s plan worked; the other prisoners left her alone. Some of them even asked her to protect them. Although Charlie was surviving in prison, she felt even more alone than before and sank deeper into depression.

Beth Tatum is a TMS Global cross-cultural worker who ministers with a team in the women’s prison in Costa Rica. Most of the inmates are there for crimes such as drugs, money laundering, or murder. “These women have been through a variety of tragedies and seen evil face-to-face,” said Beth. “Many want to make a change in their lives and are determined to choose a better path.”

Beth and her team visit the prison weekly and hold a Bible study with anyone who wants to attend. Charlie has attended the Bible study regularly for months. “Charlie saw herself as someone beat down and left to rot,” said Beth. “Her only bright spot was the respect she earned by looking like a male and providing protection for others.”

One day the group was studying how God helps His people fight their battles. "We wanted the ladies to realize that battles are not just inside the prison, but that each of us has our own personal battles that we have to fight daily,” said Beth. “Every morning we have to get up, put on our battle shield, and ask God to give us victory over another day and another battle."

Charlie realized that she wasn’t the only person who was fighting battles. She understood that she had the opportunity to change and try make better choices, even if it would be a more difficult path. She asked the ministry team for prayer and began praying on her own in her cell.

"Charlie was starting to understand that God loves her, and He wants to protect her from the heavy battles,” said Beth. “Instead of finding her identity in being feared, she began to find her identity in Him.”

Charlie surprised the ministry team one day by transforming her appearance. She walked into the Bible study in confidence wearing makeup and feminine clothes. Beth said, “It took us a few moments to realize that it was Charlie! She was so proud of how she looked.”

Although Charlie was worried that she would lose the respect she had gained from the other inmates, she decided that she wanted to be who God created her to be.

"Charlie realizes that she is not alone, and God is there to help her fight her battles,” said Beth. “He is her battle shield, and He will help protect her and supply her with all that she needs."

*Pseudonym used for privacy.