Friday, March 8, 2013

My first year of teaching I had a boy in my second hour class that has stuck with me.  I will call him JD.  He was an interesting kid.  Tough.  Probably a lot going on, a lot of baggage.  But he was always kind and respectful to me.  He missed school sometimes but he tried in my class.  I tried to help him with his work and he would even come in early to make up tests or assignments he missed.

My second year of teaching, this boy got in a lot of trouble.  He made a huge mistake and made really bad decisions.  He was 17 maybe 18.  Now he is serving 35 years in prison. (Just in case you were wondering, it wasn't murder or attempted)

When I heard the news the first time, no one could believe it.  I had students that were in class with him that first year coming to me all day asking if I had heard what he did.  We were all in disbelief.

I saw an article online yesterday and it reminded me of him.  He was in a group of several boys and the last one was finally sentenced.  I didn't follow along with his case, so I went back and googled to see what happened to him.

35 years.

When he gets out, he won't be a kid anymore.  Who knows what prison will do to him?  And my heart breaks for him.  I know he screwed up.  BIG TIME.  I am totally not saying that there shouldn't be consequences to his actions.  There should.  But this??? I wonder...

Anyway, not the point I wanted to make...

Now he is just another statistic.  Just one more kid, now man in prison, for bad choices he made.  Most would probably say good riddance, one more criminal off the streets.


But to me, he isn't just another number.  He isn't just another court case or news report or criminal.  I knew him.  I talked to him.  He sat in my classroom.  I helped him with his work.  I laughed with him.  He isn't just another nameless face whose life has been wasted.  He is a real person, who had hopes and dreams at one time, probably still does.  He is a kid who had a family, a mom whose heart probably hurts more than I can even begin to claim mine does.

Things change when you put a face and a name to a statistic.  You can no longer ignore what has always been.  He isn't the first boy to be in this situation, I am sure he won't be the last.  But because I knew him.  Because I saw potential.  I see them all through his eyes.

And it has been absolutely overwhelming.

I love this quote because it is so true.

“We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes…” – David Platt

You can replace orphan with any group you chose:  prisoners, kids living on the streets, people in some form of slavery, girls and women being sold, I could go on and on and on.

But now you know about him.  Will you begin praying with me for him?  

You know about the boys too and the thousands still on the street.  Will you pray for them too?


  1. Our God is good. Because of His awesome grace, prison doesn't have to mean the end of a person's life or the end of their possibilities for a place in the kingdom.

    I've done prison ministry in the states and a little in Uganda, and I have seen how God uses inmates as a tremendous witness to each other, to the guards, to their families on the outside, and beyond. For example, I witnessed a drunk driver share testimony at a prison chapel service how blessed she was by being the token offender at a drunk driving panel. She said that it allowed for a lot of personal healing and healing for those in attendance because she shared her story. As she was sharing how the panel was a blessing, another inmate spoke up and thanked her for sharing, as her uncle was killed by a drunk driver, and she's struggled with forgiving that driver. Because the first inmate had stood up and offered herself as a sort of token drunk driver, the other inmate was able to open up and begin the process of forgiving the driver who killed her uncle.

    I don't know what JD did, and I don't know where his spiritual life is at, but I do know that God is good and he has incredible timing. Sometimes we have the opportunity to plant seeds in people's lives, but God decides when those seeds grow. I pray that his faith blossoms mightily in these next few years.

    I thank God that you were able to be a witness to this boy and share God's goodness with him. I pray that he is blessed by other Godly inmates in prison as he learns to walk in faith behind bars.



    1. Hi Cana,

      Thanks for stopping by and the encouraging words. What an amazing testimony you were able to witness. It is so easy to think of prison as such a bleak place with no hope for the inmates but you are right, his life hasn't ended just because he went to prison. Your comment was definitely a reminder that I can still have an impact on his life and be an encouragement to him. I have been meaning to write to him and haven't. You reminded me that I need to write and be more faithful in my prayers for him. I know God can redeem anyone, JD included. Good luck with your work in Uganda. If you are ever in Kampala, look me up. I return in 2 weeks!


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