The Prison Ministry provides biblical instruction to prison inmates through a partnership with Crossroads Prison Ministries. Individuals correspond with inmates who complete Bible courses and send in the mail for feedback. Learn more about Crossroads at https://cpministries.org
Become an Instructor
If you are interested in becoming a Crossroads Instructor, complete the volunteer form. You will receive a formal application, which you will complete, along with a recommendation from the Parkside pastoral staff. You'll receive detailed instructional materials to familiarize yourself with the Crossroads program, its goals, and procedures. As an instructor, you always remain anonymous.
Many instructors at Parkside Church have found this is a rewarding way to be involved in sharing the Gospel with seekers and discipling young believers, in a non-threatening and effective way. Once your application has been approved, you'll be able to enter the rotation to review inmates' lessons:
1) Pick up one or more lessons each Sunday.
2) Grade and correct these using the answer sheets you will receive from Crossroads.
3) Write a one-page letter of encouragement to the student.
4) Mail the corrected lesson and letter directly to the student.
4) Report the student's score to Crossroads by e-mail, phone, or mail.
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We receive dozens of notes and letters from students every week, giving us glimpses into their lives. Some of their stories make us smile and warm our hearts. Others offer a sobering reminder of the darkness of prison life and the brokenness of our world.
As the world has been reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Crossroads team moved their offices to their homes, which was quite a drastic change. But in prisons and jails, the changes were even more dramatic. Visits stopped. Programs stopped. Most prison facilities were placed on lockdown, and some people were locked in a lonely cell for twenty-three hours a day.
Still, students continued to send us letters. Some have shared how this time of isolation has worn on their souls. Some have expressed hope and gratitude. Amid all the uncertainty, many students have expressed deep faith and shown incredible endurance. We’ve shared these notes with our staff, and we want to share a few with you. You can read scans of these actual letters from students in our Letters from Lockdown publication. DOWNLOAD HERE
As you read these letters—some encouraging, some heartbreaking—we encourage you to lean into any tension you might feel. Praise God for the way He is moving in prisons all over the world, but don’t give up on praying fervently for the people represented by these words. Don’t stop praying for an end to mass incarceration in our nation.
You’re worthless. You’re stupid. You’ll always be a failure.
These were the words Terry heard over and over as he grew up. Longing for love from his father, he instead received emotional and physical abuse.
“I became angry and started hating my father, wondering why the person I call ‘daddy,’ the person who is supposed to love me and teach me right from wrong, was always hurting me and my mom,” Terry said.
Although he resolved never to become like his father, he found himself slipping into similar tendencies. “I would mistreat my friends and anyone else who was around me, including my teachers,” he recalled. “I would do whatever I wanted to do, and I wasn’t going to answer to anyone.”
Terry decided not to answer to the law, either. In his twenties, he began to let “the devil’s cheap thrills”—including cocaine and prostitutes—lead him down a destructive path. His mother visited him during his first stint in the county jail. He could barely meet her teary gaze as he promised her that he’d get clean.
After his release, however, he fell back into his old ways. “I got to a point in my life that I didn’t care about anything other than drugs and women,” Terry said. “I began using more and more—not only to escape my problems but to escape myself as I came to realize the self I had created. I was completely out of control.”
After surviving an intentional overdose, Terry had no choice but to face his girlfriend, who had discovered he’d been cheating on her. Fed up with a lifetime of poor decisions, he let his frustration and anger take control.
He soon found himself in a cold, dark prison cell, facing twenty years for assault. “In that small isolation cell, it dawned on me just how messed up my life had become,” he said. “There was a wrenching in my chest—an inner longing for God and a better way of life. I kneeled down on that cold floor and cried out, ‘God, I can’t do this on my own. I need You! Please take the pain, bitterness and loneliness away!’” Instantly, Terry received an answer to his desperate prayer. He felt the Holy Spirit flood his heart with peace and love.
The coronavirus has interrupted the lives of many people and many organizations, including Crossroads Prison Ministries. President & CEO Lisa Blystra offers an update on the ministry and a word of encouragement for these turbulent times.