The Labels We Wear

By Courtney Dugstad
Office Manager and Youth Program Assistant

When we go into the Adult and Juvenile Detention Centers to serve those that are incarcerated there, we are often faced with many different labels. Words like, First Degree, Level Two, and Third Offense become identities people wear. Past actions become names they respond to. In fact, the very names they are born with are replaced with numbers and the word “criminal” blankets over all.

Often times, the people that they spend the most time with are the ones known by their labels; probation officer, social worker, lawyer, case manager, corrections officer, treatment specialist. These replace the names of the people behind the badge, and the impersonal process of labeling is reinforced.

For the past 3 months, a young girl incarcerated at the JDC and I have been focusing on one particular label: REDEEMED. As I often encounter when we start talking about words like, loved, forgiven, adopted, made new, she became visibly upset. The enemy had told her for so long that the only labels that matter are the ones given to her in a courtroom. She had never been told that Jesus Christ has washed away every one of them and replaced them with her true name: A Child of God. To watch the transformation that happens when the Holy Spirit begins to work in someone’s heart, to physically see the relief that washes over their faces when the enemy is put in his rightful place and his labels are cast out, is something that I will always be emotionally affected by. To witness a miracle like that reaches to the depths of your soul and sometimes the only word you can utter is the name of Jesus Christ. 

“That might be something I’ve done,
but it doesn’t define me,
only God can do that.”

Since that day, she has been very intentional about how she labels things, including herself. I smiled when I heard her tell another inmate, “That might be something I’ve done, but it doesn’t define me, only God can do that.” Here at Next Chapter, although it is always our intention to build long-lasting relationships, sometimes God allows us only a brief time to plant the seeds. We often don’t get to see if the seed will land on fertile soil, or even if fruit eventually grows. We have to trust the Gardener.

Yesterday as she was making her list of contacts for her next placement, she put me at the top under her Probation Officer, Social Worker, and Defense Attorney. After she wrote my name, she paused and looked up at me. “What do I call you? I mean, what are you to me?” she asked. “Well, what do you think I am to you?” I replied. She thought for a minute and promptly wrote: Courtney Dugstad, Next Chapter Ministries, Person I Trust.

Now that is a label I am happy to wear.

 Courtney, left, at a Teen Girl's Retreat learning about the True Vine

Courtney, left, at a Teen Girl's Retreat learning about the True Vine

 Roxy and Kelly standing by the Fellowship Garden.

Roxy and Kelly standing by the Fellowship Garden.

 Enjoying the fellowship at Worship Night

Enjoying the fellowship at Worship Night

Here at Next Chapter, our mission is to build long-lasting relationships with those in our communities that have been impacted by crime, restoring them to God, to their families, and to their community with the Gospel. Our Ministry is supported solely by people like you who hear our stories and feel called to come alongside us financially in helping live out our mission. We are humbled by your response to that call. Thank you!

To find out more, please visit our website at NextChapterRochester.org or call us at 507-529-5799