Andrew entered prison from the streets with very few possessions and even those were taken away. He was left with his name and an assigned inmate number. It’s a given that you exit the world and leave your freedom behind, but they can’t take away your name and your identity.

Or can they?

“Pastor Greg, I came across a problem that you may be able to help me with. There is another Andrew Ludwig in Barnstable, Massachusetts that has a detainer on him, and the people here are not helping me.” A “detainer” is a hold that is placed on a criminal defendant who is facing charges in another jurisdiction. In short, Andrew now faced two charges, those he had incurred and those of another Andrew.

Things had just gotten more complicated. When I followed up with the courthouse in Massachusetts, a nice woman told me that Andrew had to personally appear there to make his car (an impossibility). Otherwise he needed a good lawyer.

So the one thing Andrew possessed was now in someone else’s hands. Life had suddenly become even rougher but, true to character, he managed to cut through his emotions to  concern for others. “How was the 4th of July? I know you and your wife are having an anniversary soon, if I’m not mistaken…” 

He wasn’t, of course, and this was quite in keeping with his Mother’s Day card, Easter card, Christmas card and a special card with doodles for the Sunday School kids. This habit of seeing beyond himself and his plight is one of the secrets to his future. It allows him frequent “escapes” from prison. 

Somehow Andrew has managed a balance between escaping his circumstances and making the most of his time there. He yearns for freedom but sees himself as being there for a reason, a tool for God’s use, helping to shape someone else’s future.

Like a mountain climber, taking careful steps and always looking for the next ridge, Andrew found his way further in the faith. “For the first time in about twenty-two years I had the chance to inform (another inmate) about Jesus and his story and about entering the gates of heaven. He was very appreciative. I’ve gotten one person in my life to ask the Lord into his heart!”

I remembered the words his father said Andrew used to repeat, “I’m either going to be a police officer or preacher. I’m going to either shoot ‘em or save ‘em.” Up to now his life has been a struggle to break free from his past so that he might make a difference. Reflecting on his encounter with the inmate he is encouraged. “I should say God used me. At the time he was on suicide watch so I told him all the sins of this world were already paid by Jesus and that it’s not our place to decide when we go (die).”

Like many of us, Andrew is still discovering who he is. He has learned that everything changes and everything is uncertain.

Except God.


(read Andrew’s story every Thursday here)