A Message from the Executive Director
Recently, I had a highly vulnerable, heart-to-heart conversation with someone, tears rolling down their cheeks, who shared: "I just want to do ministry; if I can't do ministry, I don't want to do this." I knew what they meant, what was at the center of their heart's cry. It was, basically, this: if I can't walk alongside people and pour into their lives in love and discipleship, then what else is there?
"Ministry" is from the Greek word diakoneo, meaning "to serve" or douleuo, meaning "to serve as a slave." In the New Testament, ministry is seen as service to God and to people in His name.
So, is CrossWalk Center a ministry or a cause-related mission?
The difference between ministry and missions involves the questions of "where" and "to whom." Ministry occurs within the Body of Christ; missions happen outside the Church's walls.
But I want to challenge us and our old definitions and ways of thinking. CrossWalk Center is a portion of the Body of Christ, a small segment of the Church; it's a parachurch on mission serving God by unconditionally welcoming and walking with women and men in their re-entry and reintegration journey. In our case, I don't believe it is an 'either or,' but rather an 'and also.' We are a ministry on a mission.
The beautiful thing is that no matter who you are or what you do to serve the Lord as a part of the Body of Christ, ministry belongs to everyone, not just clergy but to everyone from board members, administrative assistants, mentors, and coaches.
From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. - Ephesians 4:16
I hope and pray that our staff, volunteers, and donors have as much fervor and zeal to minister in their own special way, to deliver on our mission to advance God's kingdom through re-entry discipleship, as did my teary-eyed, mercy-gifted companion in Christ.
You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. - 2 Corinthians 3:3
Jamie H. - Women's Re-Entry Program Disciple
I was raised by both of my parents, who are still married. I'm the middle child of 3 girls. I've always had a wild spirit, even as a young child. My parents both worked and always provided for all our needs. My family attended a Methodist church, but we didn't go consistently. In 8th grade, I started hanging out with some rebellious kids, and by the end of my 8th-grade year, I was charged with my first assault against a girl at my school. I received probation, and after that, I started rebelling even more by skipping school and experimenting with drinking and drugs.
It wasn't long until I got involved with an older guy and was introduced to a different crowd of people that were, for the most part, all older than me and involved in a more dangerous lifestyle of drinking and drugs. My parents did all they could to try and keep me from continuing down the path I had chosen but with no success. During this time, I was always in trouble with fighting at school and skipping school.
By the age of 15, after committing a violent crime, I was charged with aggravated kidnapping and assault, both with a deadly weapon. These were my first felonies, and I was sentenced to five years with the Texas Youth Commission. While at TYC, I didn't want to change my behavior, so found ways to continue my rebellious lifestyle. I continued to get in trouble with assaults while refusing to cooperate. I was released on my 21st birthday and returned to Tyler, TX, with no help or resources to depend on.
At this point in my life, I never saw myself as a problem or an addict. I didn't get involved in anything that would keep me from going back to the same people and things that had led me into trouble in the first place. I started working almost immediately after returning home and completed my parole requirements. I also entered a relationship with a guy who was getting high and drinking and wasn't doing anything productive with his life. Once off parole and given complete freedom, I started going to bars and clubs and smoking weed. I convinced myself I'd been robbed of those pleasures in prison all those years. I continued to date the same guy for several years, even though it was a toxic relationship.
I was given my first prescription for opiate painkillers at around 23 years of age and, after several rounds, found myself addicted. Instead of reaching out for help, I enjoyed how the drugs made me feel. I continued to get prescriptions and started taking them daily. I continued to drink, and smoke weed as well. Eventually, I couldn't renew those prescriptions, so I started finding other ways to get them through people on the street. This need opened more doors to another crowd of people, and once again, I became involved in criminal activities. I lived a double life the entire time, maintaining a job in the insurance field while being involved in a completely different lifestyle outside of work.
I left one toxic relationship and stepped into another one, and by the age of 28, I gave birth to my daughter. When my daughter was four weeks old, her dad came home. When it took me some time to make her a bottle and return to the nursery, he flipped and pointed a loaded gun at her. He held her at gunpoint for several hours. Someone finally called the police, and I left with my daughter that night.
For the next year and a half, I fell into a deep depression and addiction, trying to maintain being a single mom and working full time while in a very chaotic situation with my daughter's dad. After multiple police reports and incidents, I finally agreed to attend rehab and was issued my first protection order against her dad. I spent the next year in a rehab facility, where I met Jesus and started having a personal relationship with Him.
When I graduated from rehab, I returned to Tyler, thinking I was strong enough to maintain sobriety. After a year of doing better, I fell back into the trap with the same group of people in the same places and returned to my opiate addiction. This time, I spiraled out of control quicker than before and, after a couple of years, was charged with my third violent first-degree felony of aggravated robbery. My depression and addiction during this time took me into the darkest experiences. By this time, I was taking excessive amounts of opiates, and because of my legal situation, I failed a drug test, resulting in more trouble. I spent the next year running from God, avoiding any responsibilities, and running from the police. I was finally arrested and had no choice but to face all the chaos I had been running away from.
As soon as I sobered up in the county jail, the Lord immediately started speaking to me and using His grace and love to comfort me. He delivered me from some enormous fears. I committed my life to Him anew while pledging to myself that I would take this time to do whatever I needed to do to change. I wanted to look my daughter in the eyes afterward and tell her I didn't waste any time away from her. That's precisely what I did for the next five years.
I was given an 8-year sentence and sent to the worst women's prison in Texas, where I pressed into God and grew in my faith daily.
The Lord used this time to show me His love and how it would never change. He taught me to only depend on Him for all that I needed.
After five years, I was granted parole. It was only by God's abundant grace that I received a favorable decision by the parole board, and was allowed to go home. However, after countless hours of prayer, I decided not to return to Tyler after all, even though that was where my daughter was. I knew I had made that mistake too many times and failed every time.
During my time in prison, God brought back someone into my life who had known me throughout my addiction, but who had also been transformed by the Lord. The Lord used him during the last couple of years of my sentence in many ways, including introducing me to the ministry of CrossWalk Center.
Crosswalk has helped me by surrounding me with people who know and follow the Lord.
They have allowed me to start anew and re-enter society with the help and resources needed to ensure my success. God has never failed me and has taught me through it all that no matter what my plans are or how good my intentions are, without Him, I will only fail. Now I know that His plans are bigger and better than I could ever imagine. Today, I'm learning to lean on the Lord continuously. Now, I try not to get too caught up in anything other than what He is doing in my life at this very moment.
Welcome New CrossWalk Board Members
Man of the Month - Abel Sosa
My name is Abel Sosa. Today I am 20 years old. I was born in Harlingen, Texas. Sorrow, hurt, pain, and disappointments have been a large part of my life story.
My birth parents were addicted to drugs and alcohol. It got so bad that our grandparents had to take custody of my sister and me. I was so young that I don’t remember.
As we grew older, I had bad memories of being with my grandparents. Things were horrible. In the 2nd grade, I even remember seeing my grandfather rape my sister. We were both being abused in every way by our grandfather. We told our grandmother, and the abuse didn’t stop. We eventually told our aunt. She reported it, and yet we stayed there another two years. The sexual abuse stopped, but the emotional and physical abuse continued. After my grandfather’s behavior was reported, my family hated my sister and me for telling of the abuse.
The summer before I entered the 4th grade, I remember my grandmother taking us back to our mother’s house. It was better. I wanted to be with her. She had remarried, and now I had a stepdad. There was a lot of physical abuse from him. We later discovered that my mom and stepdad were drug dealers. Despite the abuse and harmful lifestyle, I wanted to be with my family. To this day, I love my stepdad. I then started going out into the streets but always came home.
When my mom and stepdad separated, I felt even more alone. So, I would go to the streets and not return for days. It was during this time that I started committing crimes. It began with shoplifting, then car “hopping” (breaking into cars), followed by house burglaries and breaking into stores. I was hungry and craved drugs, so I needed money to eat and feed my drug habit. When I started doing K2, I began “hitting licks” or robbing houses. My mother was there but didn’t care what I was doing. At the ripe age of 12, I was doing whatever I wanted.
Eventually, at 13, I became a ward of the state and had to live in group homes. I got kicked out of all of them. I was defiant. I always fought because I felt “I had something to prove.” I hated to be there. As messed up as things were at home, I wanted to be with my family.
I was given an aggravated robbery charge at 16 years of age. I was becoming more violent. The court sent me to the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), where I finished high school. But living there was much worse in terms of violence. I was always fighting. I stayed there for two years, leaving at 18, precisely one day before my 19th birthday.
I was then transferred to the Edinburg Transitional Center, where I picked up two additional assaults. At that time, I had an ankle monitor. After the two assaults, they told me they would have to report it, so I tore my ankle monitor off and ran. My parole office called and told me I would not get sent back to Edinburg if I voluntarily returned. I was then assigned to Joe Kegan’s Interim Sanction Facility in downtown Houston.
Eventually, another transitional home in El Paso became my home away from home. By this time, I was 20 years old. I had collected another parole violation and returned to ISF, Joe Kegan’s prison unit.
The re-entry officer at Joe Kegan’s told me about Crosswalk Center. She told me she had heard many good things about Crosswalk as a faith-based re-entry ministry. I had been a ward of the state for years, had to fight for everything, and felt rejected, unloved, and angry. I reasoned I had nothing to lose, so I applied and was accepted.
I can tell you that Crosswalk has been a life-changing experience, a real “eye-opener.” I never thought I could have a support system where people would spend time guiding me and helping me walk on the right path. For the first time in my life, I got genuine help. I never thought I could live like this.
Since so many people have helped me, I want to help others. I want to tell others about Crosswalk and help others like me, lost and alone.
I tell everyone that if you work the discipleship program, the discipleship will work for you.
Thanks to Colonel Tom Harris with New Horizons, a CrossWalk partner, I have a good job working at a good company. I work for a company, RTI, Refined Technologies, Inc., that deeply cares about second chancers like me. I now have a life recovery coach who has offered to help me for a year during my transition. After completing six months with the team at CrossWalk, I want to start thinking about school and learning a trade.
Crosswalk has not only been a life changer for me but a lifesaver. I finally found a place where I don’t have to prove anything. I pray I can bless others as these brothers have blessed me.
Volunteer Spotlight - Sam Cervantes
"Committed, faithful, whatever is needed, Sam is always there to serve," said Kiwanya Tende, CrossWalk Center's Coordinator, Volunteer Programs and Service.
Since September 2021, Sam Cervantes, has served as a volunteer House Chaplain for the Men's Re-entry Discipleship Program. As part of that role, Sam guides the Wednesday Night Men's Bible Study class, in the RTI-Rosebury home. Every Wednesday at least five discipleship coaches, all members of Adoptive Church - Community of Faith, come to minister and love on our men.
"One day, as I was on the computer studying, I paused, and asked God what plan did he have for me? I'm not sure how to explain what happened next, but I came across the CrossWalk Center website. I read about the Men's Re-entry Discipleship program, and that there were opportunities to become a volunteer House Chaplain. I know that God led me to CrossWalk to serve the men, and help them find Jesus," shared Sam.
In addition to serving over 60 hours as a House Chaplain, Sam, in many ways, has become a 'recruiter among recruiters' in support of CrossWalk's mission. Over the years, he's recruited at least ten new volunteers to serve the ministry. A goal he is consistently pursuing is for each man in the RTI-Rosebury home to have a discipleship coach for one-on-one fellowship and prayer.
"Sam is all about relationship building, that's why he makes sure the men experience holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, surrounded by other believers in the house there to serve them," said Men's Program Director Ozie Owen. "Sam embodies what it means to serve and takes ownership of the men's well-being, so they experience unconditional love."
Sam has said, "This is tough ministry, but with God, all things are possible."
Barnhart Crane & Rigging Houston The Power of Partnerships
CrossWalk Center and New Horizons Employment Solutions are always extremely grateful when a company chooses to become a Second Chance Employer. This designation is always a significant win for the re-entry cause and for any man or woman seeking a living-wage job after incarceration.
But what do we call a Second Chance Employer whose staff jumps in wholeheartedly, and begins to volunteer, disciple, and give generously? A huge blessing and a gift.
Barnhart Crane & Rigging has become one such company for CrossWalk.
Since meeting at a Second Chance hiring roundtable in February of this year, Nolan Gordan, branch manager, Barnhart Crane; senior management, and the employees of the Houston division, have supported Second Chance employment and have volunteered nonstop for CrossWalk Center.
When asked why Second Chance Employment is vital to Barnhart Crane & Rigging, this is what Nolan Gordan, shared:
"When BC&R Houston partner with a local non-profit we look for an organization that nests well with our mission and purpose. We believe Crosswalk fits well with our mission and purpose. Here at Barnhart Houston, our mission is to continuously improve and grow, to be the best in our industry. We exist to glorify God by developing people and encouraging them to use their skills and gifts in His service through constructive work, personal witness, and ministry funding. We believe that all people are created in the image of God, but we are all broken and need salvation. Our Second Chance employees are no different than we are in the eyes of God."
"Second Chance Employment is important because it helps us to serve the community where Barnhart is located. Some people we employ may not be given a chance to earn money, gain skills, and build their resumes elsewhere. We are blessed to be a blessing to others. God is pleased when we give our time and financial support to those in need." - Stolley Waiters, Barnhart employee.
What is the driving force behind BC&R serving second chance citizens, by volunteering and financially supporting organizations like CWC?
"God and his glorification are the driving force - venting of the Holy Spirit. We invite all our employees to participate in generous giving and volunteer service. We believe we are the stewards of this business and that this has given us an opportunity to steward the profits through constructive work, personal witness, and ministry funding. CWC offers all these opportunities, and we appreciate just being a small part of what God is doing."
At Barnhart Houston, the message proclaimed loud and clear is servant leadership from the top down. The corporate headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee, is called the Service Center. Wayne Francisco, who spearheads volunteerism at Barnhart Houston, said, "We are all here to serve others, both internally and externally."
"Barnhart is such a blessing. "They've done everything from installing closet rods and shelves, to cleaning gutters, assembling lawn equipment, furniture, and garage storage racks," said Paula Robinson, CrossWalk Center Women's Program Director. "Every month, they've joined CrossWalk Center, serving yet another ministry with us by moving furniture, and donating boxes of food and clothing. Barnhart volunteers lift, carry, and move mountains; they are MINISTRY MUSCLE for the women's program."
Another surprise for CrossWalk Center was being added to Barnhart Crane & Rigging's social impact platform, Co. Tribute, where Barnhart employees may support mission-driven charities, raise awareness, and facilitate benevolence. CrossWalk Center continues to be blessed by Barnhart and its employees.
A Barnhart employee, Mike Wiggs, believes that everyone has been given many second chances. According to Mike, the only difference between those in Crosswalk's re-entry programs and others, including himself, is that "by the Grace of God, we weren't found in similar situations at one point in time. One of the reasons I work at Barnhart is that we trust in our Lord, who always gave many second chances every day," noted Mike. "Crosswalk is an incredible ministry. Those men and women just need a second chance, and I am extremely proud that we at Barnhart Houston have joined to help them be successful."
"As Christians, we are not called to sit in the stands and watch the game. He is calling us to get on the field. He is calling us to action and it's a team sport with the Almighty as our Coach. What action is the Holy Spirit calling you into?" asked Nolan Gordon with a firm tone, yet a deeply loving heart.
Fall 2023 Volunteer Appreciation Event
SAVE THE DATE
Let's Get Ready to Celebrate Our Volunteers!
If you are a CrossWalk Center Volunteer (you know who you are)
then get ready and mark your calendar for the upcoming
Second Annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon
What: CrossWalk Center 2nd Annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon
When: Saturday, August 26, 2023
Time: 12:00-2:30 pm
Location: Chapelwood UMC 11140 Greenbay St, Houston, TX 77024
Volunteer with CrossWalk
MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN SOMEONE’S LIFE
Come and join the CrossWalk community as a Volunteer! It may sound cliché, but it does take a village, an entire community coming together with a unified purpose of impacting an individual’s life in re-entry.
TEACHING AND DISCIPLESHIP VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES
Disciple up to three men or women. One night weekly for up to two hours over six months.
Teach once weekly inside a state jail or prison. The approximate time to the facility and back may take up to four to six hours.
Life Recovery Coach
Facilitate “Life Recovery Sessions using the 12-Step Bible-based program, twice weekly over 3 months.
Help our client disciples develop their 4-Points Plans with personal milestones, and using provided tools such as, Spiritual Development, Budgeting and Financial Fitness, Family and Relationships, Career and Personal Development; 1 to 2 hours, per client, per week.
Bible Study Facilitator
Wednesday evenings, typically between 7-9 pm in a “house church” format. Focused on sharing, and hearing also what others are learning.
SUPPORTING VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES & ACTIVITIES
Teach Financial Stewardship once monthly, Saturday session from 10 am until noon.
Teach Life Skills once monthly, Saturday session from 10 am until noon.
Holidays and Events
Everything from coordination, shopping, set up, and serving…celebrations are a big deal at CrossWalk.
Thanksgiving and Christmas, Baptisms and Graduations, Valentines, Mothers’ and Fathers’ Days, Birthday Bashes, and Fundraisers
One-to-eight-hour assignments, any number of days Monday through Friday from 9 to 5.
For more information on these and other volunteer opportunities reach out to:
Ms. Kiwanya Tende, Coordinator Volunteer Programs & Services
Or go to: crosswalkcenter.org/volunteer
To complete a NEW Volunteer Application go to:
You Asked, CrossWalk Promised, We Delivered
During the April 12, 2023, Luncheon CrossWalk Center received so many panel questions from our guests that there was not enough time to answer them all. But we promised that the questions would be answered and be publish in the next quarterly Clarion. So, here are the Q&A below, in no certain order for you to read and enjoy. Keep the questions coming!
Q: What is the biggest challenge transitioning back into life outside prison?
A: The biggest challenges in re-entry are access to safe and affordable housing, living wage job leading to a career, and easy access and affordable public transportation.
Q: Are there programs in Brazoria County prisons for women?
A: Brazoria County has no women’s prison units. It is part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s, Region III. Region III has Henley Unit, Plane State Jail, and the Carol Young Unit, all three are women’s prisons where CrossWalk Center has a presence, teaching Steppin’ Out.
Q: What is the one thing that helped the most when you were released from prison?
A: Someone caring enough to help and advocate for me, no matter what.
Q: What has been the biggest, (not so obvious) need you have discovered as former inmates transition to freedom?
A: The most important thing is having a mentor that isn't overbearing. They help you establish goals that are of your design, but also what they think may be best for you. They encourage and utilize networks of trusted sources to help you reach your goals. Most individuals know what they must do to obtain their goals, many have the will power, but no clear direction.
The biggest need in transitioning to freedom would be finding peace, and quiet time alone from this fast-paced chaotic world. Without it (quiet time) when unexpected situations occur, (which happens frequently), without getting time to adjustment to freedom, we may react negatively just out of habit, purely off of our old ‘prison’ instincts, without thinking, and taking into account our current circumstances.
Q: Looking back, was there any aspect of your time in prison that was positive in forming the person you are today?
A: In the absence of the distractions of the world; hobbies, interests and fast paced living, it was discovering what really matters most in this life -and that is relationships.
Q: If you have a mentor, what does the mentorship look like, and would you recommend it to someone else?
A: I have a couple of mentors (discipleship coach) who hold me accountable to God's word first, then my own words. We check in periodically on each other's state of mind, our well-being, and then our current circumstances. I highly recommend having a mentor, a CrossWalk Center discipleship coach.
Q: When you are released, does the state help you find a job or give you money to help you get started?
A: The State of Texas releases Parolees with $100, released Discharges receive $0. The State doesn’t directly help the formerly incarcerated find a job but rather will give information to upcoming job fairs.
Q: Why don’t OR how can partner’s integrate mental health support into other areas of re-entry?
A: CrossWalk Center partner’s also serving in the re-entry space, may assist by helping individuals access support through Texas Health and Human Services.
Q: How do you (CWC & New Horizons) equip new employers to understand and embrace those formerly incarcerated into their workplaces?
A: Both CrossWalk Center and New Horizons, work in tandem and partnership with new Second Chance employers sharing how newly released individuals may respond or act differently to situations, and what accommodations should be made for someone adjusting to living free. Employers know to call the staff, when they need clarity and understanding on how to navigate unfamiliar behaviors in the workplace. It is a team effort to move an individual from release, re-entry to full reintegration back into society, and that includes the workplace.
Q: In your opinion, where are churches failing in aiding your progress?
A: Churches are not failing in aiding CrossWalk Center’s progress, we continue to grow and expand. Where Churches are effective is in welcoming our men and women into the life of the church, discipling them and teaching them by example what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus.
Q: Is there any legislation coming up that we should call our representatives to support?
A: Yes, the best source to read everything happening in the Texas legislature relating to criminal justice is the Texas Center for Justice and Equity. Go to: texascjc.org/blog/2023-bills-are-still-moving-or-have-come-law
Q: How do we enlist inmates into the CrossWalk program, if we are involved in a prison ministry?
A: Program application assessments are available via .pdf at www.crosswalkcenter.org, by request from program director’s, hard copies are available at the headquarters, and anyone may refer someone to the program.
Q: What discipleship tools are used in CrossWalk’s discipleship program?
A: Firstly, the Bible, and secondly, we use a series of discipleship making books in prison the first BE: The Way of Rest, the second book GO: Flex Your Story Power, and the third MAKE: Unlock People, by author Jim Stern (available at Amazon.com). We also have partnered with Guy Caskey, author of Making Him Lord. We also send our men and women to DTS training, or Disciples of the Streets with Tre-9, protégé of Guy, and founder of Eyes On Me.Tre-9 teaches and uses a discipleship method to take youth out of the streets via the Gospel and Christian Hip-Hop.
Q: How does CWC provide cell phones to every man and women being released?
A: The phones are either donated, or CrossWalk Center purchases the phones, provides one-month of service. Once someone begins working, the keep the phone, but begin paying for the cell service themselves.
Mid-Year Giving... Consider Monthly Recurring Gifts
Now that CrossWalk Center is in its seventh year, operating six large homes, and with a capacity to house up to 74 individuals in our discipleship program for at least six to nine months, it takes a lot to keep the ministry and its supporting operations going.
Every month, CrossWalk Center needs approximately $90,000 to continue providing integrated support services and Seamless Re-entry Discipleship for both women and men coming home from incarceration.
Become a Monthly Donor
Please help us continue to provide a safe, healthy, Christ-centered transition from incarceration to freedom. Becoming a Crossing Guard will help us aid returning citizens as they navigate re-entry and reintegration. Your financial support is vital to the ministry as it provides a safe crossing from the inside out.
As a recurring Crossing Guard monthly donor, your gift of means whatever amount allows us to take a planned, long-term approach to grow sustainably to provide increased programming. This commitment from you means we also will be able to add additional discipleship homes to impact even more lives in the upcoming months.
Thank You for Your Consideration and Generosity.
Your gift will make an enormous impact and bring us closer to providing more hope to people going from a broken prison life to whole-hearted intentional living. Surrounded by those who exhibit Christ's unconditional love, your generosity will help each disciple grow to realize that they are the unique individuals God created and intended them to be.
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What Your 'Like' and 'Share' Means to CWC
In this era of social media saturation, it's easy to get distracted in the sea of scrolling. However, we all know that feeling when we see a post or video that makes us pause. Whether it's laughter or tears (or sometimes both), the stories that impact us most usually come from someone we know - from people who share our values and care about the same causes we do.
Your 'like' and 'share' go farther than you know! Each time you double-tap, repost, or comment, our reach goes a little farther. When you show your support for CrossWalk Center, it gently invites other people to learn more, and builds our reputation as a cause worth pausing for. You never know who might need to hear our message of hope, or who might be looking for the right place to give and create an impact.
Not a Social Media buff? Consider instead sharing our emails with someone you think might be interested to receive our news, updates and event invitations, or could use some good news in their inbox.
“Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.”
- The Beatitudes
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CrossWalk Center, Inc., is a tax exempt 501(c)(3) charitable organization.