Jason Ludwig Said "Yes"!
Growing up was really tough for me. I was the oldest of a large, very close, yet dysfunctional family including three siblings and 30 first cousins. Both of my parents struggled with addictions. I grew up witnessing a lot of violence and drug abuse. My father was an alcoholic and cocaine abuser and mom loved to drink. When my mother would confront my father about the cocaine habit he would become very violent and physically abuse her. The common routine included him getting arrested and us going to spend the night at my grandmother’s. My mother finally had enough and separated from my father when I was 8.
Raising four kids, paying all the bills, and working three jobs was no easy task for my mother. I remember when our heat, electricity, and water all got shut off. We flushed the toilet and took baths with water we bought from the supermarket. I remember watching the water company put the long pole in the sewer and shutting off the water, wondering how I could steal one of those poles to turn it back on. We did our homework by candlelight. I got picked on for wearing the same dirty clothes to school. This really hurt me emotionally and I dreaded going to school.
With no father figure, low self esteem, and no vision for my life, I started getting high and committing crimes in junior high. I looked up to the older guys who “had it all” and started trying to make a name for myself doing some of the crazy things they were doing. For once, I finally felt accepted and valued. I felt like I was part of something and my friends became like my brothers. We were stealing cars, selling drugs, and bought our first guns when we were 14. It was then that I got locked-up for the first time.
Between the ages of 14 and 25, I served 9.5 years in and out of lock-up. I was chasing a fierce cocaine addiction, my life was completely out of control, and I didn't think I could ever break this cycle.
By 25, I had tried everything: 3 prison bootcamps, AA/NA, Anger Management, and every other program the prison system had to offer. Despite the positive takeaways, nothing worked. I remember when I was 15 years old in a juvenile lock-up, I was invited by this guy named John to come to a bible study. There was something different about John. I wanted the peace that he had and I remember having an experience with Jesus and accepting Christ into my life. I remember feeling good for the first time. Once I went home, though, I continued right where I left off: getting high and running the streets.
Now 25, locked up again, I was invited to another church service. I saw that peace again, and when Chaplain Ray Perez was preaching, he said “You can’t serve two masters, you either serve God or the devil,” and I had a moment where my entire life, every sentence, addiction, and road I took, flashed before my eyes. I said right there, “God if you are real, I will give you my life right now.” I remember the Holy Spirit literally coming into me and scales falling off my eyes (Acts 9:18). I saw things completely differently, my addictions were gone, and I knew God was real and I said yes to him.
After getting released in 2004, I went right back into lock-up, but this time to bring a message of hope and salvation. I got hooked up with a great church and met my wife Dene. Today, Dene and I have been married for 12 years and have 4 beautiful kids, Jason, Josiah, Gianna, and Briella.
In 2011, I was hired on with Straight Ahead Ministries to serve as a local missionary inside of juvenile lock-ups. During my first week, I was asked to share my story by Dr. Scott Larsen. I shared everything including the names of the people responsible for sharing Christ with me while I was in juvenile lock-up. I found out afterwards that both John and Tim worked for Straight Ahead. We were eventually reunited and I was able to thank them!
The ministry that planted the seed when I was 15 is the same ministry God launched me into to serve with, going back into the very same lock-ups I was in as a young person to spread the word about Jesus. God is good!
2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come.