By Lisa Blystra
Executive Director of Crossroads
Crossroads has almost 5,000 volunteers who are mentoring prisoners all around the world. These men and women have stepped out of their comfort zones and responded to God’s call to “remember those in prison as if you were together with them” (Hebrews 13:3).
Crossroads mentors not only remember those in prison, they also are committed to helping them know Jesus more fully. As mentors and prisoners read the Bible together and exchange encouraging letters that highlight biblical truth, prisoners begin to grasp an understanding of God’s plan and His greater purpose for their lives.
So, what is a mentor? A mentor is a person who guides the development of a less experienced person by building trust and encouraging positive behaviors. A mentor is dependable, engaged, authentic, encouraging and tuned in to the needs of the person they are mentoring. A spiritual mentor, or discipler, uses the Bible as their guidebook and purposefully points to Jesus as the perfect role model of how to live in accordance with the will of God.
One of the more familiar mentoring relationships described in the Bible is that of Paul and Timothy. Paul understood that the Christian life was meant to be shared with others and that it was incredibly difficult to grow spiritually by oneself. He also knew that, as a follower of Jesus, he was expected to pass on that which the Lord had given to him (2 Timothy 2:2).
The mentoring relationship between Paul and Timothy developed over time. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he addressed him as “my true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). Timothy met Paul and eventually accompanied him on a mission trip. Paul recognized Timothy’s need for a spiritual father, and he stepped up to the plate. Many Crossroads mentors are doing just that—assuming the role of parenthood to spiritual sons and daughters who are not grounded in the faith or have lost their way. They love them, pray for them and encourage them to pursue a different path.
Paul also emulated the lifestyle that he wanted Timothy to follow. Their relationship grew and Paul eventually shared his whole life with Timothy. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:10, “But you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance.”
Crossroads mentors must also be willing to be open and transparent about their own lives. As they share personal stories of God’s faithfulness in hard times, their student begins to understand the faith, patience, love and endurance needed as a follower of Jesus. They are reminded of His forgiveness and unconditional love, even when poor choices are made.
Paul defined success in his mentoring relationships as Timothy eventually becoming a partner in the Gospel. Timothy moved from being a son or a student to being a co-laborer. Crossroads mentors believe in their students’ capacity. They are long-suffering and persistent, often waiting months and even years for their lost child to come home (Luke 15:20). They embrace their students’ God-given potential to be used for Kingdom purposes. They equip and release them for future ministry, celebrating their partnership in leading Bible studies or churches inside or outside of prison.
The Bible tells us that God has a special place in His heart for the prisoner. He also has an incredible Kingdom-expanding mission for the mentors He has called to serve them. Will you prayerfully consider joining Crossroads in making this vision a reality?