From Prison to Helping Others Find Their Second Chance

After serving a decade in prison, Brent Selge CAPS’26 is helping others move their lives forward at FreedomWorks, a North Minneapolis nonprofit. And through a new partnership, Bethel is helping men like Selge earn an education as they take the next steps in their lives.

By Jason Schoonover ’09, content specialist

June 22, 2023 | 10 a.m.

Brent Selge

Brent Selge

“Be still and know that I am God.” A sign with these words is taped to the wall in Brent Selge’s FreedomWorks office. For years, Selge CAPS’26 was broken, unable to find peace, but a decade in prison forced him to be still and seek a new path. “I couldn’t wear a mask any longer,” he says. “It forced me to deal with my stuff—the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

Starting with a transformation while imprisoned, Selge has seized his second chance—and now he’s helping others do the same. Today, Selge works at FreedomWorks, a nonprofit located in North Minneapolis that creates a safe and encouraging environment for men recently released from incarceration. Though there are bad and ugly things in his past, he also sees how they eventually led him to find his calling in helping men turn their lives around. “My history is what made me be able to help people,” he says. And he is one of the first people tied with FreedomWorks seeking a Bethel degree through a partnership forged last year.

“A gift from God”

Growing up in a military family, Selge moved frequently and found it hard to plant roots. He recalls being rebellious, partying, and skipping school, though sports often provided an outlet. Following his family’s footsteps, Selge joined the Army National Guard and was scheduled to be deployed overseas. But after his brother, Army Staff Sgt. Todd Selge, died in Iraq in 2009, Selge hit rock bottom after years of struggling with addiction. Selge strives to be transparent about his past, but it can be difficult to talk about the assault that led to 10 years in prison. He was on prescription drugs and had a blood alcohol level over 0.4. After wrestling with it for years, he’s still not entirely sure what happened—or if he can even trust the flashes of memories.

At first, Selge harbored deep bitterness in prison. “I couldn’t own my stuff,” he says. He was a fiery furnace and it took everything he had not to assault someone. He was “white-knuckling it” and had no coping skills. But things slowly started to shift as he started reading and studying in prison. He remembers a key turning point when someone offered him alcohol. Looking back, it was a moment when he was about to embark on one of two paths. “Either I was going to go to the right and follow God, or I was going to become a prison animal—and I was going to run that place,” he says. He turned down the alcohol. Still struggling, Selge went to bed one night and cried out to God: “Lord, you need to do something because I’m going to hurt somebody,” he recalls praying. He went to bed and dreamed of forgiveness. He saw 10 years in the future, he was out and took his parents to dinner. He woke up and felt the most peace he’d ever experienced. In that moment, he started letting go of things and turning his life around.


Brent Selge

Brent Selge

Selge still had much healing to do. Looking back, he calls 10 years in prison a blessing. If he had served three or four, he admits the anger and hate in his heart probably would have led him back to prison later. “I look at those 10 years in prison as a gift from God, giving me exactly what I needed,” he says. He describes himself at that time as a nasty onion, but God healed him layer by layer. Selge became involved in Prison Fellowship Academy and started developing a personal relationship with the Lord. He’d grown up in a Catholic family, but their faith had been largely legalistic and regimental. “I didn’t know the love of Christ,” he says. “It wasn’t a relationship. It was just rules.” In prison, Selge started reading the Bible for hours each day and seeking God with everything he had.

Around this time, Selge made the most of valuable opportunities. He started an electrical apprentice program, fixing electrical issues across the prison. And his caseworker became like a sister and inspired his interest in restorative justice, which helps offenders take ownership of their past actions, understand the harm they’ve caused, and find redemption. It led Selge to many meaningful experiences and relationships. He recalls a “lifer” in prison for homicide who was completely transparent about his past. Once in prison, the man had read through all the victim impact letters on accident, and it changed him. Selge had never seen men like him who were so transparent about themselves and their past. It changed him. Eventually, Selge started co-teaching the class in prison.

“These are my people”

After his release, Selge worked as an electrician for a short time, but it wasn’t a good fit. He planned to apply to work for a different rehabilitation program when a friend from his prison Bible study called. He asked Selge about working at FreedomWorks, a North Minneapolis nonprofit that “guides men into new relationships, positive support systems, and Christ-centered studies.” The group’s mission centers on “reconciling to God, family, and community.” As reentry coordinator, Selge helps the men navigate funding, treatment, and anything else they need while in the program. He sees his role as a bit of a biblical counselor. “These are my guys, these are my people, man,” he says. “Some of them I’ve done time with, but I’m their house manager, I’m their friend, I’m their brother, I’m their pastor.” He loves his role at FreedomWorks, noting it fits well with his character and gives him more liberty to do what he wants and set his programs.

Each day, Selge strives to follow the Holy Spirit. He says God helps restrain him and his personality to help meet each person where they’re at. “I’m set to go. That’s just my personality,” he says. But while rules and guidelines are great, he admits each person’s situation is different. He often needs to be patient as men work through their stuff—even if he sometimes wants to push them. It can be a challenging role where eight-hour days turn into 12-hour days. Relapses are possible. He will help people through struggles but sets a boundary where he doesn’t work with people stuck in cycles, as he cites one client who’d been in treatment over 30 times.

“Everyone at Bethel has gone above and beyond and just made things easy."

— Brent Selge

Since Bethel and FreedomWorks forged a partnership to help men associated with the program earn a degree or complete a degree, Selge has been a positive voice encouraging men at FreedomWorks to consider Bethel, according to Jessica Daniels, associate provost of innovation and partnership. “We are so thankful for the engagement and collaboration with FreedomWorks staff—Brent and others,” she says “We would not be able to be successful without their commitment to and prioritization of the partnership.” Daniels met Selge as the partnership was forming, and she remembers being struck by his humility and his heart. “His personal story is powerful, and now from his own experience, he has the unique ability to impact the residents in his staff role,” says Daniels, who added that Selge shows deep care for the men he serves.

Along with state and federal financial aid, Bethel provides a scholarship to men connected with FreedomWorks. So far, five students connected to FreedomWorks have started Bethel programs, and many more have applied for the future. Many, including Selge, are drawn to the adult undergraduate B.A. in Christian Ministries program. “They are transforming their own life and seeking to transform the lives of others,” Daniels says.

Selge started the Christian ministries program last fall, and he frequently uses what he’s learning at Bethel in his day-to-day work. He’s found a supportive, flexible community at Bethel. “Everyone at Bethel has gone above and beyond and just made things easy—even when they’re not,” he says. Along with his own studies, he often connects with other men at FreedomWorks who are in the program or starting soon. “I tell the guys not to be intimidated. Because some of these guys are super bright,” he says, noting they just lack certain skills like how to format a paper.  He’s even called up men after hours to chat about papers and projects.

Selge encourages the men he works with to take opportunities when they’re available, and the programs at Bethel are a prime example. Selge calls it a godsend how Bethel has opened its doors to him and others at FreedomWorks. “Bethel has opened up their doors to us,” he says. “There’s an extreme gratitude.”


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