Beautiful Christmas Story from Behind the Walls

My name is Justin. I was first introduced to Marcus and the Release mentoring program when I was 16, I was detained at DCYC. Sometime after my arrival to DCYC, Marcus and a group of people entered my unit where us kids were housed. Faithfully these groups of volunteers came to teach us about God, Jesus and the Bible.

I never thought one of those people would have a drastic impact on my life in the most basic ways, being a friend, faithful, consistent and open-minded.

Being arrested for murder at the age of 16 is hard to comprehend, especially when you suffer from untreated mental illness and having your entire world turned upside down by being put into a cold institution. It’s like being dropped in the middle of the ocean with no one to help you. The only thing I knew was to sit there numb, unsure of what was to come and the road I would begin a different journey on. I no longer knew who I was or what my purpose was. l was broken, lost and scared to the core.

About a month or so into my stay at DCYC, Marcus interviewed me for mentoring and shared he would work hard to locate a mentor for me.

One day when Release volunteers came into my unit, I met someone who was different than others. He didn’t appear to know as much as the others and seemed a little out of place from the other volunteers. What’s interesting about God is, we never know how or when he will show up in a such a manner that changes someone’s life trajectory. By the end of the hour with the Release volunteers, Nick and I connected in a great way.

After Nick and I connected again the next week, he contacted the mentoring team and Marcus made the match between Nick and I. I thought that was cool that they knew each other already and making the match was an easy process for a kid so lost and broken.

Throughout my time at DCYC and transition into adult prison, my mentor Nick would continue to come see me and stay with me as I navigated the prison system. It was a very scary time going from youth detention at DCYC to getting an adult sentence of 60-80 years. Nick was a faithful friend at this point, and I don’t know how I would have made it emotionally without our connection. He was a true friend and helped me carry a great burden. We talked about life, problems, choices, how to move on, how to process the past and most importantly, I learned about God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We have been matched for over 11 years now and I can truly say I have a friend for life. Together we have explored the word of God and have seen each other grow in our purpose in Jesus while sharpening one another through our friendship. Many years into my sentence now, I have been faithful and diligent to bettering myself as a person. I lead Bible studies in my unit, I make a monthly newsletter which the prison lets me send out to the other inmates on other units and I am just about to graduate with a degree in theology. 🙂 Praise the Lord!

I have the privilege of writing this letter from prison and share how my mentoring relationship with Nick has been nothing short of a miracle for me. It has been a while since we have been face-to-face due to COVID and the restrictions for visitors but we stay faithful to one another through phone calls and emails. I can’t wait for the day that Nick and I will see each other again.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to write this testimony of my mentoring experience with Release and thank you to Nick, my brother. A lifelong friend.