Growing up in a middle-class New York suburb in the 1960s, Joe Passalaqua experienced frequent bullying, which led him to find comfort in gymnastics. When a wrist injury shattered his Olympic dreams, Joe turned his attention to coaching and opened his own gymnastics school.
Despite his school’s success, Joe’s life took a dark turn when he started using steroids. His family and employees grew concerned as they witnessed his personality shift and become more aggressive.
Joe found himself living a double life, outwardly maintaining the image of a respected coach while secretly becoming entangled with organized crime and violence under the moniker Angel.
In 2007, during the Great Recession, Joe’s involvement in a series of robberies led to his arrest. In prison, Joe experienced a profound transformation. He candidly admits, “Until the age of fifty-seven, I was an atheist. I did not believe in God—in my ignorant arrogance, I would say that anyone who needed God was weak.” However, in 2012, while incarcerated, Joe experienced a life-changing encounter with God’s grace. He embraced a new purpose and turned his life around.
Under the guidance of his chaplain, Joe enrolled with Crossroads ten years ago and started attending church, reading the Bible, and seeking counsel from a Christian mentor.
“The first Bible correspondence course I enrolled in was Crossroads, and I have been hooked on it ever since,” says Joe. “My personal mentor over the last seven years has been very encouraging. Laura has motivated me to seek after the Kingdom of God. My life is no longer about me—it is about serving and glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Joe actively participated in Bible study and worship services within his prison community and enrolled in a seminary program with the goal of becoming a pastor. Joe attests to the profound sense of freedom, joy, and peace he has found in his relationship with Jesus Christ, which has replaced the restlessness that plagued his earlier life.
Now released, Joe expresses his gratitude for the joy, peace, and reconciliation he has experienced in Christ and embraces a new moniker: Pastor Joe.
Thanks to your support, people like Joe have experienced transformation through Christ and are now sharing His love with others. If you feel called to extend the hope of Christ to people behind bars, consider applying to be a Crossroads mentor or giving a financial gift.
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