Lisa Blystra, President and CEO of Crossroads Prison Ministries explains, “We have discovered over the last few years that we had a significant number of students that were really dropping out of our program very early on. Even those that had journeyed with us for a while would begin to drop out. The primary reason that we were hearing from students was that they simply could not afford to put a stamp on their completed Bible study lessons in order to get them sent back to us and then forwarded on to their mentor.
“Because of a postage stamp, a lot of our students were not continuing on in their discipleship journeys and that was just very alarming to us.”
The staff at Crossroads prayed about the issue and looking into how much it would cost to provide postage for their students in the prison system.
“The Lord really prompted us to move toward doing what we knew was right,” says Blystra. “In January, we began providing the postage through a business reply mail option for students to no longer have to put stamps on their Bible study lessons.
“We knew it would make a difference – but wow. It has made an incredible difference.”
Now, Crossroads is facing a new problem with the influx of Bible study students – they desperately need more mentors.
“We have to have a mentor [who] is receiving those completed Bible study lessons that then goes through the lesson and writes back to the inmate student. [They are] evaluating and speaking into their understanding of theological concepts, but then also writing a letter of encouragement back to the student.”
Crossroads sent out an urgent call to their volunteers. Current mentors were able collectively to take on 500 more students. However, it is still not enough.
What about you? Is God laying it on your heart to mentor a student in the prison system through Crossroads?
Blystra says the interactions between mentors and students are well monitored and supported as they go through structured Bible study lessons together. “The student receives the Bible study lesson from our office, they complete the lesson, they return it back to our office, there are some things that we do to process the lesson to track the progress of the student, [and] then we wrap that completed lesson up and we mail that out to a mentor somewhere in the United States.
“Basically, you read through the lesson, we ask [mentors] to put a comment on each page of the lesson just really affirming the student’s effort, maybe sharing some examples where a particular concept of biblical truth has had meaning in their life, and just put words of encouragement on the Bible study lesson.”
“Then what we find really serves as the solidifying piece of our ministry is the mentor is asked to write a letter of encouragement back to the student. We do provide some guidance in the type of things we want you to talk about. But we are not looking for people to necessarily preach to the student…. We really want people to remind students that there is somebody in the free world that is taking a moment to think about you today.”
Mentors have a great support system through Crossroads. The ministry staff members are available to assist if a student is really struggling with a question. They also provide training for the mentors and ministry envelopes so mentors don’t have to give out their address.
“With less than 12 percent of the general population in prison having any connection to the free world, you can never underestimate the value of just a simple word of encouragement.”
If you would like to learn more about becoming a mentor with Crossroads Prison Ministries, click here!
Blystra also encourages, “It will really heighten and strengthen your own relationship with the Lord because you will find yourself digging deeper into Scripture yourself.”