How COVID-19 is affecting U.S. prison ministry

By May 14, 2020

USA (MNN) — One of the hardest things about being in prison is the loneliness and sense of being cut off from the world. But it’s even worse during a pandemic lockdown.

Because of COVID-19, visitors to prisons are restricted; Crossroads Prison Ministries was even worried that the mail system would be shut down. Crossroads connects men and women in prison with Christian mentors through mail-in Bible studies.

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(Photo courtesy of Crossroads Prison Ministries)

However, Brenda McGowan, Crossroads’ Vice President of Programming says, “Thank God we are still able to deliver the Bible studies because we rely on the US Postal Service with our program model being mail correspondence. What we’ve experienced is that there has not been a decrease in our programming on the U.S. side.”

Also, McGowan says, “We have reinvented and responded to the distancing by engaging our mentors virtually through video conference call platforms. Over the last…six or seven weeks, we’ve had a number of weekly virtual community gatherings and have engaged over 1,000 mentors in conversations, discussions, [and] lots of prayer.” 

Crossroads has still been affected by the pandemic in other ways. At their main office in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Crossroads closed their office to staff and approximately 140 volunteers. Those serving with the prison ministry now do what they can from home.

Then there are the chaplains that Crossroads works with across the U.S. Their chaplains serve as religious programming managers in prisons and normally have an army of volunteers to help deliver programming to prisoners, manage classes, and build relationships.

(Image courtesy of Crossroads Prison Ministries)

Unfortunately, McGowan says, “They’ve lost those volunteers. They are the only persons who the inmates have access to deliver religious programming. So we spend a lot of time praying for our chaplains [and] for our corrections officers.”

In the early stages of the pandemic when its effects were still just showing up, Crossroads took preemptive steps to make sure they didn’t leave their students in the dark.

“We wanted to make sure that in the event that the mail service was delayed or ceased, our students had some Word devotions that they would be able to rely on for a couple of months,” McGowan says. “So we partnered with Our Daily Bread to send over 20,000 students a devotional. We are able to continue to send the mail and so they have both.

“We’ve received lots of communications from our students saying thank you. They are grateful, hopeful, [and] they’re sharing with other inmates in the prisons.”

Crossroads Prison Ministries VP of Programming, Brenda McGowan (Photo courtesy of Crossroads Prison Ministries)

Right now, Crossroads’ biggest needs are your support and prayers. When you give to Crossroads, you are telling men and women in prison they are not alone and they are still thought of and loved by Jesus.

Click here to support Crossroads!

You can also learn more about becoming a Crossroads mentor here!

Then, please pray for Crossroads’ students in prison to sense God’s love at this time and share His love with others. Pray for the staff and volunteers at Crossroads to be spiritually encouraged as they continue ministry.

“We have equipped the men and women in prison to grow the Church behind the walls.

McGowan says, “While we can’t go in, we have done as was said in 2 Timothy when Paul said to Timothy, ‘You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.’

“So for many years, we have entrusted the Word of God to men and women in prisons and now we are trusting them to be reliable in that they’re going to be able to teach and minister to each other.”

 

 

Header image courtesy of Crossroads Prison Ministries.

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