Nepal (MNN) — Prisons around the world were faced with a tough dilemma once the pandemic made it clear it was here to stay. Some prisons restricted visitors; others moved prisoners into solitary confinement; several even released prisoners under special restrictions. But one thing they all had in common was minimizing contact with the outside world.
So how, in the middle of a pandemic, did Crossroads Prison Ministries manage to lay the foundations for a new program in Nepal?
As it turns out, the program is a long time in the making. In 2018, a Nepalese pastor contacted Paul Tan of Crossroads, asking him if he could start a Crossroads branch in Nepalese prisons. He already had several contacts within the prison system, including ex-prisoners who wanted to help individuals still in the system.
As long as the pastor could raise the funding from local churches, Tan said, Crossroads could help. They would provide Bibles and study material if they had backing from local believers. Two years of support-raising, network-building, and personal training later, and Crossroads was ready to launch in Nepal.
Then, a virus swept the world in a global pandemic. Crossroads had to change courses. In many parts of Asia where Crossroads already had contacts, including Nepal, prisons went into total lockdown.
As soon as the lockdown in Nepal ends, Crossroads plans to fully establish their prison ministry. In the meantime, they’re still in contact with partners in the area who are involved with the prison system.
According to Tan, Nepal has 74 prison centers with 25,000 prisoners. Each one of those individuals needs a chance at the mercy, hope, and justice of God.
“Whatever program that you have, if the prisoner is not able to integrate back into society, that means your program is a failure,” Tan says. “Successful prison program must… treat them as human beings, take care of their health, give them good medical care.”
But it’s about more than just physical aid. Crossroads wants to provide spiritual aid and eternal freedom, and that can only be found in Christ.
“When we train [our volunteers], we make sure we let them know that they have no power to transform anybody. They have the power to share the Word of God and plant it into the hands of the prisoner.”
After Crossroads plants seeds of transformation through compassion, “ultimately Jesus is the one that will transform them.”
Header photo courtesy of Unsplash.