January 18, 2011 — Children of prison inmates are learning about God through new cartoon-style correspondence Bible lessons from Crossroad Bible Institute (CBI) in Grandville, Mich.
CBI, headed by Christian Reformed minister Rev. David Schuringa, recently launched a children’s program called “Manga Messiah,” a gospel-based course with learning games and collecting cards that also builds literacy skills. Manga, from the Japanese word for “comics,” is a popular comic book illustration style.
CBI has offered reentry-friendly courses to imprisoned men and women for 25 years, relying on 5,000 volunteers to check lessons and write enrollees a personal letter. About half the volunteers are Christian Reformed.
Incarcerated parents in CBI’s adult program yearn for their children’s spiritual well-being, said volunteer instructor Florence Dahnke, who attends Lafayette, Ind., Christian Reformed Church. “Prisoners ask for lessons for their children. One prisoner wrote, ‘I want my daughter to know about Jesus.’”
Schuringa emphasized the critical nature of reaching inmates’ children. “They are at risk for school truancy, educational difficulty, drug and alcohol abuse, and delinquency,” he said. “For years we have had people asking for something for prisoners’ children. It kept coming up.”
Volunteer Karen Vandenbrink from Calvin CRC in Holland, Mich., praises the course. “I’m thrilled with the depth and practicality of what they are learning.” One child wrote, “How did you find out about me?” Vandenbrink replied, “God planned that I would get your lesson.”