Over thirty years ago, Tom de Vries started Crossroad Bible Institute (now Crossroads Prison Ministries) along with his family members and his circle of friends at church. Tom was a real estate agent turned car salesman who had a passion for prison ministry.
As Tom ministered to the men behind prison bars, he recognized that solid evangelism was happening. But he also believed that prisoners needed something beyond a decision for Christ. He wanted to see prisoners become disciples of Christ, learning what it means to follow and serve Him in the places they are locked up.
To that end, Tom began to meet with the same prisoners week after week in the Kent County Jail so he could build a long-term mentoring relationship with them. But he soon grew discouraged. As those who have worked in prison ministry know, prisoners are transferred frequently. Tom would return to the jail to meet with his students only to discover that they were gone.
Tom’s brother, Jim, still remembers the Friday when Tom marched back to the office with a determined look on his face. “I have to find a way to keep in touch with my guys!” Tom declared.
So the de Vries brothers set out to find a solution. Eventually, they decided to create Bible studies that could be used for discipleship through the mail. They built a team of volunteers to review prisoners’ completed Bible lessons and write them encouraging letters. Because it was done through the mail, the Crossroads program could follow prisoners no matter how many times they are transferred.
The ministry grew slowly but surely—mostly by word of mouth—for the first fifteen years until the late 1990s, when, thanks to the help of Rev. David Feddes at The Back to God Hour, Crossroad began spreading across North America.
Dr. David Schuringa took over the ministry in 2000, and its reach grew exponentially with a focus on strong academic material. Crossroads now has ministry locations in 19 different countries and reaches about 30,000 prisoners each year with a library of twelve Bible study courses.
In 2015, Lisa Blystra took over as president/CEO. She and her team are renewing the ministry’s focus on equipping the church to be in life-changing relationships with prisoners. Lisa believes if the church truly embraces its call to care for prisoners, then lives, prisons and churches will be restored through the Gospel.