A Life Changing Visit To Angola State Prison

God is a good God, thanks for all your prayers. We have been running non stop here. The past few months we have ministered in Russia, Korea, Estonia, Hong Kong and China. These were all incredible trips and we praise God for the many people who accepted Jesus as their personal savior.

Here are two links you can view of the trips to Korea and Hong Kong.

 

Trip To Angola State Prison

This past weekend was another highlight trip. A life changing trip. I know this is a lengthy update but I wanted everyone to get a perspective on this amazing trip.

I was privileged to minister at Angola State Prison in Louisiana with Ruth Graham and Friends team. This visit will stay with me a long time. I am trying to find words to sum up the experience but they are difficult to come by. It’s safe to say as a team we will never be the same.

For years my friends Manny Mills and Jim Whitmer have been telling me you need to visit Angola. Now I understand what they were talking about. I would have said this was the trip of a lifetime but I won’t because I plan to return often and bring along friends as well. The food was incredible. Big Lou has got to be one of the best cooks on the planet:)

Angola Stats

  • Angola State Prison sits on an 18 thousand acre estate outside Baton Rouge Louisiana. Its the size of Manhattan Island in New York
  • The closest town is 20 miles away and its surrounded by the Mississippi river and a lake full of alligators and snakes.
  • There are over five thousand inmates
  • One out of every two inmates is a murderer.
  • 95 % are serving life sentences for crimes that would make all of us shake.
  • 90 % of the inmates at Angola will die there.
  • 8 out of 10 inmates never get a visitor (We are going to change this)
  • Inmates are paid 4 cents an hour unless they are trustee’s then they are paid 20 cents an hour.

Past History
In the past Angola was known as the bloodiest, most brutal prison in America.

Inmate Nolan has been there 34 years and shared a past story. One inmate got angry with another inmate, got a knife and killed the person before their eyes. He also showed us his scars where another inmate stabbed him. He was very candid with us and told us he retaliated and stabbed the other inmate too. That was life at Angola a few years ago before the new Warden arrived.

Warden Burl Cain
Warden Cain arrived at Angola 14 years ago and brought Jesus with him. As he told us some prisons have a faith based dorm which is fine but he did not want that.

He wanted a faith based prison so he implemented his God strategy.

As a result Angola has become the safest prison in America. They have five churches on the grounds, a Bible school, a radio station and thousands of inmates who are now Christians.

The inmates love for Jesus is very evident and this is a place of hope.

Majority of these inmates will never leave Angola alive, but they still have hope. As they told me without Jesus there is no hope.

A Visit To Death Row
I got a chance to visit death row and was able to talk with a few of the inmates. I was also privileged to pray with an inmate named Lucky. (He said I know you won’t forget my name) Lucky is 34 years old and has been on death row about 15 years. The death row inmates are by themselves in their cells 23 hours a day. This means they have a lot of time to seek God and to reflect on their crimes.

Just before I left death row the first inmate I met wanted to talk some more. We had a long conversation and I was very impressed with his understanding of scripture. He would have talked for the whole day if I let him but we had to leave. After I left Chaplain Rob told me the inmate I was talking to was Derick Lee the serial killer from New Orleans. Derick had tortured, raped and killed 9 women that the authorities know of. He is now facing the death penalty and even he was speaking of hope.

I had mixed emotions because all the inmates like Derick on death row had committed horrible crimes. They were paying the penalty for their actions but I know they are still God’s children. Before I left we shook hands and it was almost a surreal experience knowing I shook hands with many killers including a serial killer.

The Execution Chamber.
Visiting this chamber is not for the faint of heart. Before entering we visited the room where the inmates will eat their last meal. In this room are two incredible paintings done by one inmate. One depicts the chariot taking Elijah to heaven and the other of Daniel with no fear in the Lions den.

We then visited the execution chamber to see the bed the convicted lies on. This is a very tough place to see first hand. I left with a sense of urgency to tell young people to stay out of trouble and to do the right thing. That’s the message the inmates would like all the young people to know too.

Warden Cain has become a father to these inmates and they look to him even in their moment of death. Warden Cain told us about Antonio who asked him to hold his hands while he was being executed and he did.

These men had done some unspeakable crimes but if God can forgive them we can too. Its important to note here, there is a difference between forgiveness and consequences and Warden Cain understands this clearly.

In the midst of this serious subject Warden Cain shared a funny story. One inmate’s last words were ” tell my lawyer he is fired”. Even in death he had a sense of humor.

Louisiana Correctional Institute For Women (LCIW)
Saturday morning we ministered at the LCIW prison. This was another incredible experience. Seeing women of all races praising God even though incarcerated will stay with me a long time. The trip normally takes over an hour to get there from Angola but with a police escort and flashing lights we made it in record time. The officers were driving like they were Jamaicans :). I am sure my friends prayer life improved as a result of the ride over 🙂

Hope
I left Angola with hope. One of my daughters asked me Dad how can someone have hope in prison? I told her they do because they have encountered the true and living God. He is a God of hope who forgives them regardless of the crime they have committed. As one inmate has said the day you give up hope is the day you begin to die.

Even though the inmates know they have been forgiven by God, they understand their past behavior carries consequences. As the saying goes you make your choices but you don’t pick the consequences.

What has happened at Angola is nothing short of a miracle. The inmates taught me there is no hopeless situation. If they can have hope facing a life sentence and the death penalty, then we can have hope to face whatever trials we are facing.

Jesus Christ has made a difference in the lives of our brothers at Angola and he can make a difference in all our lives.

God bless you richly thanks for all your prayers . Please keep Warden Cain and all our brothers at Angola in your prayers. I will keep you posted on future trips.

Final Note Of Interest
The coffin Mrs Graham was buried in was built by one of the inmates here. He also built one for Dr Billy Graham which we hope he won’t need for a long time.

Blessings,
Huntley Brown
International Concert Pianist