Janette’s journey with Crossroads began before Crossroads officially existed as an organization.
She met Crossroads founder Tom de Vries through her husband in the 1980s. At the time, Tom led a Bible study for people incarcerated at the Kent County Jail.
One of Tom’s former students was transferred to a prison in Minnesota to serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Knowing that Janette and her husband lived nearby, Tom asked if they would visit him. They agreed, and they supported his growing faith the best they could. Janette shared that the young man helped organize a Bible study for Spanish speakers in his facility, taught English, worked in the infirmary, and wanted to take courses to be a chaplain. They helped him get tapes and courses from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. However, like many of Tom’s students, he was eventually transferred, and they lost track of him.
Shortly after that, Tom founded Crossroads as a mail-based correspondence Bible study program so students could continue to study after they left the Kent County Jail and so the ministry could grow beyond West Michigan. Janette and her husband volunteered as some of the first Crossroads mentors. Since everything was done through the mail, the program followed students wherever they were transferred, and this remains the core of Crossroads’ ministry delivery to this day.
Nearly forty years later, Janette continues to serve men and women behind bars as a Crossroads mentor. Now a widow in her nineties, Janette is grateful to be able to continue her ministry from home, and she is still eager to receive her lessons.
“I pray for my students each week,” she shared. “I think the work Crossroads does is very important.”
As she studies alongside her students and watches them grow in their faith, Janette has learned more about the Bible herself.
“As you go through these lessons, you also have to think about these questions,” she said. “Many of the questions are very intriguing, and you have to think about your answer. I think I can apply the questions to my life, too. I’ve learned more and probably studied more different passages than if I hadn’t been doing Crossroads.”
Having written to hundreds of students from a variety of faith backgrounds, Janette encourages her students to spend time reading Scripture. She believes that just as she learns something new each time she reads the Word alongside her students, the Holy Spirit will reveal more of who God is to them each time they pick up the Bible.
From a handful of lessons in a county jail in Michigan, Crossroads has gradually expanded, now offering hundreds of lessons and reaching students in dozens of countries around the world. Janette is amazed to see how Crossroads has grown over the years and grateful to do her part in sharing the hope of the Gospel with people behind bars.
Crossroads is committed to remaining true to its core mission while adapting to an ever-changing digital age. In a recent event held for supporters in Grand Rapids, Joe Pryor, Crossroads’ president and CEO, shared his vision for the season ahead.