In 1984, Tom de Vries, a West Michigan car salesman with a passion for prison ministry, began visiting men in the local jail and sharing the Gospel. As Tom ministered to the men, he could see they were learning about God, but he wanted more for them. Tom found that just as the men began to connect deeply with God’s Word, they were suddenly transferred to a different location, and he lost contact with them. After a great deal of prayer, Tom, his brother Jim, and several volunteers gathered to create a correspondence Bible study program, and Crossroads was born. Because everything was done through the mail, the Crossroads program could follow students wherever they were transferred. This correspondence system continues to be the core of our ministry delivery today.
Over the years, Crossroads gradually expanded its reach around the world, grew its volunteer base, and added numerous Bible study courses for students. The organization saw extraordinary growth during Lisa Blystra’s six-year tenure as president and CEO (2015–2021). Under her leadership, the ministry achieved several significant transitions, including a name change and rebranding that recaptured the heart of Crossroads as a compassionate, relational ministry to people on the margins of society. Today, Crossroads continues to connect people in prisons with mentors from churches to develop Christ-centered relationships as they study God’s Word together. As people in prison study the Bible with the guidance of their mentors, their spiritual growth spills over into the academic, social, and personal areas of their lives. This creates positive, productive citizens inside and outside prison walls.
Moving forward, our challenge is to remain true to our core mission while adapting to an ever-changing digital age. Leading the organization through this period of transition is Joe Pryor, who became president and CEO in 2022. Joe has dedicated much of his professional career to prison ministry. He has thirty years of experience in corrections, including time spent as the chief chaplain for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, senior director of reentry services, warden, and assistant warden. Before taking his first chaplain position, Joe served as the senior pastor of three churches.
“I love the purity of the Crossroads mission,” Joe said. “Bringing the Gospel to incarcerated men and women around the world and matching them with Christian mentors is truly life-changing. I am humbled and honored to serve alongside the dedicated staff, mentors, board, and volunteers of Crossroads Prison Ministries.”