Unassuming. That’s the word that comes to mind as Judy Niedermann enters the collaborative area on the second floor of the Biblica headquarters in Colorado Springs. She could be an accountant from the finance department or a replacement for the lady who comes once a week to water the plants. Wearing a friendly smile, she exudes humility and seems genuinely surprised to have been invited to meet with us today.
What you would never guess by looking at Judy is that she’s been to jail. Multiple times. In fact, for the past five years, she’s been going regularly – to share God’s Word with female inmates through a ministry called Victory Walk.
As she takes a seat and begins to share with us how Victory Walk started, it quickly becomes apparent that she has a story. And what a story it is.
“I grew up in a Christian home and through circumstances, ended up in a pit,” Judy confesses. “I only have a high school education. I graduated with a one-year-old on my hip. But God wooed me back later in life and gave me the desire to attend Bible study. And it was there, alone with Him in His Word, that God got ahold of my heart.
“I was in John chapter 10 where it says, ‘My sheep know my voice… They follow me… They won’t follow a stranger because they know me and I know them…’ I sat there and I thought: I know it was Your voice when I was seven and I walked down that aisle and said, ‘Save me!’ And I have seen Your hand at work in my life since then, but the truth is, I don’t know you like that. I don’t know your voice like that.
“It reminded me of when you call your friend or your buddy. You say, ‘Hey!’ and it’s all you have to say. They know your voice. That’s how well God wants me to know Him. And the truth was, I didn’t.
“I don’t know what the preacher was preaching that next Sunday and I never even walked up the aisle, but I tell you what, I busted open the doors of my heart and I said, ‘Come in. I want to know you and I want you to know me.’ And God just began a work in me, one that I didn’t even see myself. And before I knew it, I had desires to lead Sunday school, help with the youth – and God really gave me a heart for women. Before I knew it, I was being asked to facilitate ladies Bible studies.”
And that’s where Victory Walk comes in.
“One of my most fervent prayers has been, ‘Lord, whatever grieves your heart, I want that to grieve me. And whatever brings you joy, I want those to be the things that bring me joy.’
“Another prayer is, ‘I don’t care if you have to hit me over the head with a brick, I don’t want to miss a single thing you have planned for me.’
God did just that when, in the span of one week, He bombarded Judy with the subject of incarcerated women.
“I’d go to the mail, there would be something about incarcerated women. We’d turn on the TV, there would be something about incarcerated women. I would turn on the radio… I would pick up a magazine… It didn’t matter where I turned… incarcerated women. And every time I would grieve.
“When I got to the end of the week, I went, ‘Is that You, Lord? I’ll go!’”
Judy had a son in prison, so she was on the mailing list for a prison ministry. About this time, she noticed that the ministry offered prison visitation training. She filled out the application, mailed it in on Tuesday and by Thursday, was invited to participate in the training.
After she began the training, she realized the focus was on prisons. And all along, her desire had been to visit female inmates in jails. When she asked the ministry if they could help her get into the local county jail, they replied, “Absolutely not.”
As Judy soon learned, they had been trying for 10 years to get into the El Paso County Jail without success. The jail would simply not allow people to go in and conduct Bible studies. When she began to investigate, she discovered that the only exception was for chaplains to hold worship services. She could become a lay-chaplain, she was told, but it would take a year, with another year of being on the waiting list to begin once-a-month visits.
Judy didn’t let that stop her. Or rather, it didn’t stop God.
Soon Judy’s own daughter ended up going to jail unexpectedly, for a two-week sentence. Judy visited her and, after the visit, her daughter had a long talk with a fellow inmate. At the conclusion of the conversation, the inmate said, “Wow, I wish I had a mom like yours! Would she come here and do Bible study with me?”
Judy made the arrangements, and after two visits, the woman asked Jesus to be her Savior. “She came to me week after week with lists of questions and she begged me, ‘You’ve got to find a way in!’”
Before long, Judy was busy visiting individual inmates. So busy that she needed help meeting the demand. She began to pray and, within two weeks, had united with two other women. They then set to work visiting inmates, until all of their contacts had been released. Suddenly, they were on the outside looking in again.
At this point, they prayed a simple prayer: “’God, if it’s your will to get us in there, we’re asking that you do it.’”
After making some phone calls, Judy was told the jail didn’t need any more chaplains. What they needed was a new “program” for the inmates. Judy jumped at the chance.
Scheduled to present their idea in just two weeks, she and her teammates set out to construct a Bible study “program.” The result was a seven-week Bible study called Victory Walk.
“It’s really basic discipleship,” Judy explains. “Week one, we share the gospel. Week two, we talk about what God’s Word says about God’s Word. Week three is about prayer. Every week is about how to draw close to the Lord and know Him – and let Him know you. Everything is about how to know the plans He has for you and walk on in victory. This is what we do.
“One of the most frequent comments we get from the women who participate in this study is that they love it because it’s all God’s Word. There’s not a lot of commentary.”
Biblica partners with Judy and Victory Walk by providing Bibles. “We hand out a Bible to each and every participant,” Judy says. “And they are always so surprised that you guys have given this Bible to them. We let them know, ‘This is from Biblica.’
“I’m just a housewife,” Judy confesses. “And God just ripped the rug out from underneath my life and said, ‘You. Here. Now.’ He put all of the pieces together – including the provision of those Bibles.”
After hearing her story, two other words come to mind concerning this unassuming woman: perseverant and faithful. Judy has persevered through the red tape, the challenges and setbacks, in order to reach women in jail with God’s Word. She has faithfully waited on God to open the doors, and when He does, she walks through them.
Please pray for Judy and her team, and for the many incarcerated women they are reaching with God’s Word. And join us in getting Bibles to Victory Walk. Your gift of $20 will provide 5 Bibles for incarcerated women.