December 2022 • Newsletter
Galatians 5:13 (ESV) For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Along Side Ministries quarterly graduation ceremonies are a pinnacle event for our community. Program residents, Board members, staff, volunteers, and donors all come together to celebrate our graduates as they complete the Discipleship Training Program and become Alumni.
At our last graduation, we experienced a first. Mike Dawson, a 2010 graduate of our program celebrated the graduation of his mentee, Robert Fellows. Present in the audience cheering them on was Mike’s former mentor, Dennis Carlat. Two generations of mentors and mentees
celebrated graduation together. Dennis was proud of Mike’s success, and Mike’s personal experience proved to be valuable in helping Robert also become successful.
Mike was adopted. His father ran a prison ministry. As a teenager, Mike went down the wrong road which led to addiction, jail, and prison. While in jail, he made a commitment to live for Christ. It all started when he heard an announcement for a support group and ended up attending his first ASM discipleship group by mistake. The rest is history.
In the ASM program, Mike met weekly with his mentor, Dennis Carlat, at the Discipleship Training Center. At first Mike was hesitant. “Would this business executive be willing to work with me after hearing my story, and would I listen to what he had to say?”
Over time, Mike discovered that Dennis really cared and that their relationship was very important to him. “Dennis modeled a Christlike walk which reminded me of my father.” Today Mike does not consider Dennis to be a mentor, rather a close friend. “I can call
him anytime and he answers.”
Mike believes mentoring to be a crucial component to successful reentry. Next to a personal relationship with Christ, mentoring is an important part that provides a key lifeline, an anchor, and a helping hand. It has also helped him to be accountable. You must first be willing to listen, learn, submit, and surrender.
Mike graduated from the program, got married, worked as a successful painter, had his rights restored, and is now giving back as a mentor. He regularly goes into prison to speak, teach, and mentor.
Mike’s favorite verse is Galatians 6:17 (ESV). “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” Mike’s story is proof that the program works.
Many lives have been transformed as the result of ASM’s Christian focus and the mentoring program. For true transformation to take place, Mike says, “Allow your life to be impacted by someone else, then give back to others what you have learned. We are like rivers of living water, receiving from upstream, and giving back downstream.”
That is being involved in the kingdom business. Mike has found his place. He has benefited from the ASM program, is now mentoring, and is about the kingdom business.
From a Mentor’s Perspective
By Dennis Carlat
I was asked to mentor Mike Dawson after
his previous mentor no longer could.
Mike is a big guy with a deep booming
voice and can be intimidating when you
first meet him. He also had a reputation
in prison of someone you do not want to
mess with. When I met Mike for the first
time, out walked this huge guy and the
other inmates looked down to avoid eye
contact. I immediately wondered “what
happened to his previous mentor?” I was
able to push through my initial fear and
we began meeting weekly. It was not
long before I realized that Mike is really
a kind and compassionate man, a teddy
bear on the inside.
It took several months to get Mike to
trust and open up. We kept meeting and talking and eventually we bonded. Mike is a good human being and will do anything for anyone. There are times when we had to get tough with each other as we worked through all the stuff. We would set each other straight at times when needed. Over time we developed a very close relationship. I no longer consider Mike to be a mentee, but a close friend. I totally trust him. We still call each other all the time. We went from a relationship without trust to me being the best man at his wedding. I know I learned more from him than he from me.
Mentors are not better or smarter than mentees. We are just in a different situation. The roles could easily have been reversed. It’s all about the decisions we make in life. We all make some good ones and some bad ones. We need to take responsibility for our actions and do what is right. Mike has taken responsibility for his life, made some good decisions, and is now a blessing others. I am very proud of him. I encourage you all to consider becoming a mentor. It will change your life!