Editor’s note: Jesse Zart, a member of the Minnesota River Valley Mentoring Program, gives us an update on their activities. He gives us a great look at ways Jesus is working despite COVID-19. WELS Prison Ministry teams with this mentoring program and desires to foster similar programs in other communities. Jesse makes clear that mentoring has a wider application than just released inmates.
Although the current pandemic has limited the ability of WELS Prison Ministries and others to have in-person inmate visits, God’s work is still very much in action through the efforts of the Minnesota River Valley Mentoring Program (MRVMP), New Ulm, Minn.
The MRVMP and WELS Prison Ministries collaborate frequently because we have similar missions—we both share Jesus with those in need. For instance, WELS Prison Ministry is about to release an online video training course called, “Mentoring Returning Citizens.” The MRVMP provided insight, experience, and consultation for the materials and subject matter for this project. The result will provide churches and individuals basic training that prepares them to effectively mentor those in need. Although this training is titled “Mentoring Returning Citizens” (that is, inmates released from prison or jail), it is also valuable for mentoring anyone in need.
We have shown that one doesn’t need to be an expert to be an effective mentor who shares Jesus’ love. Whether former inmates or not, many mentees (the persons we serve) struggle with basic life skills like budgeting, meal planning, and searching for jobs. Others suffer from addictions like alcohol, drugs, pornography, and more. Others still have anger management or anxiety issues that create relationship and employment difficulties. We are not trained psychologists, therapists, or counselors. We are self-professed learners who admit we don’t have all the answers. Yet as average, caring Christian human beings we see God blessing our efforts.
We partner with a few groups to best help those in need and refer to professional resources when necessary. One partner is a local Survivor’s Group that has volunteers trained to be a primary safe point of contact for survivors of domestic abuse. They also lead group sessions that create mutual support opportunities. We have found this partnership to be mutually beneficial as some volunteers are suitably trained to assist in either of our respective programs. Our programs also act as feeders for each other.
Another partner is Resilient Recovery, a Christ-based version of Alcoholics Anonymous that specializes in group sessions for many addictions, not just alcohol. Their program enables individuals to meet in group sessions that have their own unique benefits. This allows MRVMP to focus on the individual mentoring. Once again, our respective programs can also act as feeders for each other.
There are many opportunities to serve, and God’s work is still very active. The “cloud” of not getting to have in-person meetings has the “silver lining” of time to build out and develop other programs that will help even more people going forward. God bless your efforts to share Jesus with others, whether it’s being a mentor, communicating with inmates as a pen pal or test corrector, or supporting the work these volunteers do.
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