For several years after my release from prison, I did not speak about my incarceration outside a small circle of friends. I did not feel safe speaking about it. I wanted to protect my family, knowing that people who found out about my past might put negative labels on us that could tear us apart at the seams.
Those of us who have been incarcerated have no choice but to address it in certain contexts, such as seeking employment, finding a place to live and relating to neighbors. These experiences can be very demoralizing and demeaning.
I have heard Crossroads mentors and church leaders express a very honest truth about their churches: formerly incarcerated men and women would feel unwelcome there.
If someone is told often enough that they are not accepted or valued, it can destroy their self-worth. It took a toll on me, and it can do the same for our students. After their release, many formerly incarcerated individuals face questions like:
Where do I belong?
Who cares about me?
It is the role of the Church to tell them, “You belong here! We care about you. So does God.”
With this in mind, here are a few tips for writing letters to your students this month:
- Our self-worth is often tied to what other people say about us. Remind your students that our true identity and value are found in what God says about us. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).
- One of the most loving things you can do for your students is to be vulnerable and honest. Share your story—the good parts and the bad. Opening your heart to them and welcoming them into your life shows them that they matter to you.
I have been told many times that I don’t look like I have been to prison, and I’m not sure what people mean by that. When I look around a prison, I see men and women who look just like me. I see broken people who have value and worth but often struggle to understand or believe this. I see myself in each one.
I see us.
I see people the Church should long to embrace so that, as the body of Christ, we can carry one another’s burdens and lift each other up (Galatians 6:2).
If we don’t, who will?
Serving alongside you,
Church Mobilization Director
NEWS & NOTES
- We anticipate receiving new guidelines this month regarding social distancing and stay-at-home orders across the country. We will continue to provide updates on the ministry’s status as they arise.
- We would like to offer the opportunity to have Doug Cupery speak about Crossroads to your church group via Zoom during this time that we cannot meet in person. Men’s or women’s ministry groups, adult Sunday school groups or even a gathering of interested friends would provide a wonderful opportunity to share why and how we serve men and women who are incarcerated. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org you would like to arrange a gathering.
- Upcoming mentor Zoom calls: You are welcome to participate in any of these upcoming mentor gatherings via Zoom! We will send a reminder email shortly before each call.
Wednesday, June 17, at 3:00 p.m. (ET)
Thursday, June 18, at 8:00 p.m. (ET)
Please use the following link, meeting ID and password for all Zoom calls.
Meeting ID: 841 8295 6475