Jolinda Wade
Jolinda Wade

Redemption Song

Wade was released from prison on March 5, 2003. Clean, sober and free from the devils that bound her, she set out to rebuild her family. Three days after her release from the penitentiary, she saw Dwyane play basketball for the first time in five years. And it wasn’t just any game. It was the final home game of Dwyane’s Marquette career—with the Conference USA title on the line. Dwyane led his team to the championship, then turned his attention to his mother.

Wade has reconciled with her four children and the father who hurt her so badly as a child. In fact, her father and Tragil attend her church—a church building Dwyane spent $7 million to give his mother. Wade was ordained in the Baptist church in January 2007 but launched her own nondenominational church, Temple of Praise Binding and Loosing Ministries International, in Chicago later that same year. On May 18, 2008, Wade preached her first service in the building.

“I respect my mother so much, from the life that she used to live and to see her today in the life that she lives. I’m so proud of her,” Dwyane told the Associated Press before his mother’s first church service. “Everybody thinks I’m the miraculous story in the family. I think she is. I think what I’ve done means I’ve been very blessed, but she’s been more than blessed. She’s been anointed.”

Hundreds gather to worship at Temple of Praise Binding and Loosing Ministries and soak in Wade’s bold, insightful, charismatic preaching that sets the captives free. Wade’s outreaches focus on feeding and clothing the helpless across Chicago’s inner city. “To see people listen to her and want to become a part of what she is doing is amazing to us still because she had to fight a lot of demons,” Dwyane told ESPN.

Wade likes to say that Dwyane believes in the God in his mama—and so does Tragil. Wade didn’t let her kids down this time around. She’s been clean for nearly a decade and preaches a message of mercy, grace and deliverance every Sunday on the South Side of Chicago. 

Tragil works side-by-side with her mother. “When the parents get in line, the children’s destiny changes,” Tragil says. “My calling is to teach the masses.”

Making an Impact

Though street-savvy, Wade realizes that her son’s fame could cause some to seek relationship with her for the wrong reasons. That’s why she has surrounded herself with close friends and mentors who are actively serving the Lord, such as Florida pastors Paula White and Henry Fernandez, and Lucille O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal’s mother. These newfound brothers and sisters in Christ testify to Wade’s passion for the lost.

Fernandez, bishop of The Faith Center Ministries in Sunrise, Fla., met Wade on the set of TBN. Fernandez invited Wade to preach in his church on July 25—National Parents’ Day—because he believes she is a living testimony that a mother with a bad past can become a good parent and raise successful children. 

“Jolinda has a testimony,” Fernandez says. “She is called to a group of people I can’t reach. I can’t talk to a drug dealer. How do I counsel someone who’s been in prison? When people hear Jolinda’s testimony, they feel like there is hope for them. Jolinda already hit bottom. She has nothing to lose. 

“There’s no need for her to act like she’s a superstar minister. She’s effective in ministry because she gives Jesus Christ the spotlight.”

Wade has made quite an impression on her fellow NBA mothers. They see the gift of God in her and have befriended the fledgling preacher. Paulette Smith, a gospel singer and mother of Atlanta Hawks 2005 NBA Slam Dunk Champion Josh Smith, says Wade is living out John 7:38. “Jolinda is allowing God to use her as a stream of living water that delivers others,” she says. “That’s what makes her so special.” 

Christine Johnson, the mother of NBA great Magic Johnson, has watched Wade grow in the Lord for nearly eight years. “Jolinda is on fire for Christ, and she loves people,” Johnson says. “People are drawn to that love, and she’s making an impact in the kingdom.”

One of Wade’s closest friends is O’Neal. Their sons won an NBA championship together, and the women still stay in touch. O’Neal was herself a rebellious teen, a single mother and a divorcee. “Jolinda isn’t trying to impress anybody. She just lets her light shine so people can see Christ,” O’Neal says. “Jolinda doesn’t sugarcoat anything. What you see is what you get. She’s real.”

Wade may give new meaning to the word “real.” In fact, her preaching may be beyond real. Some may even call it raw. She exposes much of her story in a book called Divine Grace Behind the Walls. In it, she talks about the pain, shame and guilt of her past. She mentions being angry with God for letting her ruin her life. And she highlights the saving grace of Christ.

“You can be real with the Lord, and He will still love you,” Wade says. “I should be dead. I should be out of my mind. I believe God let me live to give other people hope. 

“Maybe they are not like I was. Maybe it’s their brother or their aunt, but they are caught in a bad place. I’m here to tell people not to give up. My kids never gave up on me. They prayed for me. You’ve got to believe in the power of prayer. I’m living proof. Everywhere I go, hell trembles.” 

Jennifer LeClaire is a minister living in Hallandale Beach, Fla., and the author of several books, including The Heart of the Prophetic and Doubtless.

Watch Jolinda Wade share details of her drug abuse, life as a fugitive and her dramatic redemption at·

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