Home Spirit! An “Empowering” Conversation with Dwyane Wade’s Hometown Hero: Pastor Jolinda Wade

Pastor Jolinda Wade is tender-tough. When she speaks of her journey from the world into the Kingdom, about how God restored her family and gave her courage to do what she must; how He revealed her true identity and her Kingdom call along the way, awe-filled tears of gratitude flow quickly and freely from her discerning eyes. When she speaks of her call to community and her vision for The Empowerment Center, her face is set like a flint and you just know that it’s gonna get done.

Jolinda Wade is intelligent, kind, passionate and above all, spiritual. Oh yes, and real; although I think the reason why she real is because of all of the above. As I extended my hand to greet her, she opened her arms to embrace me and I knew what kind of meeting we would have. Poised and graceful and warm, she welcomed the opportunity to tell her story … once again.


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“I like the way you said it ‘Your journey from the world into the Kingdom,’” speaking of the way I asked her to share her story. I was surprised to learn that her ‘problem,’ the one that led her into a season of addiction, was low self-esteem. While she’s talking, I’m thinking, “How many of us know that? And how many different addictions have we lived with to compensate for feeling like we’re not quite enough? Shopping, sleeping around, over-achieving, overeating, denial … the list is endless.” No wonder I felt like I knew her; because we have shared the same journey from who we thought we were – to who He authentically created us to be.

Pastor Wade grew up in family that she calls ‘beautiful,’ the fifth of nine children – smack dab in the middle of the clan. Her mother was her idol. Beautiful, well dressed, a good mother, but a woman who also loved a good party. Her solution to feeling like she wasn’t quite enough was to find another, more confident version of herself in substances that started with alcohol and ended in shooting heroin.

Her story is, in many ways, typical. The hustle, the high, the brushes with the law. But what is not-so-typical is the way God pursued her through it all. When she was at her worst, sleeping in abandoned buildings with cat-sized rats, Jolinda Wade’s heart would cry out to God in ways that her lips could not utter. Over and over again He would intervene, blocking drug deals, preventing her from doing “a worse thing” just to get high and finally, convicting her when the pastor called on her to read II Timothy 3:5 as she sat on the back row of church fighting the encroaching sickness from missing her hit: Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

That Word ushered Wade into a place of courage that empowered her to ask for the help she needed to get clean once and for all. Calling upon a lifelong friend for help, within the walls of her friend’s home, she entered a rehabilitation process that can only be called miraculous: in 3 days and without the agonizing pain that makes heroin withdrawal almost impossible to bear, she was freed from alcohol and heroin. “I still got you!” the voice said as she continued to smoke cigarettes. Those words turned out to be no more than an idle threat from the enemy after Pastor Wade cried out to God again.

In a short three months, Jolinda Wade’s only addiction was to the Lord Jesus Christ. In October she was delivered from drugs; in November, cigarettes; and in December, the Holy Spirit spoke to her and told her to turn herself in to the penal system from which she had walked away while serving a work-release sentence for selling drugs. “I paced up and down in front of the building where Dwyane, my only son and youngest child, was meeting with the pastor. I was terrified to tell him what God told me to do. I knew that he would feel like he was losing me again. Finally, I said, ‘God, you have to do this,’ and walked into the building to tell him.”

Dwyane exhorted his mother, his hero, “Mom, do what you have to do.” With those words she was delivered from the fear of losing him again and was freed to obey the God who had been so faithful to her. The courts only required that she do the 15 remaining months on her sentence, albeit in segregation. Jolinda spent twelve months isolated from all of the other inmates, with an hour or less a day to shower and exercise outside of the cell … alone.

In segregation, Jolinda Wade entered the School of the Holy Spirit. God met her every day, confronting everything that had shaped her old identity – her fears, doubts, questions, jealousies, grudges, attitudes, everything. Like Adam in the Garden, she met with God in the cool of the day, morning and evening, writing prayer-letters chronicling her journey. There she and Dwyane became pen pals, filled with mutual admiration, both discovering a gift that they had in common, writing. As she encouraged him that he would write books, she never considered that she would too.

As she returned to jail, Dwyane Wade returned to Marquette University with a growing anger. He had visited his mother in jail as a boy and was overjoyed to have her home with him. And now she was gone again. Did he wonder what would have happened had he told her not to turn herself in? Would she still be with him now? God’s continuing love and care for Jolinda manifested in the person of Coach Crean who noticed the change in Dwyane after he returned from Christmas break. His wise words released Dwyane’s heart from its anguish, “Your mother did the right thing so that she can be an even better parent to you and grandparent to your children in the future.” God’s faithfulness to Pastor Wade prevented Dwyane’s epic journey to the Miami Heat from becoming the same type of tragedy that many of his peers have experienced because of disappointment, abandonment and anger. By His Grace, both mother and son remained on course to Destiny.

When she was released from jail, Jolinda continued her bible studies and was ordained as a Pastor in the Baptist church. God also instructed her to compile her prayer-writings into her book, Divine Grace Behind the Walls. Behind those walls is also where God showed her how she could heal her community by building The Empowerment Center.


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In 2007, Dwyane Wade invested in his mother-hero’s Destiny, purchasing a former furniture warehouse that is now the home of New Creation Binding and Losing Ministries (BALM) …and The Empowerment Center. “There were some nice people out there,” she says of the community where she lived her former life. I stopped her. “Nice people?” “Yes. We looked out for each other. Shared information about where we could get meals when we were hungry, clothes when we needed them, and warned each other about dealers and other predators.” Community.

It is our nature to gather around what we share in common. It’s what churches and schools and teams and, of course, families are made of. As she studied in that prison cell, God showed her that this – community – is one of the answers to the violence that plagues our city. He also reminded her of the “social centers” of her childhood, where neighbors of all ages (but especially kids) went to play cards, games, dance, socialize and strengthen their families and communities.

So it is with The Empowerment Center, it is an expanded vision of the ministry New Creation BALM currently offers to its neighbors, including meals, clothing, and summer camp for children. Pastor Wade celebrated her eighth year as pastor on October 25th. Construction of The Empowerment Center is underway. Every age group, interest and need that a typical neighborhood experiences will find a space dedicated to them – senior citizens (Pastor Wade “joyfully” cares for her mother who suffers from dementia), a counseling center, gymnasium, and a music studio, and that’s just the beginning. The Wall of Gold honors donors with a brick inscribed with their name and/or words of wisdom and encouragement.


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At our meeting I also had the pleasure of meeting Tragil, who was responsible for raising Dwyane in their mother’s absence. She serves as Executive Director of the Wade’s World Foundation and sits on the ministerial board of New Creation. In addition, I met several spiritual sons and daughters who joyfully serve their pastor-mother-mentor, Jolinda Wade. If ever there was a mutual admiration society, it is the Wade family. I am certain of that, even though I didn’t have the opportunity to meet Pastor Wade’s other two daughters, seven grands and two great-grands. In my humble opinion, the Wade-New Creation family is a genteel, forgiving, spiritual and humble clan that abound in love and heroism, fully appreciating what each has done with their life and happy to have been able to offer to one another – and their community – an empowering ‘assist’ (as they say in the game, LOL).

New Creation Binding and Loosing Ministries​
12900 South Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois
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Karen E. Stark

Karen E. Stark

Karen Stark is a lover of words and the Word. She is a passionate people developer who acquired her expertise over several decades in the human resources profession and the ministry. Her no-nonsense, can-do approach is highlighted in her blog, Letters to Elect Ladies (www.letters2electladies.com), and her book, First Natural, Then Spiritual. Karen currently has several works in progress, including a children’s book series honoring her late mother. Ms. Stark is a member of the leadership team of Chicago Embassy Church.
Karen E. Stark

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