Bad habits, particularly drug use, plague kids who grow up in the inner city. Joshua Stanton of Detroit was no exception. Occasional drug use did not stop him from achieving success, though. “I put in 100 hours a week and built a big construction business in Houston, TX. In fact, all I did was work.” Despite the money and success, he always felt something was missing in his life. Exhausted and disillusioned, Joshua decided to take a vacation in the spring of 2012. “This was the beginning of the downward spiral that led me to God,” he recalled, “because when I returned to Michigan, I met up with some old buddies and we started partying … a lot.” Further disillusioned and now using drugs again, Joshua closed his legitimate business and engaged in the drug trade. “Partying had depleted my resources – nearly a quarter of a million dollars – and I was beginning to feel desperate. In February 2013, I was arrested in Detroit after a search of my vehicle revealed a large stash of drugs.” After posting bond, Stanton fled the state. “I was in an ugly place,” Joshua said slowly. “My heroin addiction was out of control. Then I started using Crystal Meth.” His life spiraling out of control, he was arrested in Chicago and again fled. Then, while in Flint on a drug trip, he hit rock bottom. In a terrible fight that included family members, Joshua was arrested again. He decided to face the music and was arraigned on December 23, 2013. “I remember going completely numb when I was standing in front of that judge,” he said. That year, Joshua spent the most memorable Christmas he can remember … in jail. “There was an old-timer in there talking about Jesus,” Joshua recalled, “and the way he was talking made a lot of sense to me. It became clear what I had been missing my whole life.” As a new inmate, Joshua was not allowed anything in his cell, but a guard let him take a Bible anyway. “The next day when I walked into the medical room for a consultation, I saw my family doctor from years past. I had no idea he was the jail’s medical director, and when I saw him, I just broke down crying.” A Christian man who had often talked to Joshua about Jesus, the doctor explained salvation and gave him guidance for reading the Bible. “When I started reading, I realized who I needed, and I prayed for salvation. From the very first minute, the Lord started working miracles in my life. It was strange, but I could feel the weight being peeled off of me. My burdens got so light so quick that I’ve never felt so peaceful as I did sitting in jail,” Joshua says looking back.
Joshua filled out a Forgotten Man Ministries card requesting guidance, and Louis Borsheim, a 95-year-old volunteer counselor, visited him. “Louis came to see me once, twice or even three times a week. That man set so much love on me it’s unbelievable. We talked about my family, his family, the Bible, everything. We were like two best friends. More than anyone else, he changed my perspective about Christians,” Joshua said.
As he began to study the Bible, Joshua heard about the jail’s GRO Pod class. “Other inmates told me not to bother trying to get in because the wait list was so long, but God worked a miracle and they got me in after only 45 days in the jail.” Under the tutelage of instructor Leo Wynne, Joshua flourished. “The curriculum may be labeled Life Skills, but the main goal is building godly character,” he explained, adding that certain lessons feel like “an emotional roller coaster.” “The Anger Resolution class is particularly important. It’s not anger management, but instead about learning to resolve anger and bitterness and be forgiving. It can get really personal, and there’s an amazing fellowship that ensues from that.”
“Common wisdom says to be wary of wolves in sheep’s clothing, but I think that many of the inmates in the jail are like me: sheep in wolves’ clothing, in need of a good shepherd to save us.” Joshua Stanton
Even though Joshua had undergone a radical change since he first entered the jail and was not the same man who had committed crimes in three cities, he had to accept the consequences of his actions. With the charges he was facing, Joshua made peace with prison and entered a plea agreement that recommended 29-57 months. “I remember Leo asking me to speak about the impact of the GRO Pod at the FMM dinner in October, and I told him, ‘Leo … I’m going to prison.’ He said, ‘The Lord will make a way.’” In June, Joshua went before Genesee Circuit Judge Archie Hayman for sentencing. “There were a number of men being sentenced,” he remembered, “but when the judge came to me, he said it wasn’t God’s plan for me to go to prison.” Instead of a prison sentence, Joshua was placed on probation and enrolled in a Christian re-entry program. “I was shocked,” he said. “I had been working on obedience and preparing myself for prison.” When Joshua stood before the judge in Chicago, another miracle occurred. “Apparently, we’re not sentencing you,” the judge said, citing the Flint decision as sufficient punishment. “At that point I couldn’t believe it!” Joshua said. Then he faced his charges in Detroit. “The judge was in a bad mood, handing out long sentences,” he remembered. “My court date was pushed three times, and when I finally stood before the judge, she was confused and angry. She said that my paperwork and sentence recommendation were wrong and sent them back. They came back the same. Finally, she said, ‘This is absolutely ridiculous. You know this is ridiculous,’ but she couldn’t do anything. I walked out of that court with no more of a sentence than what I’d been given in Flint.” Four days later, Joshua gave his testimony at the Forgotten Man Ministries annual celebration dinner, just as Leo had asked.
Joshua entered the Genesee County Jail lost and bewildered, burdened with sins and scars and troubles. He left not just free, but alive like he’d never been before. Now out in the world, he says he feels like a stranger. “It’s like I’ve never seen the world before,” he said “and a lot of what I see drives me to my knees in prayer.” In many ways, the jail was a cocoon, a space where Joshua was transformed. “Don’t get me wrong,” Joshua clarified, “jail is not a desirable place to be, but it was the place that saved me, thanks to Forgotten Man Ministries. Their devotion is undeniable. It’s not a job for them – they’re just trying to shed love on the most broken part of a broken city.”
Now that he’s free, Joshua is returning to the last place you might expect: the Genesee County Jail. “It’s incredible, but I just got approved to help the FMM team minister to inmates. This opportunity is just wonderful: I have a chance to share the good news with others like me.” ♦