70x7 Life Recovery, an organization whose name refers to Jesus’ words to Peter about how many times one must forgive a brother or sister (Matt. 8:22), serves people returning from incarceration and the families of those presently incarcerated. Based in Holland and Grand Rapids, Mich., the organization recently enfolded the Criminal Justice Chaplaincy, a ministry that has been supported by five Christian Reformed classes (regional groups of churches) since the 1980s. Oakdale Park Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., partners with 70x7, hosting monthly lunches and offering other kinds of support.
Being a “supporting hand,” according to Oakdale Park pastor James Jones, who is also a board member for 70x7, is vital to the partnership.
Once a month, Oakdale Park CRC hosts free re-entry networking lunches in their ministry center as a way to connect returning citizens and their families with probation or parole officers, mentors, church people, agency representatives, and business professionals. Two church volunteers help to serve and clean up, and four to six volunteers serve in other ways such as “mentoring, volunteering at the banquet dinner, setting up the Ministry House, helping in the kitchen, and serving on the board,” said Jones. The church’s two pastors attend when possible.
“We are blessed by the support of the CRC,” said Cheryl Wyma, office manager of 70x7 Grand Rapids Service Center. There is also a chapter in Holland. “Most of our programing is similar,” Wyma said, with all Christian volunteers receiving specific mentor training in order to contribute to the long-term success of participants.
Ben Rosa, executive director of the Grand Rapids office, said “We’re a faith-based organization but we provide services to anyone who walks through our doors. We’re not just an organization that helps people get jobs but change lives around to be productive members of society.” The focus, he said, is on impacting families and children. “It starts with the heart,” he said.
Attendees of the re-entry networking lunch enjoying a meal together in Oakdale Park CRC’s ministry center.