I first came in contact with Joel Lightfoot from Texas about two years ago. Joel is an Outreach Manager and Regional Coordinator with Bridges to Life (BTL); after learning more about BTL, I desired to get involved through volunteerism. We shared a spot on Shedding Light, a blog talk radio program, and as I listened to Joel and his lovely wife, Naomi, my decision to volunteer was sealed. As Covid-19 was at its peak when we met, there was no opportunity to go into correctional facilities. Now, two years later, many facilities are shutting down again. Yet, the work continues and hopefully soon, the doors will once again be opened for us. It is an honor to introduce you to:
Bridges to Life
Bridges to Life not only opened a door in 1998, but has opened many more since then. Founder John Sage had suffered a tremendous loss in 1993, his sister was murdered. In the wake of this horrific account, Mr. Sage discovered that not only was his family suffering, but all who loved his sister suffered as well. He was looking for a way to begin his own healing process when he began volunteering for a prison ministry. He observed the compassion between crime victims and offenders as they shared their experiences. The power of restoration was evident. Mr. Sage was led to build a faith based curriculum.
Get to know the staff here:
Award winning Bridges to Life (BTL) launched in 1998 in Richmond, Texas. 41 graduated from the program in 1999. Today, there have been over 60,000 incarcerated citizens who have gone through this curriculum and have graduated. No longer is BTL only in Texas, but also in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. BTL is not limited to the United States; they are also changing lives in Canada, Mexico, South Africa, and Uganda. BTL's self study program was named "The Most Innovative Program of 2020" by the Texas Board of Criminal Justice. The organization has received numerous other awards and is a Better Business Bureau Accredited Charity.
There are over 3100 BTL volunteers who work with offenders in correctional facilities. Once a week, for 14 weeks, they work through the curriculum. You can learn more about the curriculum here:
Proof that BTL is making a difference is evident. By lowering recidivism we lower crime rates. 85% of those who have completed the 14 week BTL course have not reentered the system within 3 years. Because of this, taxpayers have saved millions of dollars! Consider this, the average cost of a median sentence in the state of Texas is a whopping $100,550. There have been over 60,000 graduates. If even half of them reenter the system, the cost to the taxpayer would be $3,165,000,000! Lucky for us only 15% of BTL graduates reenter, saving us $2,111,550,000! More information can be found here:
Financial savings is far from the only gift society receives from BTL. This organization is changing lives. Offenders develop a sense of worth, compassion, and accountability, which leads to a different lifestyle upon reentering society. Thus, society is a safer place. Volunteers, many who are victims of crime, come away from the program with forgiveness in their hearts and a sense of fulfillment. Don't take my word for it; the following are testimonies of some of those who have been positively affected by the work of BTL.
"I learned to accept my past, learn from my mistakes, and realize there is hope for a change."
"I was forced to be honest with myself and take accountability for my actions."
"A reflection on self, revealing what I must do to stay free, and peace of mind."
"It will help me stay home with my family and do the right thing when I am released."
"It showed me my mistakes are in the past to learn from, but the future can still be great."
"I learned to think of others and to listen before I react to situations."
"I turned from anger to patience and self-control."
"I developed empathy and now can feel the pain of the victims of my crimes."
"If God can turn me around, He can turn anyone around."
"I changed my thinking…that I never realized I needed to change!"
If you have a desire to make a difference, I strongly implore you to consider volunteering with Bridges to Life. If you would like to become a sponsor or donate, you may do so here: