Helping fellow image bearers in prison

By July 17, 2014
Photo by Crossroad Bible Institute

(Image by Crossroad Bible Institute)

USA (MNN) — Over the past decade, the number of prison releases per year has exceeded 600,000. By year end in 2012, 637,400 prisoners were released, as reported in the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

What happens to these people when they’re released?

The National Institute of Justice claims that many of the formerly incarcerated will struggle to find a job or housing and will succumb to addictions and deal with mental health issues. And as of 2011, 4.8 million offenders were living under community supervision.

Dr. David Schuringa of Crossroad Bible Institute says, “The fact is that 95% of people in prison will be released eventually, and the fact is that 75% of them will return to a life of crime unless their hearts and lives have been changed.”

This is where CBI’s heart is: ministering to prisoners to show them a new way of life and a new hope.

CBI’s discipleship program involves three tiers of instruction. The first tier provides people in prison with a solid doctrinal foundation and guidance on how to read the Bible.

And now, CBI is revamping their second tier to address the problems that many people face when they reenter society.

“We call it our life-skills program. It’s a five star re-entry curriculum: five courses that we are launching,” Schuringa says.

In their 30 years of prison ministry, CBI has been able to define five key areas of growth that will help returning civilians.

The five courses are:

  1. Christian work ethic
  2. Overcoming addictions
  3. Financial management
  4. Developing Christian family
  5. Godly living in community

While the first course discusses the Christian faith and the Gospel more explicitly, the second tier will make it applicable to concrete areas of life.

“We believe that all of life is the Gospel, all of life is about serving Christ and following Christ and living as His forgiven children.”

Schuringa gives some examples. Teaching work ethic isn’t just about getting a job to earn money. It’s about using gifts from God to further His Kingdom.

Another example is the second course which addresses the problem of idolatry. “Addictions are about having other gods in your life. We want them to live a life of freedom, only serving God: not the god of alcohol or drugs or porn, but the God of the Scriptures. They need to be freed from the bonds of other gods,” Schuringa says.

Some people wonder why anyone would want to help someone convicted of a crime serious enough to be imprisoned. Others, Schuringa explains, want to lock them up and throw away the key.

“Many people don’t care about prisoners and don’t want to think about them,” he says.

But Schuringa continues to explain that even those who hate prisoners should be concerned for the sake of society.

And Christians should care because it is what Jesus does.

“God loves people in prison,” says Schuringa. “Jesus says, ‘Whatever you do for the least of these, you’re doing it unto Me.'”

For a change of heart for these people within and without of prison, they need to encounter the Gospel.

“They need the truth of God’s Word and the love of God’s people. And so this is a population that we should love, that we should embrace, that we have to respect and understand that they desperately need our help.”

Schuringa adds, “You’d be surprised that when we do that, how much you will grow, how much we grow.”

One of the most direct ways you can be blessed while being a blessing is to sign up as an instructor for CBI. Follow this link for more information.

Stay up-to-date on the work of CBI and the condition of the USA prison system by following the CBI newsletter or watching their weekly news program.

Pray for CBI, their volunteers, and those being ministered to.

“When we help the least of these, it’s not like we’re reaching down with pity to help these poor people,” Schuringa reminds us. “These are our equal image bearers, and God has something to teach us through them as He has something to teach them through us.”

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