Meet Michael Bogard at the gate.
By: Ryan Koehl -Assistant State's Attorney's Office
This is the second Meet Me at the Gate ® experience in which I have been involved first-hand. The team that met Mike at the gate (Jason Belyew, Jeff Clow, and myself) is significant in itself. It was less than three years ago that Jeff Clow and myself were a part of our first team that met Jason at the gate. On this day, Jason was the lead minister of encouragement and hope to Mike, as we heard Jason relate his prison and post-prison experiences to Mike. When we arrived at our church and met with Pastors Mel Svendsen and Randy Tate, Pastor Tate shared a verse that was particularly relevant to what we were experiencing; 2 Timothy 2:2: "and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." Our first Meet Me at the Gate team had heard the gospel. We then entrusted it to Jason, who was now passing it on to Mike. We were witnessing, first-hand, the multiplication of disciples!!
And not just any disciples. These are the Spiritual Marines. These disciples know what it's like to be judged harshly by man, experience hell on earth behind bars, and come out of it all with faith refined in the fire. I whole-heartedly believe that ex-prisoners, when properly discipled upon their release, are the "Spiritual Marine Corps" of the church. If anyone doubts this, they should have heard Jason Belyew, not even three years removed from prison himself, reciting countless scriptures from memory and exhorting Mike that Jesus Christ is looking for more soldiers for his army, while wielding his own sword, the Word of God!!
As we were waiting for Mike at Union Station in Chicago on this cold Friday in December, we watched as at least 30 other newly released prisoners got off the train in their DOC-issued black sweat shirts and gray sweat pants. As they walked past us, we didn't see anyone meeting them at the gate. "What would become of them?," we asked ourselves. We didn't know. But statistically-speaking, we know that a large majority of them will be taking another ride in the reverse direction. Apart from Jesus Christ becoming supreme in their lives and a church that is willing to place a tight fence of love around them, they will most likely be returning to where they have come from: prison.
But on this day our only responsibility was Mike. Although we can't predict what the future holds for Mike, yet in his "case . . . we feel sure of better things--things that belong to salvation," Heb. 6:9. Not because Mike is any better than the rest, but because we are convinced that he knows Jesus personally and has a church ready to love him in radical ways, because the more radical the love, the more radical the joy.
In this season of celebrating the Savior's birth, our team celebrated the new birth that Mike was experiencing as Jeff drove him to his new home at Faith Acres. On this night, Mike would enjoy many firsts: his first real meal and shower in almost two years, his first real experience of a godly family, his first real experience of the body of Christ in action, and maybe his first real sense of hope.