This is a lengthy update but I believe you will be blessed by reading it.
I just returned from another trip to Angola prison with Ruth Graham and friends team.
On this trip along with myself, Ruth had Tex Reardon, Tal Prince, Dan Miles and Jonathan McReynolds. I would go into battle with these guys anywhere. Jonathan is new to our team but he earned his stripes on this trip:) Check him out on youtube he is one incredible singer.
God is a God of surprises, and when we arrived I could not believe my eyes. My friend and fellow alumni from Judson University Eric Anderson was there making preparations for Bill Hybles and the Willow Creek Community Church team. They will be ministering this week. Also with Eric were wardens from three different prisons who came to study the success of Angola.
Eric is a very successful businessman but he is dedicating his life to prison ministry. I am proud of Eric and I know Judson University is proud too.
Eric, myself and the entire Ruth Graham team want to hear these words one day.
Matthew 25:36 NIV
I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
Angola is an amazing place, If you have never seen a miracle, I encourage you to visit this prison. This was my second visit and just like the last time I stood in awe at what God has done.
Many of you saw my report from a few years ago, but for my new friends, I want to do a recap so you can understand the magnitude of this miracle.
- 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 filled with alligators and snakes.
- Last time I visited the inmate population was over five thousand inmates, now its over 6 thousand.
- One out of every two inmates is a murderer.
- 95% are serving life sentences for crimes that would make all of us shake.
- 90% will die there.
In the past Angola was known as the bloodiest, most brutal prison in America. That all changed 20 years ago when Warden Burl Cain arrived and brought Jesus with him. 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. The majority of these inmates will never leave Angola alive, but they still have hope because they have found Jesus.
A Visit To Death Row
We were able to visit death row again. 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.
Last time we met an inmate name Lucky who has been on death row for 20 years. We were happy to see him again. Many times we hope to be the encouragers wherever we go, but this time we were the ones blessed, inspired, and encouraged by Lucky. He is a mean preaching machine:) As he told us at the end of our conversation, God will always make provisions for your vision.
Lucky has a vision to be a missionary (and he would be a great one) at the same time he knows he is on death row for his crime. Even so he still has hope.
You might remember me mentioning Derrick Todd Lee the serial killer from New Orleans. He is still there but was sleeping during our visit. Last time he and I had a long conversation. The Chaplin told us they believe he is guilty of 20 murders.
To be honest, It’s really difficult to mentally process what Derick has done, but meeting the other death row inmates who truly love Jesus, gave us all hope. All we can do is continue to pray and ask God to change the hearts of men.
Warden Cain has become a father to these inmates and they look to him even in their moment of death. I remember the story Warden Cain told us last time about Antonio who asked him to hold his hands while he was being executed and he did.
These men have 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. As the saying goes you make your decisions but you don’t pick the consequences.
In the midst of this serious subject one of the chaplains reminded us of the funny story they shared the last time. One inmate’s last words were “tell my lawyer he is fired”. Even in death he had a sense of humor.
Miracles still do happen:
Two people on death row were released last year because of DNA evidence. They spent the last 25 and 30 years respectively on death row.
I left Angola again with hope. The day we lose hope is the day we begin to die. God is a God of hope and in spite of all our mistakes, if we put our trust in Him, we can hold on to
Jeremiah 29 v 11 NIV
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
What has happened at Angola is nothing short of a miracle. The inmates taught us there is no hopeless situation. If they can have hope facing a life sentence and the death penalty, then we can have hope facing the different trials in our lives.
Please keep Warden Cain and all our brothers at Angola in your prayers. We are planning a worship seminar there soon, we will keep you posted on this. Hopefully in a few years you will hear the words Angola School Of Music. I love the sound of that:) Warren Anderson and Steve Benham get ready 🙂
Final Note Of Interest:
The coffin Mrs Graham was buried in was built by one of the inmates there. He also built one for Dr Billy Graham which we hope he won’t need for a long time. God bless you richly, thanks for all your prayers. Jim Whitmer put this video together a few years ago. For those who did not see it, these pictures are from our previous trip. Please continue to keep Jim in your prayers as he battles cancer.
Rev Huntley Brown
International Concert Pianist