When Vanessa Gardner went to prison, she told her daughters that they would start over when she got out and never talk about prison again. Instead, Vanessa found her life’s work in Texas prisons, serving men and women behind bars. Since her release, she has earned a master’s degree in prison chaplaincy and certifications in pastoral and reentry counseling. Her resume contains a lengthy list of volunteer and paid work in these areas.

Mentors who attend our monthly virtual community gatherings are familiar with Vanessa. She led gatherings twice this year to help mentors understand the emotional journeys of incarcerated men and women. She also trained mentors on the unique emotional needs of women living behind bars. It’s her way of giving back to Crossroads for the many gifts her Crossroads mentors gave her.

“I always looked forward to receiving my course packet. Even when I did not receive other mail, I could always rely on my Crossroads correspondence material,” she said. “This allowed me to delve deeper into studying God’s Word. I became not just a hearer of the Word but a doer. I gained a belief and a comfort that I was a part of the household of faith.”


Every mentor has undoubtedly wondered about past students. Did they continue to grow in faith? Did Crossroads make a difference? This series features the stories of former students who affirm that Crossroads helped them turn their lives around. Like Vanessa, many are now free and using their time and talents to serve incarcerated individuals and returning citizens.

If you are a former student, we would love to add your story to our growing collection. Please mail us a letter or send an email to stories@cpministries.org.