Christian Mentoring for the Ex-offender
"I was hungry and you gave
me something to eat, I was
thirsty and you gave me
something to drink..."
From the time the soon-to-be-released participant is recommended by a prison chaplain or official to the time that the participant graduates from our program, that participant is paired with an appropriately trained Christian mentor selected by Jericho Commission and a local church. Our screening of mentors is as thorough as it is for participants.
Our comprehensive mentor training equips men and women with the tools that they need to help the participant succeed in society. But the training does more than benefit the participants; it has also proven itself a blessing to the mentors as well. Many churches that have opened their doors to participants and have found their congregations re-invigorated with a desire to grow and to grow closer to God.
"The hardest part, of getting out of prison," says one participant who surrendered his life to Jesus Christ while behind bars, "was being all alone.” Explaining further, he said, "In prison - in general population – you’re never alone. There was a strong Christian community in the prison I was in. I always had someone to pray with and someone to talk to. When I got out there was no one. No one close. I was sent to a halfway house in a different state than my family. Suddenly I had freedom, temptation, and no one to lean on, but Jesus. That was the big test of my faith. That was when I had to decide—was this change for real, or was it Jailhouse Christianity?”
Jericho Commission provides that critical support system. Through our Christian mentoring program Christian men and women, on probation or parole, have someone to talk to, to pray with, and to turn to when they need support. They have a brother or sister who will stand with them when they are tempted.
Participants are required to meet with their mentors twice a week. Strict screening processes, stringent guidelines, and proper training regulate the meetings and help to protect both the mentor and participant. They are also required to meet with their parole officer. Whereas the parole officer works on the legally mandated parts of this process, Jericho, through the mentor, works on the underlying spiritual and emotional part of reintegration.
Meetings with the mentor are generally informal and can be over a casual cup of coffee. They’re encouraged to participate in church services and Bible studies. Both the mentor and the participant have a goal to which they strive—a successful re-entry into society. One obstacle that confronts participants, and those who mentor them, is knowing where to go when they have a need. Most participants are beginning from scratch—no employment, finances, transportation, or housing. Many won’t have family to whom they can turn. Jericho Commission pulls together resources and makes them available to the mentor to offer to the participant. These resources don’t come from the mentor’s personal assets thus enhancing their level of confidence and ability to truly help the participant.
Because some participants may have been incarcerated for several years, they may need to re-learn practical problem-solving skills just to cope with day-to-day life. In some cases, the participant may never have possessed the skills necessary to cope with life. With the assistance, guidance and spiritual support of a dedicated mentor, trained by Jericho Commission, the participant will learn the skills required to deal with "life on the outside."
A large part of the ministry of Jericho Commission is that of a Resource Center for Participants and Mentors. If the Participant needs a job, the Mentor will have an up-to-date list of local businesses that will hire ex-offenders. If the Participant needs help finding affordable housing, the Mentor will know what social agencies can help.
Before a volunteer may work with participants as a mentor, he or she must go through a background check, receive a written pastoral endorsement, complete initial training, agree to participate in ongoing training, and be approved by the Screening & Assessment Board of Jericho Commission. Once approved the mentor will be assigned to a participant and will submit written progress reports to the board.
Mentoring is not a one way street. Most mentors will tell us that the relationship that develops with the participant is a blessing to them and that the opportunity to grow spiritually is unsurpassed.