An important message from CBI director Lisa Blystra
A former prisoner recently shared with me that the highest or lowest point of each day in prison comes during “mail call.” Correction officials show up with bins of mail from the outside, and prisoners await the joyful or disappointing moment that separates the “haves” from the “have-nots.”
Mail call amplifies the feeling of being either loved or unloved. Important or unimportant. Valued or forgotten. Prisoners who receive a card or letter leave unable to contain their joy. Those who are not remembered retreat to their bunks believing the lie that they simply don’t matter.
As I listened to my friend, I was again struck by the importance of what we do at Crossroad Bible Institute. The letters written each day by CBI Instructors from homes around the world are a lifeline to men and women in the darkest places who are desperate to know that they do, in fact, matter.
Since I became executive director of Crossroad Bible Institute about a year ago, I have been amazed to see firsthand how the lives of students and Instructors alike are being transformed as they journey together. For many students, receiving the genuine care or love of anyone, let alone a complete stranger, is a new experience. The Instructors’ encouraging and affirming letters have a deep impact and provide a vivid picture of the unconditional love of Jesus Christ.
And Instructors, many of whom are lifelong Christians, are dramatically changed as well. They often report a sense of newfound purpose and excitement as God uses them to make an eternal difference in the life of another person.
While we celebrate the amazing stories of life change that are taking place in our midst, we also recognize the tremendous potential to see more lives transformed. In that spirit, I am undertaking an exciting journey to rediscover who we are as an organization so that we might continue to reach even more people with love of Christ.
Our mission is clear: Crossroad Bible Institute exists to cultivate life-changing relationships between people in prison and volunteers from local churches throughout the world. Today, over 5,500 committed volunteers are stepping out of their comfort zones to journey with tens of thousands of prisoners as they pursue a deeper understanding of the Christian faith through Bible-based mail correspondence courses. These relationships are changing the lives of both those on the inside and those on the outside.
But what about tomorrow? How do we propel this crucial mission into the future? Simply put, we must grow.
First, we must improve the student experience to ensure that more students enroll with us, stick with us and more fully experience the love and transformative power of Jesus. We will expand our curriculum to include engaging, Gospel-centric, entry-level courses designed for students with no prior faith background. We will also add additional course options so those students serving longer or life sentences will always have relevant, life-changing materials available to them.
We also recognize the tremendous potential to see more lives transformed.”
Secondly, as the number of students grows, it is equally important to grow and prepare our volunteer Instructor base to journey with students through the reality of their complicated life circumstances. We must be more purposeful in sharing what God is doing through Crossroad with a particular focus on attracting the next generation to this most transformative work. This will require us to refresh our marketing materials, improve our web content and build a social media presence that communicates our exciting vision in a way that engages a younger audience.
Finally, we will work to better support our international partners as they spread the Gospel in prisons throughout the world. We must provide the ministry tools needed to effectively serve each country’s unique needs.
Friends, we must continually remind ourselves why Crossroad Bible Institute exists. Our world is full of men and women who have made mistakes and are lonely, broken and desperate. They exist in every prison, every home and even every church pew. But no matter what mistakes they’ve made, these same people have been created in the image of God and are loved by Him. It is up to us to tell them they matter.
My vision is that someday mail call at every prison around the world will be a time of celebration for each and every prisoner, because an army of Christ followers is committed to reminding them that they are loved. Will you join me in making this become a reality?