Incarcerated – The Wrap Up… for Now

by DanWolgemuth on June 28, 2019

Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. (Luke 22:63, ESV)

Incarcerated. Yes, Jesus was locked up. In custody. The Prince of Peace. The Creator of the Universe, shackled.

For a night, Emmanuel behind bars. Then, as morning broke, the plot coalesced. Hatred pounded the gavel. Religious jealousy occupied the jury box.

Pilate’s solution was “punish and release”. A perfect lamb. Spotless. Now ripped open. Now mocked.

It was the unfettered power of grace that kept Him there. No garrison or guard could have done what love did.

Just days before, Jesus said that it would be His true sheep that came to Him in prison, and yet none of His followers delivered. Everyone fled. Every one.

Jesus knew the prophetic word… “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered…” (Zechariah 13:7, ESV)

He knew. So His instruction in Matthew 25 wasn’t to shame the scattered sheep, but to offer them a picture of where to meet Him, the next time. After His return to His Father. In an act of reconciliation and restoration.

Yes, Jesus could still be found. He would be evident in the faces of the broken, the hungry, the thirsty… and yes, the condemned.

That’s why I saw Him in the JDC. In the face of a 13-year-old. In the eyes of a young man on suicide watch.

For 26 hours I was in a classroom. It was an upper level Theology class.

It was incarnational ministry at its most profound level, and I was the student.

I came. I dressed. I ate. I slept (in a manner of speaking). And I met Jesus. He was there, just like He promised.

He didn’t turn a blind eye to justice. No, He soaked it in grace. Mercy danced with justice and I watched it happen. A witness. His witness.

I’ve said it before… I will never forget those faces… and now I know why. It was Jesus I saw. It was Jesus’ voice I heard.

Jesus, once alone in prison, welcomed me in my prison garb. He sat across from me over an unthinkable meal. He saved me a seat at the group therapy sessions. He shot hoops during recreation time. He wiped my tears as I thought about the unimaginable brokenness.

“I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matthew 25:36b, ESV)

Yes, indeed. I saw Jesus in the JDC. And He didn’t look like me. He looked like them.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves…” (Proverbs 31:8a, NLT)

And speak up I will. Not for my mission, or for Youth For Christ, but for Jesus, my holy, once incarcerated King.

Jesus. Praise Him. Honor Him. Worship Him. Adore Him. Bless Him. Serve and sacrifice for Him. Visit Him.

Jesus. In the JDC.


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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?


Incarcerated – Part 7

June 14, 2019
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“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, […]

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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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