USA (MNN) — The Christmas season is full-on. Many people are making preparations, attending parties, decorating, or gift-buying. Everywhere you turn, there's an ad, a catalog, or something else calling for attention.
We are often reminded that family is a key part of the picture and that it's important to s slow down enough to remember what the celebration is about: the hope of Christ.
And yet, for more than two million children throughout the United States, this hope doesn't exist in their lives because it's overshadowed by crisis. Statistics show that one in 40 American children has a father in prison, and one in 359 has an incarcerated mother.
Crossroad Bible Institute President Dr. David Schuringa explains, "Here in the United States, the prison and jails constitute the largest mission field in North America." Children with a parent in prison are six times more likely than their peers to be incarcerated. "So here's a fantastic way for the church to get involved, and you'll find it a thrill to do so."
Through Prison Fellowship's Project Angel Tree, Crossroad Bible Institute can reach these children. There's information about CBI's program for kids with the sign up, or the kids get enrolled by their incarcerated parents who are CBI students themselves.
"We're very excited about it. We have hundreds and hundreds of kids that are already involved. The program is a great hit." The program Schuringa references centers around "Manga Messiah," an edgy rendition of the Gospels that aims to guide mostly middle school students whose parents are serving time in prison.
What is Manga? "It's actually a Japanese style comic/cartoon that's just really hot all over the world. This is the language of the kids." Key to making "Manga's" 10 Bible lessons come alive are CBI's 5,000 volunteer instructors who correspond with teens and tweens. Schuringa says when the lesson is completed, the kids send it in to CBI. From there, "We send the lesson out to one of our faithful instructors, and that instructor will correct that lesson and return it, along with letters of encouragement and discipleship."
The investment of time in the lives of these kids makes a huge difference in their lives, Schuringa notes. "We're seeking to disciple these kids. We're seeking to be a steady presence in their lives. We're seeking to model Christian adults who care about them and who can give them some guidance and some love and some security."
Walking through the study together helps introduce these kids to a Christian worldview, godly principles and relationship with Christ. That input can make the difference between living life well and repairing damage through the criminal justice system. "Children of prisoners tend to be very high at-risk for school truancy, for alcoholism, for drug abuse, promiscuity and entering into a life of crime. These kids just need help," says Schuringa.
While the parent is learning new roles, the kids are, too, and the promise of new beginnings holds the greatest hope of all. "We know the promise of God's Word that ‘if you train a child in the way he should go, when he is old, he will not depart from it,'" exclaims Schuringa. That idea is what fuels everything CBI does with the kids. "I believe that with all my heart, so we are seeking to train these children in the way that they should go, confident that when they are old, they will not depart from it."
At Christmas, people are reminded about giving, hope, joy, and peace. There are lots of ways to come alongside ministries doing unique things. This program provides opportunity to mentor a family trying to heal. It provides opportunity for relationship with these families, and theirs won't be the only lives changed.
Aside from involvement and prayer, funds are needed to continue reaching out to more families like these. To join CBI in bringing hope this Christmas, encouragement throughout the coming year, and a brighter future to the Crossroad Kids, click here.