From Prisoners to Disciples: A Decade of Joint Evangelism Programs and Impact

“In Kingdom work, you are, by definition, too small to deal with it all.” 

The partnership between Prison Fellowship International (PFI) and Bible League International (BLI) has been a fruitful one, impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of prisoners and their families. In 2024, the two organizations are celebrating a decade of working together to break the cycle of crime and restore lives through Jesus’ love. On The Word in Action podcast, PFI President and CEO, Andy Corley, and BLI President and CEO, Jos Snoep, discussed the circumstances that led to their partnership, some ministry highlights and the impact of their joint evangelistic programs, Prison Project Phillip and The Prisoner’s Journey. 

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The joint venture began in 2014 with BLI providing Bibles to PFI for their flagship in-prison program, The Prisoner’s Journey (TPJ). Through the program, those in prison are invited to participate in a weekly course where they can engage with the Gospel of Mark with others in their prison and a volunteer facilitator. The program leads participants through discussion questions about who Jesus is, why He came and what it means for their lives. Snoep reflected on the early beginnings of the partnership, questioning, “Are we just providing Bibles or are we trying to transform lives through the Word of God in the settings where we both serve?” leading both organizations to want to improve their service to those in prison together.  

After the eight-week course ended, program graduates were seeking more learning, more of God’s Word and more spiritual engagement. This desire to do more for those on a personal faith journey and to increase programmatic impact led to the joint creation of Prison Project Phillip (PPP): an evangelistic and discipleship program that caters specifically to incarcerated men and women around the world. This program became a natural follow-on to TPJ in terms of discipleship programming. “There was something of a real continuum here that we were very privileged as both organizations to sit at the heart of a huge opportunity that has been grasped and a need fulfilled by combining our efforts,” Corley reflected.  

Over the past 10 years, 803,000 participants have graduated from The Prisoner’s Journey and been gifted a BLI-provided Bible. Nearly 60,000 of these graduates have continued their relationship with Christ through PPP, deepening their faith and Scriptural understanding.

Considering the nature of the partnership over the last decade, Corley and Snoep agreed that the question of “We have been blessed with resources that the Lord has given us for his purposes. How do we bless prisoners to go through a journey and, with the vision to break that cycle of crime, transform lives?” remains at the core of the partnership, a true testament to the hard work of both teams.  

When thinking about the future of the partnership and what lies ahead, Corley and Snoep commented that the strength of both organizations is each organization’s planning and strategic thinking. Instead of considering consider plans, numbers and goals as “dirty,” “we instead submit them to God’s will,” said Snoep. Knowing that PFI and BLI depend on God in this journey doesn’t cut them loose from having to think strategically about operations, but does free up some of the pressure of doing things perfectly as God’s plan is bigger than any individual’s.  

Both Corley and Snoep reflected about the general misunderstanding that men and women with criminal records are unable to turn their lives around for the better. They remarked that society often makes the mistake of thinking that prisons are full of people that are irredeemable or intrinsically bad, however, noted that the Bible says that every person bears the image of God. “The good news is that Jesus came to set us free from our imprisonment thanks to grace or undeserved favor,” Corley said. This good news of grace is something that both PFI and BLI are passionate about sharing with those who may be both physically and spiritually incarcerated.  

In reflecting on a decade of partnership PFI and BLI, it’s evident that collaboration has not only been guided by a shared vision, but also in strategic planning and surrendering those plans to God’s greater purpose. From the inception of programs like The Prisoner’s Journey to the development of Prison Project Phillip, both organizations have remained steadfast in their commitment to providing spiritual nourishment and discipleship opportunities for incarcerated individuals around the world. By recognizing the inherent value and potential for redemption in every person, regardless of their past, PFI and BLI continue to shine a light of hope and grace into the darkest corners of society. Together, they stand as a testament to the transformative power of love and faith in action.