Beliefnet
Safe Place with Ruth Graham

It was a joy to be able to return to Angola Prison two weeks ago. I saw many men I met years ago when the team for Ruth Graham & Friends went to hold a conference there with the men. It felt like a reunion.

We didn’t have a lot of time there. A group of us were there to witness the seminary program established by The New Orlean Baptist Seminary in connection with The Global Prison Seminaries Foundation. While Burl Cain was warden at Angola he had a vision to put a seminary in the prison for the men to get their degrees and then be used as chaplains either at Angola or other prisons.

That is taking place! So exciting.

When I visited Angola years ago a young man gave me the big belt buckle he won at the rodeo – they have a rodeo twice a year where the men can compete as well as sell their crafts to the public. It is a great event they look forward to. As does the public. It is a huge event.

I knew his belt buckle was a treasure to him and I was deeply humbled and honored that he gave it to me. I told him I would keep it safely and if he ever wanted it back, he could have it.

A couple of years later I went back to attend the rodeo. What a wild time it was! Since the men are in for life, they have nothing to loose! So they go for broke! Anyway, I took the belt buckle with me and asked to see the young man. When he came up to me after a chapel service, I again told him he could have it back. He sweetly said, no, he wanted me to keep it. Again, I told him I would keep it safe until he wanted it back – if he ever did.

Well, went I went back two weeks ago, I took the buckle with me hoping I would get the opportunity to see him. As we toured the new seminary building on the prison grounds we listened to the impact it was having in the men’s lives. As we left we were told one young man had just finished his doctoral dissertation. They held it up and told us the name of the young man: Alex Hennis. I let out a whoop! That was the young man who gave me the belt buckle!

I was thrilled. And asked if I might meet with him during lunch.

He came. It was a grand reunion. I am so proud of him. He not only got his doctorate but has earned 2 Masters degrees and is working on his third! His seminary professors attended his parole hearing, vouched for him and told the parole board they were going to make him an adjunct professor when he was released! Wow!

That is not reformation but transformation. And we are seeing that in every prison where there is a Seminary/Bible College. I am thrilled. I love it.

That’s how real prison reform takes place – in the heart. Not some governemt program. Not by throwing money at it. The men – and women – have to have a heart change by the power of the Lord Jesus.

This is real. The Global Prisons Seminary needs to be multiplied to reach every prison. I know they are now trying to get into the Federal prison system. This program has been researched and documented by scholars at Baylor University – it works!

Not reformation but transformation!

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