Kathleen Marchant on Reaching Out to the Imprisoned Deep River Books author Kathleen Marchant understands the power of shame. She knows its shackles, and how a life can be sidelined by sin and regret for too long. But Kathleen also knows freedom. And the freedom she gained when Christ redeemed her, breaking her emotional and spiritual shackles, now fuels a ministry that reaches even those enduring a more physical form of bondage—the bondage of incarceration. Kathleen’s latest book, The Great Escape: Redeemed for Life, released last month. Already the eight-week Bible study has found inroads into six prisons, which is no easy task. “And to a gentleman in South Africa!” Kathleen reports. But Kathleen’s ministry to the incarcerated is nothing new. She has been reaching out to those behind bars for many years, holding retreats at a number of correctional centers throughout Washington State. Although raised in a pious Christian family, Kathleen finds common ground and the ability to connect with those behind bars from a shared experience of having once erected her own “fortress of the heart.” As a teenager, after an innocent night among friends at a high school football game, she found herself alone with a boy in a car. The assault that followed would lead to years of anguish, secrecy, and shame. “My childhood innocence was ruined,” Kathleen shares. “I was ruined. There was no going back. My life had now taken another path. The fortress of my heart imprisoned me for protection; secluding me not only from the world, but from emotion. That’s why I relate so much to the incarcerated.” God kept wooing Kathleen. Out of desperation she eventually surrendered her life, her sin, her pain, and all her regrettable choices, during an altar call at her brother’s church. The resulting joy she found through freedom and growth in Jesus Christ manifested in a heart to help others become unshackled. She published Fortress of My Heart, a collection of devotions, and later Where Are the Tigers?, in which she shared her dramatic story of shame, rebellion, and redemption. A disappointing retreat weekend as a volunteer with a prison ministry sparked Kathleen’s newest book. “Finding out how many women signed up and showed interest in attending, and then experiencing limited participants because of the volunteer team size and restrictions of the facility, I was heartbroken.” Kathleen prayed about it, asking God what she could do to reach more of these women. “God immediately laid the idea of a Bible study on my heart, and six months later the first draft came to fruition.” While she was motivated to write it because “there is so much need within prison walls for the story of Jesus to be shared,” Kathleen adds that “in the writing process, God revealed to me that a person does not have to be in prison to be a prisoner. Anything that holds you in bondage can be a prison: your past, your current circumstances, drugs, alcohol, even toxic religion experiences.” The Great Escape got its title “because of the escape we long for. This might be the escape from your present mindset and the life you are living. The book helps the reader discover how to live with purpose, joy, and the promise of eternal life—no matter what your surroundings may be.” Along her journey of life and writing, Kathleen has been inspired by Christian authors including Og Mandino, Jerry Jenkins, James S. MacDonald, and Kyle Idleman. Her heart remains wide open should the Holy Spirit call her to write another book. Meanwhile, you’ll find her speaking to groups and seeking opportunities to enter the prison system “to share how God has changed me from that scared, damaged little girl to the person I am today. When everyone else failed me and I failed myself, God drew me closer to him.” Kathleen and her husband, Brian, live in Idaho, near their daughter and her family, enjoying freedom in Christ among the wide open vistas of the Pacific Northwest.