Sitting at home on a Tuesday evening, I logged on to Zoom and watched as my face slowly shrank to accommodate the growing number of faces on my computer screen. As Doug Cupery, Crossroads’ Church Mobilization Director, began sharing the purpose of the night’s meeting and the importance of coming together as a ministry and the Church, locations began popping up in the chat.
The locations spanned from our office near the coast of Lake Michigan to the shorelines of the Atlantic and Pacific. They reached from Connecticut to Washington and from North Carolina to Arkansas.
Since March, Crossroads has been hosting a series of monthly mentor community gatherings bringing mentors together from across the United States, providing encouragement, discussion and fellowship. At these meetings, mentors have had the opportunity to meet Crossroads staff, hear stories and get tips on how to write letters to their students.
And, this December, for the first time, faces from Crossroads international extension centers—mentors from New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Columbia, Peru and Nicaragua—also populated the boxes on our screens.
“We have mentors in over 20 countries reaching tens of thousands of students in thousands of facilities across the world,” Doug shared with the over 200 mentors who had joined the call. Doug also reminded Crossroads mentors that they are “all part of one of the largest prison ministries in the world.”
Since Crossroads mentors are located around the globe, many of them have not had the opportunity to meet with their fellow mentors and share stories. For many, these gatherings have been a source of community and encouragement during a lonely year.
As the meeting began, Doug shared from the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, affirming those attending that they are investing well when they care for men and women in prison. “God is blessing your ministry, our ministry,” he said. “I believe that we are being faithful with the talents given to us, and we should be looking with expectation. Those we are invested in will grab hold and in turn take the talents given to them and invest in others. They’ll become leaders within the prisons, leaders within the churches we belong to, leaders within their families, leaders within our communities. And as a former Crossroads student, I say thank you for investing in me.”
Following Doug, Lisa Blystra, Crossroads’ President and CEO, shared her story of how she found herself sitting in a “prison waiting room that was cold, dark and dreary” twenty years ago. While she waited to see her friend, she found God mending her broken heart as she struggled to grab onto the merriment of the Christmas season. “As I looked around the room and saw so many men that were poor in spirit, I was reminded that Jesus enters into the space where people are poor in spirit, where they are broken, and he brings peace and a healing balm.”
That moment was the beginning of Lisa’s journey of joining in the work God called her to — serving those on the margins of society. As she rode back home with her friend’s wife, they both cried many tears, but she said, “as I look back on that time, that was a holy moment and there was joy that could not be contained and would continue to today.”
When Lisa chose to use her talents for God’s glory, she saw a return on her investment. “And the return on investment is that I am sitting here today as a leader of a ministry that in many ways is being led by my friend who I mentored back in 2000, whose name is Douglas Cupery, and who is depositing his talents into many of you.”
During these mentor gatherings, Crossroads mentors were given an opportunity to meet in virtual small groups with two or three other mentors who had joined the call. In these groups they had the chance to answer the following questions: Why are you a mentor with Crossroads? What do you like about mentoring? And how has mentoring changed you personally?
See the slider below to meet some of these mentors and hear the answers they gave:
We are grateful for the way the pandemic has caused us to be innovative and creative. Our mentor community gatherings have been a bright spot in a hard year, and we are incredibly thankful for our faithful community of mentors. Lisa said, “I am continually amazed at the passion, commitment and breadth of wisdom, knowledge and life experiences of Crossroads mentors. Former school teachers, social workers, correction officials, police officers, truck drivers, stay-at-home moms, pastors and Sunday school teachers are sharing THEIR stories to encourage and inspire Crossroads students that God is with them in these difficult days.”
If you are a mentor and you are interested in sharing your Crossroads story and why you became a mentor, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. In the email, share your photo and answer the question “Why Crossroads?” for a chance to be featured in our new Facebook series or on our blog.