Freedom Within These WallsOthers, Loneliness
Contributed by: Crossroads Prison Ministries
The year was 1998. Two women entered a local Canadian prison with a simple goal: love those inside the jail’s walls. A movement began on that day that continues to this day.
Crossroads Prison Ministry embodies the heart of those pioneering women who felt called to show the love of Jesus through relationship and time spent with inmates in Canadian prisons.
Today, if you ask President Martie Van Niekerk about her team’s mission, she responds with joy: “We believe if Jesus has set you free, you are free indeed!” And that is the whole point of this work. By embodying the love Jesus showed to all, Martie and her team are able to help some of Canada’s most socially isolated members know they are not alone anymore, even while still incarcerated.
And the work is ever-growing. According to Crossroads’ records, their ministry has grown by over 1300% since its inception in 1998! The impact becomes quite evident as Martie shares some of the real-life stories of inmates impacted by the work of Crossroads.
“Imprisoned members of our community see themselves as a welcome committee for new inmates,” says Martie when talking about the way this ministry of love spreads within prisons. “A smile, an acknowledgement of someone’s humanity goes a long way,” says Martie. In a time when, for many, isolation and loneliness are at all-time highs, feeling seen by another inmate can be life changing.
One common question Martie is often asked is , “Why do you care about those who chose to break the law when they’re getting what they deserve?” for Martie, it is important to differentiate between affirming the actions of law-breakers vs. loving the individual, despite their decisions. She shares: “Moses killed an Egyptian. The Apostle Paul was an accessory to the murder of Stephen in the New Testament — these are ‘heroes’ of the Christian faith, who are just as human as any of us.”
Highlighting the humanity of inmates in Canada shines through Crossroads’ blog, which features the stories of inmates who have been impacted by the ministry. Ian’s* is one such story. He writes that “With the help and guidance of the institutional chaplain at that time, I spoke with God from the heart”. Ian’s story is only one among many impacting stories coming from Crossroads’ ministry.
Breaking down walls of isolation can happen within the walls of prison. The proof is in the stories of inmates, just like Ian’s. “Jesus was clear,” says Martie, “When you visit those in prison you are visiting me.” This call continues to inspire the work being done by the Crossroads team.
If you’d like to read more about Ian’s story and learn about the ministry of Crossroads, click https://cpministries.ca/ to visit their site and blog.
*Ian’s name has been changed to protect his privacy