On Both Sides of the Bars

Out of sight but not out of mind.

By Lauren Nicole Langston   |  6 February 2012
prison story pic2 465x280 Pictured: Rhonda, Kristy, & Lorrie

They met at a Cru Bible study at Michigan State, but it wasn’t long until Kristy Paruk was meeting Melissa in prison. Before Melissa put her faith in Jesus Christ, she had been in a drunk driving accident with her boyfriend. He died, and now she was sentenced to face the pain of losing him while behind bars.

Through visiting Melissa in prison, Kristy’s eyes were soon opened to how much these women needed to be loved. One of Melissa’s fellow inmates had been in prison for nearly a decade without a single visit, letter or phone call.

“I wanted to visit them and turn this around,” Kristy said. “These people need love so much. They’re just like us.”

God continued to develop a passion in Kristy to minister to the incarcerated, and this past summer she went to Seattle to do prison ministry through Summer Project, one of Campus Crusade for Christ’s short-term mission trips.

Since returning home, Kristy has started a prison ministry with Lorrie Dundon at the correctional facility in which Melissa is serving her time.

Because of Melissa’s relationships with the inmates, she is able to connect Kristy, Lorrie and others from Riverview Church in a way that wouldn’t be possible without an inside perspective.

“For each individual in prison, remaining hopeful is a daily battle. For me, faith in Jesus and the love I feel from the body of believers keep me from giving up,” Melissa said in a letter to the Riverview congregation.

“Since I have been in prison, I have been afraid that I would be forgotten,” she said. “But each day when the mail is delivered, I am reminded that God and His people are walking with me, and that I am not alone.”