If you were incarcerated, and you had a chance to return to court, contest your sentence and possibly be released early, would you seize that opportunity?
Crossroads student John was presented with just such an opportunity—but he chose to stay in prison.
Arrested on burglary charges, John was working with an attorney on a plea bargain. He had been a Christian for six years, but looking back, he realizes he didn’t truly know God. “I thought I could do this on my own, and I didn’t need God,” John says. “Besides, He allowed this to happen to me, and now He was nowhere to be found.”
When John arrived at court, he discovered that the judge he was supposed to see that day was not there; instead, he would be appearing before a much tougher judge. Upon hearing John’s case, the judge denied his plea bargain and sentenced him to sixteen years in prison. “I went back to my cell and cried out to the only One I had left,” John remembers. “To my surprise, He had been there all along.”
John recalls a sense of peace washing over him as he heard God telling him to simply trust Him. “I was totally crushed, and that was just where God needed me,” he says. “I knew at that point God had this planned for me all along.”
Thirty days later, he was taken to prison and discovered just how dark of a place the prison system is—and how desperately Jesus’ light is needed. His path crossed with a man named Steve, a strong Christian who became a mentor to John. Together, John and Steve worked to build up the correctional facility’s church, Bible study program and general education program. Steve also helped John compile a case to bring to court to fight for his original plea bargain. But then Steve was transferred to another facility, and everything changed.
“Everyone was looking to me to become facilitator over these programs, and I was about to file all my paperwork to return to court and try to get out of prison,” John says. “That’s when God hit me one night while praying: John, are you willing to lay down your life for your brother? In all honesty, it scared me a great deal, because what God was asking me to do was forsake the world and my personal desires for freedom and stay in prison where He needs me—to lay my life aside and to minister His Word to a lost and dying world.”
John didn’t shy away from God’s call. He decided not to go back to court, choosing instead to stay in prison and faithfully share the love of Christ with those around him.
“Seeing God transform men from violence and drug addiction has been life-changing for me,” John states. “I feel the reason God has me here is because this is a last-stop camp before men go to work release or home. This will probably be the last time men will have a chance to change their lives before release.”
As he ministers to others, John nurtures his own relationship with the Lord through Crossroads Prison Ministries and the encouragement he receives from his Instructors as he studies.
“I’ve learned a great deal about God from the lessons,” he acknowledges, “but it has been the letters from each brother or sister in Christ that have meant the most—letters of Christ’s love and encouragement, advice, guidance and prayers. I could never in my own words express how much those letters have meant to me and how they have guided me in my walk.”
Although John has never even met these men and women who review his lessons and write letters to him, their ministry has made an undeniable impact on his life. “The Holy Spirit has revealed Himself time and time again about things in my life that need to be dealt with, and I would be floored, wondering how a complete stranger, hundreds of miles away, would know these things, until I realized that it was Christ speaking through them,” he says. “It has been totally transforming, because I knew every time I would have a lesson returned, God would be in there with a word just for me.”
Will you join us in discipling leaders like John so they can disciple others? Find out how you can become a spiritual mentor to someone in prison through Crossroads Prison Ministries.