In 1984, Tom de Vries started Crossroad Bible Institute (now Crossroads Prison Ministries) along with his family members and his circle of friends at church. Tom was a real estate agent turned car salesman who had a passion for prison ministry.
As Tom ministered to the men behind bars, he recognized that solid evangelism was happening. But he believed the men needed something beyond a decision to follow Jesus. He wanted to see them become disciples of Christ, learning what it means to follow and serve Him in their current circumstances.
To that end, Tom began to meet with the same men week after week in the Kent County Jail so he could build a long-term mentoring relationship with them. But he soon grew discouraged. As those who have worked in prison ministry know, transfers happen suddenly and frequently. Tom would return to the jail to meet with his students only to discover that they were gone.
Tom’s brother, Jim, still remembers the Friday when Tom marched back to the office with a determined look on his face. “I have to find a way to keep in touch with my guys!” Tom declared.
So the de Vries brothers set out to find a solution. Eventually, they decided to create Bible studies that could be used for discipleship through the mail. They built a team of volunteers to review completed Bible study lessons from people in prison and write them encouraging letters. Because it was done through the mail, the program could follow students in the program no matter how many times they were transferred.
Over the years, Crossroads has grown exponentially, with extension centers in more than twenty countries and a presence in every state in the United States.
In 2015, Lisa Blystra assumed leadership of the ministry. She and her team are renewing Crossroads’ focus on equipping the Church to be in life-changing relationships with men and women in prison. Lisa believes if the Church truly embraces its call to care for those in prison, then lives, prisons and churches will be restored through the Gospel.