A survivor of childhood abuse, Ann White understands firsthand the role gender-specific programs play in helping at-risk women heal from substance abuse, trauma, and mental health issues.
White, whose ministry Courage for Life exists to serve at-risk and incarcerated women, told The Christian Post that many of the women she encounters have experienced some sort of trauma at the hands of a male.
"Often, the abuse was in their teenage years, and it's trauma they're still holding onto," she shared. "Sometimes, simply hearing a man's voice is a subconscious trigger. That's why it's important to use gender-specific treatment."
Believing that God's word is the ultimate source of hope and healing, Courage for Life has released the first-ever audio version of the New Testament voiced entirely by women. Less than a month after its release, the program is already being implemented in prison systems in the country.
"When Jesus ascended to the right of the Father, He left us with two things: The Holy Spirit, and the Word of God. We want to immerse these women in God's Word and allow them to meditate on it," White said.
For incarcerated women, access to an audio Bible is groundbreaking, White said, as many of them have a low literacy level and are "intimidated" by a physical Bible.
"We're providing them with the Bible in a format where they can best receive it," she said. "A female voice is going to bring hope and healing even more than that male voice would possibly bring."
There are 2.3 million people incarcerated in the US today, and the incarceration of women is growing twice as fast as that of men. But while there are a number of men's prison ministries — which White quickly acknowledged are a "wonderful thing" — there aren't many gender-specific tools available to women.
"We believed God was calling us to step up and help fill that void," she said.
White recruited the help of Grammy-nominated artist Amik Byram and a handful of voice actors to create the free, female-only audio Bible using the New Living Translation. The group has already completed the New Testament and is currently working on the Old Testament.
So far, state prison systems in Georgia and Missouri have agreed to make the Courage for Life Bible app available on more than 80,000 prison-provided tablets.
Courage for Life also plans to implement weekly classes —complete with workbooks and other materials — to help incarcerated women develop a personal relationship with the Lord and give them tools to work through past traumas.
In addition to Bible studies, devotions and books, a large portion of Courage for Life's ministry include training leaders to minister to women who have been neglected, abused and incarcerated.
And already, lives are being changed.
"One girl said to me, 'I thought God was punishing me by having me incarcerated, and I didn't think He loved me,'" White recalled. "She said, 'now I know He's rescued me and wants me to live in the freedom only He can give.'"
"God wants to heal those broken pieces," she added. "He wants to free His daughters from the bondage of making fear-based decisions and helping them embrace their God-given courage."