Post image for Incarcerated – Part 8

Incarcerated – Part 8

by DanWolgemuth on June 21, 2019

Before Mark… Lisa.

I met Lisa at a Youth For Christ event in Kansas City. Her story gripped my heart as she shared vividly what it was like to have her front door kicked in by the police who were there to arrest her thirteen-year-old son. That was over three years ago. It wasn’t until a month ago that Lisa was able to be close enough to her son to actually give him a hug. Three years, without a mother’s embrace.

Lisa’s son had witnessed a terrible crime and for three years, he awaited trial. Three years.

As Lisa escorted us on this incredible journey, she communicated the pain she feels each time she leaves the detention facility. Each time she walks away from her son. Each time she hears the words of her Heavenly Father…

“You don’t have this, and you can’t fix this. Trust me.”

The words sting, even as they bring some level of comfort.

Enter Mark. A Youth For Christ volunteer mentor. A man who has a brother serving a life sentence. A man with a passion and burden to live into the lives of incarcerated young men.

Vocationally, Mark is a commercial real estate guy, but in the eyes of Lisa, Mark is an answer to her daily prayers. “The angel” that Lisa prays will surround her son.

As I listened to Lisa share her story, and as I engaged in conversation with Mark, I came to realize the powerful partnership that God Himself forges. A Mom who “doesn’t have this,” and a God who inspires, calls and makes a pathway for a mentor like Mark.

The words Lisa spoke stirred my heart. It humbled me in a fresh way. Had my 26 hours in the JDC been the answer to a mother’s prayer? Were the smiles I shared, the conversation I engaged in, the stories I was trusted with only possible because somebody had prayed those moments into being?

Maybe a mom. Maybe a dad. Maybe a grandparent… and maybe an army called the Church.

In that moment, a dream was born. Deep in my core.

What if every juvenile on the inside, had someone on the outside? Someone who interceded. Someone who advocated before the Father. Someone who prayed earnestly that God would send more “Mark’s,” more voices of grace, forgiveness, hope and love.

In that moment I realized that my work at the JDC isn’t done. Just because the clock expired on my 26 hours doesn’t mean the box is checked. No, 26 hours was the onramp to the dream.

What if all 80,000 juveniles who will spend the night “inside” a lockup tonight, had somebody on the “outside” lifting them, literally carrying them to the Father of grace and mercy. What if every young person who was processed through intake, who had their mug shot taken, knew that at that very moment a system of prayer was initiated for them? What if every incarcerated young person knew that just because they’re behind bars doesn’t mean they’re beyond God’s reach?

Before Mark came, Lisa prayed. Before Mark opened God’s Word, Lisa pled. As Mark felt the call to respond, Lisa confessed her helplessness, but not hopelessness.

Before Mark… Lisa.

For everyone inside the system… somebody outside on their knees.

The dream is born.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:36–38)

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them… (Hebrews 13:3)

I was in prison and you came to me… (Matthew 25:36)

Praying earnestly on the outside. Serving boldly on the inside.

For Christ our King.

What about you?


Post image for Incarcerated – Part 7

Incarcerated – Part 7

by DanWolgemuth on June 14, 2019

“What is a Christian? The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God for his Father.”

I read these words, shortly after graduating from college in 1977. They were penned by J.I. Packer in his classic book, Knowing God.

The beauty, simplicity, and clarity of this description has never left me.

God for his Father…

How fitting on this Father’s Day weekend. How aligned and inspiring.

Yet, as I sat for hours with the teenage residents of the JDC, this imagery moved from being compelling to being daunting.

Every in-depth conversation that I had with an incarcerated young man touched on family. It’s typically an easy place to build a relational foundation. And so I built. One conversation after another. Each more fluidly and with more velocity than I had hoped. But every conversation turned a similar corner at the intersection of “Dad.”

Common and disturbing consistency surfaced with these young men. Ironically, none of them voiced anger or resentment… rather, a complete sense of irrelevance. Missing in action. Dad after dad after dad.

Perhaps that’s why a mature man is like comfort food to these young men. I sensed a deep craving in each of them to connect, to engage, to be heard… and the reality was, I had nowhere else to go, and no distractions to investigate or compete with. I was theirs for 26 hours. And they were mine.

In the classroom of prayer, Jesus taught us how we should address God. It could have been, “Dear Sir,” or “Most reverent and holy one,” or “Just, fierce and righteous God…,” but no, Jesus informs our language and theology by telling us that as His followers we can refer to God as “Our Father…” – an invitation into community, and perhaps more specifically, into family, with God as our loving and perfect Dad.

Our advocate.
Our rescuer.
Our protector.
Our provider.
Our joy.
Our identity.
Our inheritance.
Our guarantee.
Our forgiver.
Our mentor.
Our friend.
Our entertainment.
Our love.
Our hope.
Our Father…

Every young man I met, every pair of eyes that I looked into, every voice I heard needed a father, the Father. And it wasn’t as though they had met him and rejected him, no, they were living in a father-void, a relational abyss that they filled in unhealthy and desperate ways.

The fact that my business card said “President/CEO” didn’t matter to these young men, what mattered was that I understood the heart of a father. I am one. In flawed and imperfect ways, but I’m a dad. It’s a title that humbles and inspires me.

And so, in some mysteriously beautiful way, when these young men started building a relationship with me, they were getting a glimpse of their Heavenly Father, and as such, a glimpse into what it means to be a Christian.

Young men without dads, but not without a Father.

Father’s Day will never be the same.

Into the void… a father. Me. And through me, a broken, imperfect yet engaging glimpse into hope.

He is our Father.

… yes, to be continued… I simply can’t stop.


Incarcerated – Part 6

June 7, 2019
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I’m not sure when I realized it… most likely in the morning of our second day. Perhaps it was birthed from the realization that we had a photo crew doing their best to chronicle the incarceration experience as accurately and authentically as possible, but at some point it dawned on me. No mirrors. But then […]

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Incarcerated – Part 5

May 31, 2019
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When our kids were little our end of day routine circled around a prayer time, followed by what we called “Happy Thoughts,” then a kiss good night. The “Happy Thoughts” happened as a result of our kids having difficulty falling asleep or being bothered with persistent worry about something. To combat this, we planted a […]

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Incarcerated – Part 4

May 24, 2019

February 7, 2010, immediately after the New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl, CBS launched a new series called Undercover Boss. It was an instant smash hit. The premise… each episode features a high-ranking executive or the owner of a corporation going undercover as an entry-level employee in his or her own […]

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Incarcerated – Part 3

May 17, 2019
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Within the first few minutes of arriving at the detention center, I was issued a fresh set of clothing. Light gray sweat pants and matching sweat shirt, a blue t-shirt (which all new residents wear), white boxer shorts, white socks and slip on sandals. Everything I came in with was gone. At that moment, you […]

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Incarcerated – Part 2

May 10, 2019
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I completely underestimated what would happen in 26 hours of incarceration. I invited this. At an important level, I wanted this. I just didn’t know what would happen. Most specifically, KB happened. I was clothed in the same clothes, but I was decades apart, more specifically, I was a lifetime apart. Perhaps that’s why my […]

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Incarcerated – Part 1

May 3, 2019

I sat across from Danny, a bright, young member of our team from Indianapolis. His eyes danced with joy and hope and confidence and a winsomeness that is nearly childlike. But Danny is no child. At least not by conventional definition. His pathway to our team twisted in directions that made an onramp to a […]

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What was she thinking? Seriously.

April 26, 2019

I’m sure we’ve all done it. You know, started a project or engaged in an activity only to realize very quickly that whatever tool or expertise or strength we brought into the situation was grossly overmatched. It makes me think about the 1975 movie, Jaws. A classic line in the movie is when Roy Scheider, […]

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Joe and Nick…

April 22, 2019

After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So, he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing […]

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