When students return their completed Bible study lessons to our office in Grand Rapids, the lessons pass through the hands of our in-office mission support volunteers.
More than eighty volunteers dedicate time each week to partnering with Crossroads to accomplish the operational needs of the ministry. Their commitment ensures that we can process hundreds of thousands of lessons, enrollment forms, certificates, and Bibles.
Once the lessons have been opened and sorted each day, a group of volunteers reads through them to flag Bible requests and other things that need to be taken care of through the office.
“It’s really inspiring because I get to read all the lessons, maybe twenty to thirty at a time. And it is really cool to see how God is working in the lives of our students and how they have grown in their faith,” shared Jane, a volunteer who takes time each week to read through lessons completed by our Spanish-speaking students. “I feel like it is helping me to increase my faith and that I make a difference in the lives of the students when I write to them [as a mentor].”
After Jane and other volunteers have read through the lessons, they are passed along to another set of volunteers, who process incoming lessons through our database to ensure that student addresses are updated.
Rich, one of the many volunteers who help maintain our student database, has served as a mentor since 2003. When his family moved to the Grand Rapids area in 2017, Rich decided to start volunteering in the office.
As both a mentor and a mission support volunteer, Rich told us that his time with Crossroads has “really opened [his] eyes to what is going on in some of the lives of the [two] million people in prison.”
Before COVID, Rich often visited a local prison for Bible study and worship. He shared that those experiences showed him how important it was for people in prison “just to know that somebody on the outside is thinking about them and remembering them.”
Rich noted, “While we are not physically visiting [people in prison], we are doing the next best thing, and that is remembering them and showing that we care. I think it is a calling that is very, very important.”
Tom, who has processed student lessons at the office for the last five years, shared, “When I’m at Crossroads, whether I’m tearing open today’s mail, checking addresses in the database, stuffing envelopes, or printing new lessons, I know that every little step in the process ultimately helps someone connect with Jesus or with a Christian mentor, and that is what makes it worthwhile. . . . Everyone I have seen here has a strong sense of Crossroads’ mission.”
While volunteers like Jane, Rich, and Tom help process the incoming mail, others help prepare outgoing mail by printing new lessons and packaging Bibles for our students.
Dave volunteers in our production room and has helped send out thousands of Bibles over the last five years. He was unfamiliar with Crossroads when he first walked into the office looking for a way to volunteer after he retired. As Dave got to know the other volunteers serving alongside him, many of whom have been serving with us for over a decade, he found their heart for the ministry contagious. It didn’t take long before he signed up to become a mentor in addition to his service at the office.
“The fellowship with them is meaningful because the volunteering pulls you together and helps you to spend time with people who have the same values and the same interests and the same desire to serve,” Dave said.
Betty, who recently retired from volunteering with us, said that she was always blessed by her interactions with Crossroads mentors. For four hours each week, she would listen to voicemails left by mentors reporting their students’ progress.
“Sometimes we think about what Crossroads has been to the students, but the truth is, it is a blessing to the mentors, and I heard that over and over again. It is a reminder of the power of the Word of God. . . . When the students are willing to dig into His Word, hearts and lives are transformed,” Betty shared.
Although Betty is no longer available to volunteer in the office, she still shares the message of Crossroads with others at her church. Her time serving at the Crossroads office has deepened her compassion for people affected by the criminal justice system, and she looks forward to welcoming parolees from the Calvin Prison Initiative into her Grand Rapids neighborhood soon.
Cindy, who has used her clerical skills over the last six years to do a variety of tasks like enrolling new students, shared that her experience with Crossroads has also helped shape her faith and increased her empathy for men and women behind bars.
Working behind the scenes at the ministry gives her the chance to read a lot of correspondence from our students, and she clearly sees the impact that the ministry is having on them.
“I’ve realized that our biggest call is to share the love of Christ with everybody, not judge them for what they’ve done. We are all sinners. And I know that a lot of people have had terrible traumas in their lives that have landed them in this situation,” said Cindy. “And for us as Christians to be able to reach out to them and share this love . . . I know a lot of them don’t get correspondence from their families; they’ve lost those relationships. So sometimes these relationships with their mentors through Crossroads are really the only correspondence that they are getting. Christ has called us to love everybody, and this is a great opportunity to get into the prisons.”
If you live in West Michigan and are interested in joining the team of volunteers at our Grand Rapids office, please contact us for more information.