Before the global pandemic upended our daily lives, I posted Are You Being Served and Are You Being Served? (Part 2), the first two posts in a series about inmate service companies and organizations. Many of these organizations are small sole proprietorships. Some are small groups comprised of former prisoners or family members of those incarcerated.
Within this category are nonprofit organizations. Most are informal associations of free world people who’ve banded together for a common cause, mainly for helping prisoners while incarcerated. The most common of these are religious organizations providing religious materials or Bible studies through correspondence.
Some of these very same nonprofits provide pen pal services to prisoners who are lonely with no one to write or talk to. Loneliness and depression impacts tens of thousands of prisoners every day. This is the side of incarceration you never hear about.
“To know that someone cared for me out of sheer love and kindness was healing. The kindness of strangers saved me during that dark time in my life.”
When I began my time, the first 24 months were very lonely ones for me. It had as much to do with having to adjust to a hostile world in a high security environment as it did with not knowing anyone or receiving visits from family. Many times I considered giving up and surrendering to The Darkness of This World. Quitting is easy, but Struggling is painful.
During this period I’d found a piece of paper in a Bible that was on the cell block bookshelf. Scrawled in pencil was the name of a church group along with a Pennsylvania P.O. Box. So, I wrote them.
For months thereafter I corresponded with men and women I’d never met and would only know by first names. These kind people provided a mental and emotional lifeline for me, all the while gently ministering the gospel and Christian worldview. To know that someone cared for me out of sheer love and kindness was healing. The kindness of strangers saved me during that dark time in my life.
Christian Pen Pal Ministries
Christian Pen Pal Ministries (CPP) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping prisoners through one-on-one correspondence ministry. CPP is comprised of an all-volunteer core of free world Christians working from around the world bringing support to prisoners who are lonely and in need of companionship.
Through their Christian Pen Pals site prisoners are matched up with Christian pen pal volunteers. Prisoners fill out a pen pal registration form, and based on the information provided, CPP matches the prisoner with a Christian volunteer. The wait for prisoners to be matched to a pen pal currently takes over a year due to so many prisoners in need and not enough volunteers. The need for volunteers is great.
CPP is organized and run by Jesse and Beth Michaels with assistance from volunteers. Christian Pen Pals began in 1998, and “is an extension of a ten year ‘mom and pops’ ministry of corresponding.” Most of the inmates contacting them hail from backgrounds where their actions have cost them family connections and friends, leaving them alone without anyone for support.
CPP has compiled an extensive list of resources for inmates in their Prisoner Resource Directory. They began compiling the directory in 1998 based on the collective input of those CPP ministers to. It has grown to over 150 resources in categories such as, “Spiritual Growth,” “HIV/AIDS,” “Family Support,” “Advocacy,” “Legal Aide,” etc., and now contains additional information pulled from Internet resources. The Prisoner Resource Directory is available online and distributed via snail mail to inmates and prisons as funds allow.
CPP is entirely dependent on monetary donations as most pen pal ministries are here in the U.S. You can send a donation to CPP at:
Christian Pen Pals, ATTN: Beth Michael, P.O. Box 11296, Hickory, NC 28603.
Even more important are the need for volunteers willing to pen pal with inmates to bring the gospel. If you’d like to become a pen pal volunteer, contact Beth and Jesse at CPP at the above address, or go to their web site at cppministry.com.
As I researched this post, Beth sent me information about CPP ministries that included testimonials from free world volunteers and from inmates who pen pal through the ministry. In the beginning of this post I mentioned how a similar ministry rescued me from a dark time in my life. I can’t overstate how meaningful and important CPP is to the lives of so many male and female inmates. The simple act of communicating and of letting someone know that they’re not forgotten and are loved heals deeply. This along with ministering the gospel changes inmate lives. There’s nothing more positive than to witness spiritual transformation and change.
From inmate Anthony:
“Dear Christian Pen Pals,
I am a 41 year old Christian man. I have been incarcerated since I was eighteen years old. Prior to this, I was in a foster home…I don’t have very much in the way of family. Nonetheless, God has really been good to me. I have seen many men crumble under the same circumstances; somehow God saw fit to show me favor.”
From inmate James:
“I am 63 years old, I am now 36 because May 6, 1990, I accepted our Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior May 6th. I be 63 going on 36. I been in prison since 1980 and still am praising Jesus each and every day. Yes I must share this when I accepted Jesus into my life, that was the most precious gift I could have given myself. May 6, 1990.”
The following organizations serve tens of thousands of inmates around the world by providing free Bible studies and related materials: Emmaus Correspondence School, P.O. Box 1028, Dubuque, Iowa 52004-1028, Mt. Zion Bible Institute, 2603 W. Wright Street, Pensacola, Florida 32505, and Crossroads Prison Ministries, P.O. Box 900, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49509-0900.
I’ve previously completed Bible studies with Emmaus Correspondence School and Mt. Zion Bible Institute. Neither organization charged me a penny, and both offer free Bibles to those in need of them. Crossroads Prison Ministries is similar, and I know several men who are engaged in Bible studies through them–all for free.
I think that faith plays a part, second only to strong family ties, in the path to rehabilitation. I know a number of men who’ve served murder and assault convictions who are now free and positive contributors to their communities. All of them have two things in common: a faith-based belief in God or a Creator, and strong family ties.
*Christian Pen Pal ministries is in desperate need of Christian pen pal volunteers. Every year they receive requests from hundreds of inmates for a pen pal. As a volunteer you’ll have the power to change the course of an inmate’s life. Help someone now. Sign up to be a Christian pen pal and spread the gospel to those in need.