How Prisoners Are Finding Freedom in the Midst of Life Sentences

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The Light That Shines

Darkness . . . an all too familiar reality that winter brings along with it, as precious sunlight seems to slip away before our eyes long before we would like it to. These extended periods of darkness can greatly affect moods and attitudes of even the most perseverant. The Lord has given the sun to provide us with a light to provide vital benefits to life, health, happiness, and more. But this light points to a greater “Light” even more powerful than the sun.

Heart of Texas Foundation: A Light in the Darkness

This “Light,” God’s Word, has brought transformation to the prison system in Texas through one of Crossway’s ministry partners. Founded as a Christian non-profit in 2009, the vision of the Heart of Texas Foundation College of Ministry is to bring the light of Christ to those in Texas prisons, specifically those prisons with inmates serving very long sentences. Through Crossway’s partnership, the ministry is supported by book and Bible donations that are then used as curriculum resources.

From the beginning, CEO and Provost Grove and Brenna Norwood, PhD, have longed to shine light in a place that is otherwise both literally and figuratively very dark. The men and women serving long sentences are not unfamiliar with suffering, but most are unfamiliar with the saving grace of Christ.

In response to this spiritual darkness, Grove and Brenna created the Heart of Texas Foundation College of Ministry, intended specifically for inmates serving very long or life sentences. Through a four-and-a-half-year education comprising 42 courses, these graduates will earn a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Ministry.

But why would these inmates go to all the effort of four and a half years of schooling if they will still remain in prison for many years, or for some the rest of their lives? What would they do with this degree if they have nowhere to go with it?

Through collaboration with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), the students earn the title of “Field Ministers” upon graduating, allowing them to be transferred to prisons that will become their home, as well as their field of service. Their education, and for a large majority who weren’t previously believers, their conversion to Christianity, has prepared them with the ability to read and understand Scripture at a high level, and apply this learning to the field of prison ministry.

Crossway Resources Providing Gospel Light

Crossway resources have been donated to the Heart of Texas Foundation throughout the past several years, including a large number of books and Bibles given in recent years, such as:

Can We Trust the Gospels? By Peter J. Williams;
Making All Things New by David Powlison;
Side by Side by Edward T. Welch;
God Is Love by Gerald Bray;
Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms by Chad Van Dixhoorn;
When the Stars Disappear by Mark Talbot;
ESV Study Bible;
Greek New Testament.

These resources, among others, have been provided to allow the ministry to prepare materials for their next term. Men and women in various classes will receive them to read, study, and apply to their learning of Scripture. The faculty and staff put significant thought and consideration into each term’s curriculum, always looking for the best and most relevant content, and they often find themselves using Crossway products:

When [Crossway] produce[s] gospel-centered, Christ-centered material, it is our go-to. It is building men and women inside in a way that causes them to reach both the students and other inmates who they will minister to after they graduate.
—Brenna Norwood, Provost & Associate Professor of Christian Education and Applied Ministry

The faculty and staff are not alone in their excitement for these resources. One inmate who recently graduated to become a Field Minister, describes the day these donations arrived:

When all the books came up here and they were laid out on the table . . . As we were walking through here, it was kind of like being at a farmer’s market because all the books were laid out and we could browse through them. It was such a cool experience.

Support of Crossway’s publishing ministry also supports the provision of resources to ministries like the Heart of Texas Foundation and others around the world. These resources give inmates the opportunity to read and learn about the God who can bring light to their darkness. Though their physical circumstances may not change, their hearts can receive an even more beautiful transformation of light that they will then share with the inmates they serve:

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
—2 Corinthians 4:6

Please pray for the Memorial Unit and Hobby Unit, the locations where the men and women attend their classes, to be a space filled with the Holy Spirit.

Pray for the 42 locations where Field Ministers are to see a movement of change for the better, as a result of the Word of God penetrating into the darkness of those places.

Pray for the Lord’s blessing on the Crossway resources being used in the classrooms, and for more men and women to come to know Jesus as their Savior.

To learn more about Crossway's ministry initiatives and to get involved, go to

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