Prison ministry and the local church

By October 28, 2015
Lisa Blystra (Photo obtained via Facebook)

Lisa Blystra
(Photo obtained via Facebook)

International (MNN) — Changes are underway at Crossroad Bible Institute (CBI).

Lisa Blystra recently took the helm as CBI’s new Executive Director, bringing extensive experience in church and faith-based nonprofit leadership to the table.

“Back in May, I learned that there were some transitions going on [at CBI],” Blystra shares.

“God’s providential plan allowed my path to cross the path of one of their board members, and we began having conversations.”

Discovering a calling to prison ministry

Prison ministry wasn’t always at the forefront for Blystra, who began her career in health care as a nurse.

However, the two intersected when life took a sudden turn.

*Molly, a former colleague, reached out to Blystra for help when her her husband, *Rick, was incarcerated. Molly simply couldn’t raise two young children–ages 2 and 4–on her own.

CBI_prison ministry graphic

(Graphic courtesy CBI via Facebook)

“Their family really became part of our family,” Blystra shares.

“That opened my eyes, and changed my heart, to the journey many men and women would be facing as they entered into an ‘intersection’ with the criminal justice system.”

CBI’s Bible Study Correspondence Course introduced the husband to God’s Word, and he learned about salvation during his incarceration.

“Through his journey on the inside and her journey on the outside, they both became very ‘on-fire’ believers,” says Blystra.

The path didn’t get any smoother, though, once Rick was released. He and Molly faced a new set of challenges to overcome.

Because of his felony record, Rick couldn’t find employment. He had a hard time integrating back into society after years of incarceration. Lingering boundaries associated with his felony impacted the amount of time Rick could spend with his family.

Those challenges “really fueled in me a passion to fix what I saw as a huge injustice,” Blystra shares.

A calling fulfilled

Serving as Vice President of Prison Fellowship Ministries from 2013 to 2015, Blystra was “instrumental” in expanding the network of U.S. churches involved in prison ministry through PFM.

At CBI, Blystra hopes to connect local churches with the mission field behind bars, both in the U.S. and abroad.

“When the local church is fully mobilized, we will see our communities change,” says Blystra.

She speaks from experience, having served as pastor of global and community partnerships at Ridge Point Community Church in Holland, MI.

(Photo courtesy CBI via Facebook)

(Photo courtesy CBI via Facebook)

“When our church became passionate about really fixing the broken things in our community, it changed the heart of the church,” she shares.

One of the tangible results of that “heart change” was a program called 70×7 Life Recovery. With Blystra’s help, it grew from a church program to a full-blown ministry that “enfolds returning citizens, helps them find employment, and connects them in mentoring relationships with local churches.”

As Blystra adjusts to a “wide learning curve” at the helm of CBI, would you please pray for her and her team?

Please pray “that God would enable me to discern what I really need to know [and] when, and that He would continue to keep doors wide-open to us,” Blystra asks.

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