Lisa_CoverLisa Blystra was recently named the new executive director of Crossroad Bible Institute. Get to know her in this interview with CBI Communications Director Aaron Mueller. The full interview can be found in the Winter 2016 Crossroad Network News publication.

Tell me about your professional background. How did you get involved in prison ministry?

My professional background started in the health care industry, where for many years I worked as an emergency trauma nurse. Working as a nurse, I recognized early on that God has gifted me with mercy and given me a tender heart for those marginalized by society.

As time passed, I began to develop a growing sense of discontent for social injustices and a recognition that often the solutions being offered were shallow and not long lasting. This eventually led me into ministry, joining the pastoral staff at Ridge Point Church in West Michigan. At the same time, we were also beginning a journey with some very dear friends, who were facing a family crisis. The husband, who was a father of two young children, had been arrested and would eventually be sentenced to prison. They were immature in their faith. Over the next ten years, God would use our family and eventually our entire church family to change that in an unimaginable way.

I began visiting him in prison and my eyes were opened to a group of men, their families and an institutional system that was unjust and terribly broken. Upon my friend’s return home, we would witness another layer of injustice — a second sentence if you will —a judgmental, unforgiving and ill- equipped community that lacked forgiveness and a commitment to helping him come home well.

Over the next several years, Ridge Point would enter into the chaos of the lives of ex-offenders and their families, extending grace and a place for the healing process to begin. Today, it thrills me to share that my friend is now leading prison ministry at our church!

What led you to Crossroad Bible Institute? What attracted you to the ministry?

After Ridge Point, I accepted a leadership position with Prison Fellowship Ministries. During my tenure there, I was involved in church mobilization efforts nationally, expanding the network of churches committed to reentry. In this role, I became a strong advocate for the significant role that the local church can and must play, in bringing long lasting hope and healing to the broken things of this world. In the early summer, I was introduced to Crossroad through a friend. As I learned more about the organization, I became confident God was calling me to be a part of leading this ministry into the future.

What are you hoping to accomplish in the first few months on the job?

These first few months will be a season of learning and evaluation. Building upon the foundation already established, CBI will strengthen our commitment to serving our current partners in the U.S. and abroad. We will also explore relationships with “new” individuals and organizations, enabling us to extend our reach into more prisons, serving more prisoners with the love of Jesus through more churches and volunteers.

You have mentioned to the staff that there is no greater time than now to be involved in bringing the Gospel to prisons. Why do you believe this is such an important time?

The doors of many prisons are wide open. Other attempts to correct the broken corrections system have not worked. The world in general, and certainly the world of corrections is desperate for something that works. The church of Jesus Christ has that something. It’s the unconditional love and unending grace provided through Jesus. It is our role as believers to tangibly express His love and eagerly share His redemptive story to a watching and waiting world. Now is the time!

What are you hobbies? What do you do for fun?

I love spending time with my grown children and young grandchildren. I enjoy things that involve being outdoors such as gardening, hiking and biking. In the winter months, I enjoy making things — sewing, quilting, restoring furniture.

In what ways can we be praying for you and the ministry?

You can pray for great vision and confidence that we serve a faithful God who promises to do abundantly more than we could ask for or imagine. For a growing sense of unity within our staff and volunteer teams so that together we might accomplish all that He would have for us to be and do. Pray for continued opportunities — that the pathway to reaching the prisoner, here and around the world would remain open to us. For our students to have discipline in their studies and an unrelenting search to know Jesus more fully. For a continued outpouring of resources like committed office volunteers, instructors and great generosity from our financial donors. For our local churches around the world to rise up and be increasingly more faithful in their pursuit of the lost and struggling.